Category: stress

Burnout stage or Nervous breakdown stage, as a Caregiver?

Nervous breakdown. What does that really mean? It isn’t used as a medical term or a diagnosis, but we all seem to know what it means. It means a mental health crisis. It means an emotional health crisis. It is also known as a breakdown of your mental health. It happens when you have intense physical and emotional stress, with difficulty coping and you are not able to function effectively or normally anymore. You feel like you are losing control. The stress that you are under may have you feeling anxiety, fear, worry, stuck, overwhelmed, and/or nervous.  You are at the point where you can no longer function in life. Many caregivers will experience caregiver stress and exhaustion. October 12, 2022

Everyone’s Caregiver Stressors are Different

Everyone is different and everyone will have different stressors and reactions to those stressors. This is way past burnout. A few things to watch out for:
    • You call in sick for a day or two (sometimes, longer).
    • You miss appointments.
    • You avoid or back out of social engagements.
    • You have trouble with healthy eating, exercising regularly, sleep, and your personal hygiene starts slipping.
    • You withdraw from people and don’t want to leave your home.
    • You lose interest in things that used to bring you joy.
    • Panic attacks.
    • PTSD flashbacks

Things pile on

We all have our own “set point” for a breakdown. Losses are a huge part, especially if they are stacked one on top of another. For example, a death, a divorce, losing your house, a terminal illness, being a caregiver, losing your job, family turmoil, severe financial strain, a chronic medical condition (a worsening chronic medical condition), inability to relax, continued loss of sleep, work stress, school stress, lack of self-care, etc. As you can see, a lot of things can pile on. Step away, take a timeout! Get a talk therapy appointment, ASAP. You are no longer able to get out of this situation on your own.   Breathe, just deep breathe for 5 minutes. You will have to make adjustments and learn better-coping skills. You will have to learn to say, “No.” You will have to take care of yourself physically and mentally before you can help anyone else. Yes, you can recover, but I want you to be able to prevent burnout. Burnout is more common. My wish for all of us is that we take better care of ourselves BEFORE we get to this stage. The same stressors apply, they may not be as intense or as long, but they could be. Burnout is usually defined as chronic stress related to poor life and work practices, that produce exhaustion (physically, mentally, and emotionally). You are overloaded and overwhelmed. When a person is overloaded and overwhelmed with negative emotions and feelings rear their ugly heads. We have hostility, anger, and frustrations and we don’t seem to be able to cope or handle these negative emotions.

Extreme burnout will lead to a mental health crisis.

This article from Medical News Today, explains burnout very well. Some causes of caregiver burnout include:
    • Emotional demands: A caregiver can feel emotionally drained, especially if you are aware that the person you are taking care of will not get better despite their efforts. For example, this could happen if a person is caring for someone in palliative care.
    • Conflicting demands: These are the additional demands a person has outside of their caregiving role, such as looking after children, going to a job, and making time for their partner.
    • Ambiguous roles: Often, the role of a caregiver is all-consuming. It is easy for a person to lose sight of who they are outside of their caregiving responsibilities.
    • Workload: Some caregivers may be looking after someone with complex needs. In these instances, it is important a person seeks temporary relief and gets assistance from other carers.
    • Conflicting advice: In some cases, treatment procedures may change as research progresses. While these changes aim to give people the best care, they can cause a significant amount of disruption and stress if a caregiver has an established routine.
    • Privacy: Additional clinical support, such as nurses and other healthcare professionals, may visit a caregiver’s home throughout the week. While this can be helpful, it can also take away their privacy.
All of these factors can contribute to a caregiver feeling overwhelmed, self-critical, and drained. If they do not address these feelings, they may start experiencing serious signs of caregiver burnout. Caregiving is both emotional and physically exhausting. Caregiver burnout can manifest in several ways, and some people may notice they are experiencing some symptoms more strongly than others.

