The call to reduce caregiver stress is an important health issue. Today, we put a twist on the traditional advice many of us hear, in hopes of finding a magical combination that works for you.
Caregiver stress is bad.
We hear this all the time – and for many important reasons. It isn’t comfortable. It adversely affects our health. It can be a killer.
To offer our suggestions for dealing with caregiver stress, it might be good to first understand the scope of those of us affected by it. The American Institute of Stress (I had no idea they existed, but happy they do!) cites daily life stress statistics:
|Percent of people who regularly experience physical symptoms caused by stress:||77%|
|Cited money and work as the leading cause of their stress:||76%|
|Regularly experience psychological symptoms caused by stress:||73%|
|Feel their stress has increased over the past five years:||48%|
|Reported lying awake at night due to stress:||48%|
|Feel they are living with extreme stress:||33%|
This can’t be good.
For obvious reasons, caregiver stress is often discussed in the medical community and in the press. We even did an article about it on KalendarKards.com a while back, helping to focus the attention on what caregivers can do to alleviate stress in their everyday lives.
It’s a serious issue.
Today, we offer a twist on caregiver stress reduction. It’s an approach we don’t often see. However, it is one I personally use frequently. I seek these “mental getaways” often.
My personal thought is that it is more healthy to keep stress at bay by taking a great many small actions. This, instead of waiting for that perfect trip/outing/____ fill in the blank, that takes place very seldom, and bounce back from a week-long trip, etc. Not only is the former more accessible than the latter, it is a strategy that is easy to fit in to even the most busy of schedules. Not to mention, it is much easier and much less expensive than trying to book a trip.
Knowing how I normally use my “mental getaways” to conduct a bit of a re-charge is one thing. Being motivated to share the strategy is quite another.
The inspiration for this post came from a recent Facebook update by Elizabeth Miller from Happy Healthy Caregiver. She is a member of The Whole Care Network where she shares her podcast, Happy Healthy Caregiver. Her reason for being is to help “overwhelmed caregivers.”
Do check out her talents.
When she asked about where one is transported when the eyes are closed, my response was of course: “Tiki, tropical, and always, Hawaii!”
That got me thinking.
First, it identified my personal stress reduction strategy – a strategy I didn’t really know I had until the question was posed. Thank you, Elizabeth! Then, I wondered if it would be helpful to others.
Let’s explore that, shall we?
Tiki, Tropical, Hawaii (or Caribbean)
As I started to think about my personal anti-stress strategy, I was quickly reminded Caribbean (for me) also qualifies for consideration. Expanding the scope simply allows more people more opportunities to connect, in the hope more receive a benefit.
For the purpose of this exercise, “Tiki, Tropical, Hawaii, and Caribbean” covers two different media: books and music. Each of us have our own way of comfortably consuming information. Some of us have the ability to get away for a short while to read, while others can only listen on the go.
Books or Music. Your choice.
THE Book: “Don’t Stop the Carnival” by Herman Wouk
Let’s start with a book. THE book in my mind for the perfect mental escape: “Don’t Stop the Carnival” by Herman Wouk. I’m in the latter category above (generally prefer to “listen”) but I have read this book more times than I can count.
Written in 1965, it tells the story of Norman Paperman, a New York public relations professional who experiences a mild heart attack, reassesses his dull existence when he sees an ad in the paper for a “resort” in the Caribbean called The Gull Reef Club, and becomes a hotelier.
Dreams aren’t dashed, but they are certainly challenged when he sees the run down Gull Reef Club on the Island of Amerigo, or “Kinja” (King George III) as the locals call it.
Our hero is in over his head. We can all relate to the feeling, right? Add healthy doses of corruption, seduction, and construction, and you have a fun, wide-ranging novel that is really hard to put down.
This is the quintessential example of shucking an old, boring life, and starting anew in the Caribbean. Admit it – we’ve all thought about this. With “Don’t Stop the Carnival” we can live vicariously through Norman Paperman, without leaving our easy chair.
Consider the book as an escape, one quick chapter at a time.
THE Music: “Don’t Stop the Carnival” by Jimmy Buffett
Music holds many benefits. One of which is the ability to enjoy it passively while you are involved with other activities. Do you know any caregivers who do less than
one two three things simultaneously? If your schedule makes it easier to listen rather than read, this mental escape strategy is for you.
This section is a fun one for me. Being a Jimmy Buffett fan, I have already subscribed to the Margaritaville attitude. If a listening mode is better for you AND music is the object of your attention, you have no better solution for a music-infused escape than Jimmy’s “Don’t Stop the Carnival!
(Little known fact: in a previous life, as a Walter Mitty experience, I was a professional chauffeur and have had the honor of being Mr. Buffett’s driver when he visited for a concert one year. That’s a story for another day!)
Through his music, Buffett tells the Wouk story of Norman Paperman, tracing his pursuits to, on, and returning from, the island of Kinja.
It’s a fun, roller coaster ride, from wide-eyed excitement (“What a beautiful ocean. Oh, sweet Jesus, he has no clue”) to trying to keep a staff member from killing another, to navigating the friendly, but corrupt governmental leadership on Kinja.
In about 45 minutes, you can join Norman as he travels to Kinja from New York, dig in with him at the Gull Reef Club, and be back to the city before the hour is up.
Spoiler or Teaser: You Decide
This brief glimpse into Mr. Paperman’s trials and tribulations does not a spoiler make. However, you need to decide how you would like to enjoy this all-consuming (that’s the stress-reduction part) story.
- Read the book first, to learn the complete story as told by Herman Wouk, then enjoy the music as frequent melodic reminders of Kinja, or…
- Listen to Mr. Buffett’s musical account first, as a teaser, to get a sense of the zaniness about to unfold in Mr. Wouk’s book. Then immerse yourself in all the details, told no better than the author.
Neither is better or worse, but you need to decide how you want to experience it. Personally, I was introduced to the music first (as a long time Parrotthead) and then sought the book. Since then, I’ve read the book many times and listened to the music many more times than that.
Do What’s Best For You
Be creative in your stress attack strategies. Only you can discover and execute approaches that are best for you. It’s not just taking a few minutes to put your feet up, although that’s always welcomed. No, the goal needs to be deeper ways to “escape” – even for just a short while.
The deeper the mental escape, the more beneficial the escape can be. Again, it doesn’t have to be an annual one-week getaway to be effective.
The journey is indeed worth the effort. You get a mental break, your mind and body gets a recharge, and you’re refreshed to attack the most important role there is: Caregiver.