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Posted: March 09, 2006

Spousal Caregiving

Stress Management Made Easy

Bill Andrew

Have you ever wondered why managing stress is always so difficult for caregivers -- more specifically spousal caregivers? Perhaps that is because we do not understand the difference between "stress" and the cause of that stress -- more commonly called "stressors." 
Stressors are defined as events or circumstances that may be real or perceived threats to your personal equilibrium and well-being. Stress itself can be defined more broadly as an automatic physical response to any stimulus that requires you to adjust to change. 
As spousal caregivers, our objective should be to address the manner in which we respond to the stressors that typically occur during our daily caregiver activities. If we can control our response to these stressors, we can reduce the stress in our lives. This stress management approach is personified in an email I received the other day which I would like to share with you.  The email came from a member of my Alzheimer's Support Group whose husband is afflicted with Alzheimer's disease.
Stress Management
A lecturer, when explaining stress management to an audience, raised a glass of water and asked, "How much does this glass of water weigh?" 

Answers called out ranged from 20g to 500g.
The lecturer replied, "The absolute weight doesn't matter. It depends on how long you try to hold it. If I hold it for a minute, that's not a problem. If I hold it for an hour, I'll have an ache in my arm. If I hold it for a day, you'd have to call an ambulance."
"In each case, it's the same weight, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it becomes." He continued, "And that's the way it is with stress management. If we carry our burdens all the time, sooner or later, as the burden becomes increasingly heavy, we won't be able to carry on." 

"As with the glass of water, you have to put it down for a while and rest before holding it again. When we're refreshed, we can carry on with the burden." 

"So, before you return home tonight, put down the burden of work. Don't carry it home.  You can pick it up tomorrow. Whatever burdens you're carrying now, let them down for a moment if you can.  Relax; pick them up later after you've rested. Life is short. Enjoy it!" 

And then he shared with the audience some ways of dealing with the burdens of life:

  • Accept that some days you're the pigeon, and some days you're the statue. 
  • Always keep your words soft and sweet, just in case you have to eat them. 
  • Always read stuff that will make you look good if you die in the middle of it. 
  • Drive carefully. It's not only cars that can be recalled by their maker. 
  • If you can't be kind, at least have the decency to be vague.
  • If you lend someone $20 and never see that person again, it was probably worth it.
  • It may be that your sole purpose in life is simply to serve as a warning to others. 
  • Never put both feet in your mouth at the same time, because then you won't have a leg to stand on. 
  • Nobody cares if you can't dance well. Just get up and dance. 
  • Since it's the early worm that gets eaten by the bird, sleep late. 
  • The second mouse gets the cheese. 
  • When everything is coming your way, you're in the wrong lane. 
  • Birthdays are good for you. The more you have, the longer you live. 
  • You may be only one person in the world, but you may also be the world to one person. 
  • We could learn a lot from crayons. Some are sharp, some are pretty and some are dull. Some have weird names, and all are different colors, but they all have to live in the same box. 
  • A truly happy person is one who can enjoy the scenery on a detour. 
Did the above give you any ideas about how to control the stressors in your life as a spousal caregiver? I have also addressed the subject of caregiver stress in prior columns including A Spousal Caregiver's Self-Assessment on Stress and Dealing with Stress, Caregiver-Style
Obviously, getting some time away from your spouse through respite support will help you to control your response to the stressors in your life. Another approach that I have suggested in the past is attendance at support groups to find out how other caregivers have coped with the stressors in their lives. Respite care and caregiver health/well-being are two of the biggest issues raised by caregivers in national studies. The "bottom line" is that in order to reduce the stress in your life as a spousal caregiver you must control your response to the stressors that do occur.
I know that I am a better caregiver for my wife, Carol, since I personally made that extra effort to control my response to these stressors. If you have also made that extra effort, I would appreciate your sharing your story with other readers of this column at
"Adopting the right attitude can convert
a negative stress into a positive one."
Dr. Hans Selye (1907-82)
(Founder of modern stress research)

Bill Andrew identifies himself as a former “nutritionally-empowered Alzheimer’s caregiver” who attributes the slow-down in progression of Alzheimer’s disease in his wife, Carol – and the growth of his own personal emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual capability and strength to provide quality 24/7 care for her in their own home – to the targeted nutritional supplements they both took on a daily basis. Carol went to her Heavenly reward on June 9, 2008 – Bill continues on to advocate for family caregivers. Contact Bill with your caregiving questions and comments via email at

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© 2006 Pederson Publishing, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Commercial use, redistribution or other forms of reuse of this information is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission of Pederson Publishing.

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