Symptoms of caregiver burnout include:

    • disrupted sleep
    • persistent irritability
    • altered eating patterns
    • anxiety
    • increased alcohol consumption
    • high-stress levels
    • lack of joy
    • loneliness
    • loss of hope
    • suicidal thoughts
Additionally, symptoms can indicate what stage of caregiver burnout a person is in.

The three stages of caregiver burnout are:

    1. Frustration: A person starts feeling frustrated and disappointed that the person in their care is not getting better. They cannot accept that the person’s condition will decline regardless of how well they look after them.
    1. Isolation: After a while, a person may begin to feel lonely in their caregiving role. They may also grow tired of hearing negative opinions from family members, especially if these family members do not appreciate or recognize the time and effort caring requires. At this point, the caregiver may withdraw from friends and family.
    1. Despair: Eventually, a person may feel helpless and isolated. They can find it hard to concentrate, struggle to find joy in hobbies or interests, and avoid social interactions. The level of care they provide may also begin to drop as they spend less time on their own well-being.
Read the entire article here: Pay attention to your signs of stress and aggravation. If you need help or think that you may need some help, give me a call and let’s have a conversation. We won’t know if I can help unless we talk to see. Pat 865-684-8771 (leave a message, if I am unable to answer)

What is your stress sweet spot?

Why do we need some stress in our lives? We need stress in our lives to get things done and to keep us safe. With too little stress, we get bored. With too much stress, we have anxiety and porer health. If you went to your vacation happy place and stayed, what would happen? I can imagine your minds going into overdrive with all of the thoughts, smiles, and dreams. Come back to reality and let’s think this through. July 27, 2022

Vacation Time and Break Time

We all enjoy a break. We all enjoy getting away. Decompression time, rest time, fun time, and alone time are all necessary for us. That one or two weeks at a time for us not to worry or deal with the day-to-day issues is awesome. I know that I think about staying on vacation forever. If I did what could happen? I could lose my job. I couldn’t afford to live year-round at the same spot where I vacation. Well, hell. What would I do in three or four months? Be bored because I didn’t have anything to do? Probably. Everybody else has to work and I don’t have anyone to play with. I am pretty good by myself, but I do want people around sometimes. If I lived there full-time, it wouldn’t be special anymore. It would eventually, be the same old same old. A bored Pat, is not a good Pat. What about you?

Good Stress

We need some good stress. It motivates us to do something. Use your stress for good. Think about athletes. They have goals, training, and resting. They are pushing their bodies to do more than what is normal. Bigger, better, stronger, and faster are their goals. Good stress vs bad stress. Yes, there is such a thing. Good stress is usually short-term, excites you and motivates you. You feel excited and your heart rate increases, but there is no fear or threat. Even with acute stress the body needs time to get rid of all the cortisol & other hormones to calm down. If your body does not have some down time to deal with the acute stress, it becomes as bad as bad stress.

Good stress:

    • It feels doable.
    • We know the stress is only temporary.

When good stress  becomes bad:

    1. It feels like all the time and you see no end in sight.
    1. You can’t control it.
    1. It takes up all of your time.
    1. You don’t see the long-term benefit.
    1. It comes into direct conflict with one of your life values or priorities.

Bad Stress Will Wear You Out

Bad stress or distress wears you out. You do feel fear. You do feel like a threat is near. You may feel confused. You cannot concentrate very well. Some anxiety pops up. Bad stress can be short-term, but it can also be long-term. The long-term or chronic type of stress is the one that leads to negative health consequences.

Bad stress:

    • It no longer feels doable.
    • The stress is not temporary.
Could your stress be harmful? You make mistakes on things that are routine for you. You are spending a lot of time & energy on little things. You feel stuck or paralyzed. You don’t ask for help and you begin to isolate yourself You are not eating well. You are not working out or exercising. You are not sleeping very well. .

Is it possible to turn bad stress into something good?

