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Chill Out!

Caregiving and stress go hand in hand.  Medical research shows the stress alone from caregiving can take ten years off of your life! Stress can have so much negative impact in the body and the brain. It's important for us to figure out how to manage our stress so that we can relax and enjoy life.

Stress and You

When it comes to stress, it's important to think about managing it versus eliminating it.  Unfortunately, reality is that throughout our lives, bad things will happen.  Things we don't agree with or understand will happen.  Many of those things are out of our control, but we DO have the power to control our reactions to these things.

Even if living a totally stress-free life were possible, you wouldn't want to.  Stress can be a helpful force in our lives by adding some excitement, urgency, and energy. 

But prolonged, unmanaged stress can cause a lot of problems:

  • we feel tense
  • we feel irritable
  • we are tired
  • we can't stay focused
  • we have trouble sleeping

The stress reaction is a primitive, built-in response to an intense situation.  When we experience stress, the brain sounds an alarm and sends out stress hormones like adrenaline, norepinephrine and cortisol.  These hormones increase blood flow to the brain and muscles by as much as 400%!.  The heart beats faster.  Breathing is faster.  Muscles tense.  Digestion shuts down.

Recent studies show that 60 to 90 percent of illness is brought on by stress! Common stress-induced medical problems include:

  • migraines
  • ulcers
  • heartburn and acid reflux
  • high blood pressure
  • heart disease
  • diabetes
  • asthma
  • pms
  • obesity
  • infertility
  • irritable bowel syndrome

To effectively mange the stress in your life, try to eliminate as many stressful situations as possible, and create a healthy plan for how to react to the stress that still does come your way.  No one technique works for everyone.  No one technique will work for you every time.  Experiment to find what makes you feel the most calm and centered.


Funny Facts

We know that being happy and laughing makes us feel good, and recent studies show that laughing actually brings us health benefits, too! Laughter boosts our immune systems, helps to reduce cravings for certain foods, relieves stress, speeds healing.

Unfortunately, adults aren't using this easy, fun, powerful medicine enough.  A study shows that as we age, the number of times a day we laugh seriously decreases. Pre-school age kids laugh about 400 tiimes a day! Adults only laugh about 17 times a day!

Here's another interesting piece of research:  if laughter does not come to you naturally in the beginning, fake it! Studies have shown that a fake smile or laughter can also do you good. In fact, in yoga there is actually an exercise that involves forced laughing. Chances are good that the more you laugh, the easier it will become to find and acknowledge the funny parts of life.

from Take Care Tips by Jennifer Antkowiak (St. Lynn's Press)

You might not remember the last time you let loose with a really good laugh. Now would be a great time to get that feeling back. Read a few pages from a funny book, watch a little bit of a funny TV show, or call a funny friend and tell her to give you her best stuff. YouTube is filled with thousands of videos that'll have you howling (just be careful of falling into a YouTube black hole and losing the whole afternoon). Laughimg, even just smiling, helps to reduce stress hormone levels. Let something funny take you away from your troubles for a bit and give you a quick burst of happy energy. Maybe it really is the best medicine.

You better not be smiling. Stop smiling! Stop it right now! Did that work? I nail my kids with that quite a bit. Thought it couldn't hurt to try. Sometimes a silly little joke is all it takes.




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