DEFINITION OF STRESS:
A state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances. ~ English Oxford Dictionary
Do you think family caregiving is a candidate for causing stress? Most definitely! However, do you know that not all stress is bad? It’s important to recognize the difference, and this post will address acute stress. By this I’m referring to short-term stress, as opposed to long-term (chronic) stress which can be detrimental to your health.
To be more specific, here are a few examples of common activities that might trigger short-term stress.
A Looming Deadline
Lost Engagement Ring
First Day on the Job
You get the idea. I’m not talking about catastrophic events that could cause a heart attack, just day to day events that are stressful, but pass. I’m sure you can think of many caregiver related stresses that are short-term (refusing to bathe, won’t get out of bed, temper tantrum, won’t eat, etc.).
You’ve no doubt heard about the Fight or Flight response. This is what happens with acute stress when facing an immediate danger. Now how can that be good? It’s a natural survival instinct. The immediate benefits include: heightened awareness, clearer thinking, faster decision making, increased strength, and a fine-tuning of our senses. All good.
Short-term stress that does not involve immediate survival instincts may have the following benefits: improved memory, ability to set and complete goals, enhanced immunity, and increased life span. Also good.
SYMPTOMS OF ACUTE STRESS MAY INCLUDE:
Abdominal Pain (this could also include vomiting and/or diarrhea)
Sweating (cold sweats, feeling clammy)
Dizziness (can also lead to nausea)
Rapid Breathing (could result in fainting)
Headache (usually disappears when the stress is resolved)
Palpitations (pounding heart)
Numbness (an extreme response to acute stress)
Detachment (extreme form would be an out of body experience)
Temporary Paralysis (frozen in place, speechless, unable to think)
Temporary Blindness (frightening, but usually fleeting)
Neck/Chest Pain (could also be a sign of heart attack, especially if in conjunction with other symptoms such as shortness of breath, and it should not be ignored)
Indigestion (burning or heavy pain in upper chest, belching, bitter taste, regurgitation)
Okay — good to know, but now what? Once the immediate symptoms start to subside, it’s best to take that first step toward resolution. This will start the momentum of action which in turn lowers the stress level.
Let’s look at Performance Evaluation as an example. Perhaps you haven’t had a very good year with the company, and now your worrying and fretting over it. Your first step will be to determine what mistakes or disciplinary actions might be discussed. Plan to admit the error, explain what valuable lesson you learned from it, and discuss what measures you’re taking to prevent it from happening again. Once you have a dialogue worked out in your head, you’ll feel more prepared and confident. This will be a big plus during your meeting.
I find it best (for me, anyway) to role play something in my mind, always preparing for the worst case scenario. This avoids being blind-sided and you’ll have the confidence to handle whatever comes your way.
Visit the post on “The Stress Hormones: Adrenaline & Cortisol” to learn how they prepare your body for response to danger.
Note: I’ll discuss more about stress hormones and the seriousness of chronic stress in an upcoming post.
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