    1. Look for the potential benefits or positives in the situation.
    1. Recognize and use your strengths to their full potential.
    1. Identify the resources that you have at hand.
    1. Collaborate with others.
    1. Learn something new.
    1. Have a positive perspective.
    1. Sometimes, you just have to be positive.

When things feel out of control or awful, do what is best for your own mind and body. When you do these types of things, you allow your brain and mind to destress so that you can handle the issues better.

    1. Good and restful sleep.
    1. Eat for nutritional health.
    1. Do something physical.
    1. Meet with your social support system.
    1. Quiet your inner critic.
Athletes often redirect stress into anticipation, excitement, and motivation, rather than allowing themselves to get into anxiety and fear of the situations. We can do this in our everyday lives, too. The sweet spot is where you are using the stress for good. You will never get rid of all stress nor should you. You can lessen it and you can navigate it! Pat

How to make stress work for you?

April 6, 2022

How to make everyday stress work for you

Let’s start with a definition of stress.

Stress: a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances.

Now, notice that it does not say anything about negative or positive stress. Have you ever even wondered about that? Some may think that all stress is negative. Not true. Positive stress happens, too. Positive stress (Eustress) or good stress is the type of stress response that we feel when we are excited.

Stressors are thoughts or challenges. They can be positive or negative. Stress and how it affects you depends on your mindset.

What Is Stress Mindset?

Again, it’s how you view stress, what it means to you.

    • Is it a threat – something that will negatively affect your emotional state, your performance (physical and mental), even your health?

    • Or is it a challenge that lifts you to a higher level of energy and performance? (i.e. the stress response is helping you cope.)

Why Stress Mindset Matters

A negative stress mindset views stress as harmful, a threat – and therefore something to be avoided, averted, maybe even suppressed. Negative consequences are:

    • You’ll avoid challenges and opportunities for growth and development (as with a fixed mindset).

    • Trying to avoid stress, and in particular trying to suppress the body’s stress response, actually amplifies it and makes the feeling of stress and anxiety worse, and probably longer lasting.

    • You can get locked into a state of chronic stress response, which is actually harmful (unlike short bursts of stress) – your stress mindset becomes self-fulfilling.

A positive stress mindset means stress is a challenge to be embraced, moving you to perform better. The stress response is your body’s mobilizing energy to help you meet the challenge. It feels like excitement, not anxiety. In other words, although there is still a physical stress response, it doesn’t feel like stress at all.

I stole, I mean, borrowed this from Stress Resilient Mind

Distress Stressors:

    • Financial crises

    • Solo caregiving

    • Death of a loved one

    • Relationship problems

    • Illness or Injury

    • Abuse

    • Feeling neglected

    • Worrying about someone else

    • Work problems

    • Deadlines

What happens to the body during stress?

The body’s autonomic nervous system controls your heart rate, breathing, vision changes and more. Its built-in stress response, the “fight-or-flight response,” helps the body face stressful situations.

When a person has long-term (chronic) stress, continued activation of the stress response causes wear and tear on the body. Physical, emotional and behavioral symptoms develop.

Physical symptoms:

    • Aches (headaches, body aches, etc.)

    • Pains (lower back pain, neck pain, etc.)

    • Chest pain or heart racing

    • Trouble sleeping

    • Exhaustion

    • Dizziness

    • Muscle tension

    • Jaw clenching

    • Stomach problems

    • Weaker immune system

    • Trouble with or lack of interest in sex

Emotional or Mental symptoms:

    • Anxiety

    • Irritability

    • Sadness

    • Depression

    • Panic attacks

Stress is subjective and cannot be measured with tests. Only the person experiencing the stress gets to determine how severe it is! That being said, we can look at the physical and mental symptoms you are having and we can also assess whether you are handling the stress with healthy or unhealthy behaviors.

