|Along with losing weight
and getting organized, stress management is one of the
hottest topics in print. You can find out how to solve your
stress problems every time you go to the grocery store,
simply by picking up the latest magazine. If only it were
really that easy.
Many times I
have started reading books or articles about managing
stress, only to become so irritated within the first few
minutes that I would simply put it back down and walk away.
They may have contained good ideas, but I would think,
“Let’s get real.” It was obvious that the author was not a
50 or 60 year-old grandmother raising little children or
even anyone raising little children for that matter. One
author emphasized going to sleep every night at 10:00 p.m.
and sleeping uninterrupted for 8 hours. That may be ideal,
but it leaves no room for feeding an infant twice during the
night, changing the bedding of the 4-year-old who wets the
bed, or comforting the child who suffers from nightmares.
I was sensitive about the simplistic
answer of getting a solid eight hours of sleep because when
our three granddaughters first came to live with us, the
baby, at two months old, weighed less than five pounds and
was connected to a heart monitor. The monitor buzzed
whenever she stopped breathing for a certain length of time
or when her heart rate dropped too low. I would jiggle her
to make sure she was okay and then reset the monitor. Along
with getting up to check her and reset the monitor at all
times of the night, I would feed her every 2 to 3 hours
around the clock. This was my first experience with caring
for a premature infant. Plus there were the occasional
nighttime needs of the two year-old and four year-old that
needed reassurance and comforting. My husband had the
uncanny ability to sleep through almost anything, and
fortunately for him when he did awake, he would roll over
and go right back to sleep.
By the end of the first year, with the
baby still unable to eat any solid foods or drink more than
3 oz of formula at a time, I was utterly exhausted. After
the first 5 months, I finally had the two oldest children in
daycare, and even though the youngest was off the heart
monitor, she was unable to go due to her weak immune system.
I hardly left the house except to go to the store or take
the baby to her doctor or one of the many specialists that
kept track of her. I had gained 20 lbs; I had dark puffy
circles under my eyes; and I had jowls, my cheeks were
sagging. Even my sister, who had not seen me for two years,
admitted I didn’t look like myself. I went to my own doctor,
had a thorough exam, and left discouraged. Nothing was wrong
with me. Even menopause was inconclusive. I wanted this
young doctor to find something that he could fix with a
simple solution. But there was no simple solution.
By the end of the second year, life
with the children had gotten much easier. We were so very fortunate that the baby, by then two years old, was a normal
toddler. She finally walked, talked, ate a variety of
healthy foods, and loved the children’s show “Dora.” Her
immune system had improved, so she was able to go to
daycare. She still got sick easier than the other girls, but
she would be sick for a few days at a time rather than
weeks, and she actually slept through the night on occasion.
One would think I would have felt a
huge load lifted and be able to resume a normal energy
level. But I could not. Even though the children were doing
well, my home was in reasonable order, my husband was a good
and I had business leads to follow up on, I was so very
tired. I was so tired that I could not follow up on those
business leads, or go to the health club that I had paid
for, nor could I accomplish hardly any of the things that
had meaning to me. I felt that I was about to break.
continued to gain weight, and I could not sleep. I rarely
got more than three to five hours of combined sleep a night.
I was still getting up a couple of times a night with
someone, and even when I wasn’t, I was waking up several
times with severe hot flashes, anxiety, buzzing, pain
throughout my body, and horrid dreams. My dreams had a
common theme. I couldn’t get where I needed to get or do
what I needed to do. I dreamt that I was either missing my
plane, getting lost, or simply not able to accomplish what
had to be done. Nighttime became a nightmare and was far
more stressful than my daytime real life, and I seemed to
have no control over it. I also began experiences two
to three non-epileptic seizures a day. They were very
frightening to me. I knew something had to
change. Exactly what, I didn’t know. What I did know was
that my life was out of balance, severely out of balance.
When my body quit
gaining weight, it decided to go the other direction. I
started losing weight without even trying. My sleep problems
continued miserably and my weight plummeted. So back to the
doctors I went.
After trying several
different types of medication to help me either sleep or
just feel better, the side-affects of the drugs seemed worse
than the original problems. I then gained 60 pounds in 8
months. Now, I really didn't look like myself. Even the
cashier at the grocery store, as she saw me shopping with
three little girls and my teenager daughter Angela, asked me
if I was going to have a boy this time. My eyes widened, I
stared at her, and said, "Oh, I'm not pregnant." How
embarrassing. Angela said, "Well, mom, at least she thinks
you're young enough to be pregnant." Now I laugh about it,
but it wasn't funny at the time to have gained so much
weight, right around the middle, that I looked pregnant.
So off the meds I went. I
lost the weight and was determined to get back to normal,
whatever that meant. I am very natural and holistic health
minded with years of experience in the past living a healthy
lifestyle. So I knew I could get there again with effort.
So that is where I am at
right now. Back to eating the way I know my body needs,
getting more exercise, even if all that means is wearing my
pedometer to see how far I have walked during the course of
the day, and reading lots of natural holistic health
material. I am currently planning a program to help other
women develop healthy lifestyles.
of our Thoughts and Emotions
Being aware that the
thoughts we think create our emotions which in turn affects
our reality. The more attention we give the emotions we
don't want to feel, the more we feel them. The more we think
and talk about what we don't want, the more we experience
what we don't want.
Being aware of what we put
into our bodies and what we put into our minds is just the
beginning of dealing with stress and creating a balanced
It is important to understand the different affects of
acute vs. chronic stress on our physical and emotional health. Our bodies were
designed to deal and actually benefit from acute stress. However chronic stress,
stress that just never goes away, can wreck havoc on our entire system. It
contributes to heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, fatigue, depression, and an
over-all feeling of awfulness. Learning to deal with chronic stress, and
sometimes changing our entire lifestyle choices, is something all grandparents
raising grandchildren may need to do in order to live healthy lives.