Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Disability and STRESS!!

Once upon a time during one of my "working lives" (when I was working, each job seemed like an entire "life"; after awhile, I got into the habit of referring to each job environment as a "past life") I went to a seminar designed to assist the participant "deal with difficult people". The seminar leader REALLY impressed me, and I took time, after the seminar, to meet him and to tell him just how impressed I was with what he had to say. Thus began a 25+ year collegial relationship! AND, never forgetting his messages, I pulled him and his wisdom into at least three of my "lifetimes". I have asked him for permission to share his wisdom with you; when I receive his approval, I'll introduce him to you.

In the meantime, his long-ago wisdom came back to me this past week as we (me, my son, daughter-in-law, and 2 year old "normally active" granddaughter) proceeded to get our home and yards (front and back) ready to sell. Making this odious task even more difficult, is the fact that implicit in the "getting ready to sell" process is the knowledge that once you get the yards and home painted, cleaned, "staged" and perfect-looking, YOU STILL HAVE TO LIVE THERE UNTIL IT SELLS!!! AND, we have 4 cats, and a growing puppy who REALLY likes to dig holes in the back yard, and dig up every flower and plant we try to plant!. I kid you not; this Golden Retriever puppy loves to dig a hole and put his head into it! It looks really funny, but I guess that the cold damp earth is comfortable for him.

Now to the cats; two are black-haired and short haired; the third one allowed into the home is long-haired and is shedding ALL OVER EVERYTHING (yes, summer does actually come to those of us who live in the Pacific Northwest). AND, the cats live downstairs with me, because they don't like the puppy who sometimes gets to come inside upstairs. So, I have to continually vacuum up cat hair from the rugs, carpets, chairs, couches, etc.

With this as a backdrop, and, having Multiple Sclerosis as my "challenge", stress is something that can hamper my quality of life - IF I LET IT. AND, this can be considered a stressful time.

That's where my colleague's advice came rushing back to me. In that long ago seminar, he boldly stated something along the lines of the following:

"The man who originally discussed the concept of "stress" later said that he was mistaken. Stress does NOT EXIST! There are only people, situations, and how people choose to react to/handle those situations!"

The example associated with this great pronouncement was the following: consider yourself on the receiving end of someone throwing you a 150 pound "medicine ball" (whatever this is - I guess it is a "guy thing"). Most of us pictured ourselves: a) trying to catch the ball and failing or being knocked down flat; or b) stepping aside and waiving at the ball as it sailed by us. Next, my colleague asked us to consider that medicine ball being thrown to someone like Arnold Schwarzenegger (back then, he was not California's Governor). We all pictured Arnold catching the ball; probably with just one hand!

We were then reminded that for us, this siuation might have been "stressful"; for Arnold, it was just business as usual. The point of this example was clear; just people, situations, and what people choose to do with the situations.

So, taking my own advice and lectures about Chronic Illness Self-Management (and wait until I get to discussing exercise - I hate having to actually do what I recommend!!!) I realized that this moving situation would be stressful for me, only if I let it. Now, recognize that I concentrate only on me, because I am the only one I can control. My kids have to figure this out for themselves!

Anyway, here's what I am doing, and will continue to do to react to this situation and not let it result in "stress" for me.

  1. By now, I know what I call my "activity threshhold". This means, I know just how much I can do activity-wise before I reach exhaustion. (Note: exhaustion for me means shortness of breath; breaking out in a full body, cold sweat; vision bluring; pain in back; head throbbing.) My threshhold, is about 10 minutes sitting, and 5 minutes standing. So, I do what work I need to do in "small bites", and rest, in my recliner, with a fan and a cold, wet washcloth, between "work bites". Also, since I can work longer sitting, I have a mobile stool, and you would be surprised at how well I have figured out how to sweep and wash floors while sitting on my stool!
  2. I have GREATLY reduced my "things". I REALLY do not need to keep 100's of books around; I have recently discovered just how well the library works. I have reduced my "nick nacks" down to what can reasonably fit into a "curio cabinet". I have REALLY reduced my clothes - just ask my friends who, in the past helped me move my 4 closets full from one place to another!
  3. I am really focused on changing my sleep pattern so that I get up before 1 or 2 pm. This is the hard one for me, as my current sleep cycle apprars to be 4 or 5 am to 1 or 2 pm. BUT, we can focus on activities and control them, not let them control us.
  4. Next, I am drinking more fluids, and working to eat more fruits and vegies.

These may not be the steps that work for you, but they really help me. There will be much more on concepts like this in blogs to come. If you have any ideas for me about how you have "evened out" your life, please let me know!

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