“It’s not the load that breaks you down, it’s the way you carry it.” – Lou Holtz
Stress is a given in life. We all suffer from it from time to time, either from work issues or personal challenges. It’s tough when it’s going on, but rather than sit and stew we need to figure out ways to deal with it so we can get through it easier.
I’m in the midst of a very stressful time in my family. My dad has been in the hospital with some health issues and my mom, who was in good health but had balance issues, found herself spending every day and some nights in the hospital with him. Of course this isn’t healthy for anyone at any age, but this is particularly true as we get older. Situations like this can add so much stress to our bodies. My sister and I did our best to encourage our mom to take care of herself and pushed her to go home a few times to shower and rest.
As randomness would have it, as my mom was preparing the house for my dad’s return home from the hospital, she fell and broke her hip. That meant both parents in the hospital at the same time. It was impossible for my sister and I to be in both places the entire time—but you know how it is when you want to be there as much as you can, and that can be stressful. Our parents understood we needed to be with our families, jobs and take care of ourselves too.
As I shared this story with my friends, I learned quite a few of them had times in their lives when both of their parents were in the hospital at the same time too. That proves to me that reducing stress really is a HUGE factor in taking good care of yourself.
How are you currently managing stress in your life? Too many people think that they have to push through and just live through the stress, rather than work to find ways to manage it. It’s understandable to some degree, but it’s not healthy.
Here are some ways I’m taking care of myself so that I can be there for both my parents when they need me. If you’re in a stressful time in your life, take these tips to heart:
- Eat healthy. It’s easy to run through the drive through to grab lunch or dinner or to get the special in the hospital cafeteria. But these ultimately aren’t good choices when your system is already stressed out. If you must get fast food, choose the healthiest option, like a grilled chicken salad or a burger wrapped in lettuce. Alternatively you can ask a loved one to help out by stocking up on veggies, mixed nuts, boiled eggs and other options that are easy to grab on the go.
- Get enough rest. If you’ve spent any time at all in the hospital, either as a patient or a visitor, you know that hospital rooms are busy places to be. Doctors and nurses are in and out of the hospital at all hours, waking up everyone. Interrupted sleep isn’t good sleep. Even if you’re not stressed about someone in the hospital, stress causes us to work odd hours, spend too much time in front of the television or just keep our mind buzzing with worry. Try going to bed earlier or use meditation to relax your brain so you can get some much-needed sleep.
- Do something you love. Schedule a manicure or facial, go play tennis or head out for a run, take a friend to lunch, curl up with a good book or just snuggle with your dog on the couch. Find something that you love to do and spend some time doing it–even if it’s only for half an hour. You have to be able to recharge during times of stress if you’re going to keep going. These things are not a luxury; they’re a necessity.
- Don’t overbook yourself. Some of us bring stress upon ourselves because we’re overbooked. We try to take on too much at once and, as a result, we feel like we’re running around with no time to sit down. It’s okay to say no to things and it’s okay to delegate tasks that others are capable of doing (like cleaning the house, taking the car in for service, volunteering for that field trip).
You are a better person when you’re happy, rested and healthy and the only way to accomplish this is to take care of yourself every single day–especially in times of stress.
I know my family will get through this challenging season, so long as we all remember this lesson.