Negative Stress:

Examples of unhealthy behaviors:

    • Alcohol misuse – drinking too much and/or too often

    • Medication misuse – taking a medication for other than its intended purposes

    • Food misuse – overeating, excessive eating of sweets, eating disorders

    • Smoking

    • Gambling

    • Shopping

Examples of healthy behaviors:

    • Deep breathe for 3-5 minutes four to six times a day

    • Eat for nutrition

    • Hydrate with water and other non-caffeinated beverages

    • Walk or run regularly – four to five times a week for 20 minutes at a time

    • Practice relaxation techniques

    • Mindfulness meditation

    • Sleep enough

    • Make time for your hobby

    • Talk therapy

    • Re-framing the situation

    • Journaling for 10 minutes each day

    • Setting realistic goals

Find your own personal mantra:

    • I did not cause this and I cannot fix this.

    • I cannot control the outcome; all I can do is to do my best.

    • I cannot change this situation and no amount of worrying will change the situation.

    • It is okay that the situation is not okay, I am moving forward and doing my best.

    • I can control how I react now, and that is all I can or have to control.

    • It is okay that I did not get it all done today, I have accomplished a lot today.

    • Things are not too good today, but I have adapted.

    • Let it go = let it be just as it is, right now

Create your own mantra for stress management

Create your own saying or mantra. One that is empowering and meaningful to you.

Sometimes stress is telling you to pay attention, something needs to change around here. Something is out of whack. Look at it. Is there a fix? Yes. Great, do it and move forward. Is there a fix? No. Great, let it be and move forward.

I know, I know. It is not normal to let things be and move forward. We all have to understand that our problems arise when we refuse to believe that what is happening cannot be fixed and we don’t like it! It is the internal struggle that is wearing us out. How much better off would we be, if we would accept things the way that they are, right now? It does not mean that we don’t try to make things better. It does not mean that we don’t move forward. We adapt. We reassess.

Re-frame the situation

Re-frame the situation. How in the hell do you re-frame the situation? Start by noticing “stinking thinking.” Get ready to write some things. No, you cannot just think about them. That is part of the problem, you are in your head too much. Get the paper and pen or pencil.

    1. Write down your thoughts. (What is causing the anxiety?)

    1. Fact-check your thoughts. (Are they true? What is the proof?)

Truth is on a spectrum, it takes in to account your experiences, life stories and belief system. Facts are facts. They are true everywhere and for everyone.

 3.When you are really feeling stuck, ask, “Is this helpful?

4. What would you say to a close friend that is having the same thoughts are you are?

5. What is realistic, not positive? Finding a positive thought about a negative situation is not realistic. You don’t have to put a positive spin on it.

6. Screw “the bright side,” find “the meaning.” Get out of the “all-or-none” type of thinking. It doesn’t have to be an “either/or” situation, it can be a “both/and,” type of situation.

7. What is the next right action to take?

8. Try this for a week or two. Give it time or work or fail. Then reassess, make a plan and try again.

Reframing is not the best way to deal with every situation, but it sure can be a helpful tool. Use reframing to take an alternate view of the situation.

What are your skills and traits? Identify your strengths. Identify the areas that you are not so good at to find out either what you need to learn or you will learn that you need to let someone else handle the job.

If you are using all of your energy focusing on the negative, then you will have little to no energy left to find any good in the situation or to look for possible solutions. Use your energy wisely, you only have so much focused energy to use every day (about 3 hours).

Positive Stress:

Some stress can be good for you. How do you know if it is good stress?

Positive Stress Characteristics:

    • Focuses Energy

    • Motivates you

    • Within our coping abilities

    • Feels exciting

    • Improves performance

    • Short-term (you will still have physiological changes to your body)

    • Challenges for learning, growth and achievement

    • Sense of purpose

Positive Stressors:

    • New relationship

    • Wedding

    • Upcoming holidays

    • Retirement

    • Vacation

    • Pregnancy

    • Taking on a new project at work

    • Physical conditioning

    • Learning something new

    • Buying a home

    • Graduating

    • New job

    • Self-care

Positive stress is key for developing resilience. That is what we are all after. The ability to handle whatever happens both good and bad. To get back to the point that we know we are going to be okay.