Excerpt from Daily Cures, Wisdom for Healthy Aging
I recently came across this excellent object lesson about stress. A woman walked around a room with a raised glass of water while teaching stress management. "How heavy is this glass of water?" she asked. Answers ranged from 8 oz. to 20 oz. She responded, "The absolute weight doesn't matter. It depends on how long I 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 right arm. If I hold it for a day, you'll have to call an ambulance. In each case, it's the same weight, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it becomes." She continued, "That’s the way it is with stress. If we carry our burdens all the time, sooner or later, as the burden becomes increasingly heavy, we won’t be able to handle it.”
The lesson is a perfect example of caregiver stress. It’s not the individual acts that become tedious or heavy; it is the constant strain of worry and responsibility for the long haul. Studies show that the caregiver is at a higher risk of a catastrophic health event than the one being cared for. When a caregiver has no opportunity to rest from responsibility or has no time for self, the otherwise easy jobs become overwhelming and exhausting. How difficult is it to fill a pillbox and remind a loved one to take the medication at the designated time? When it is day after day, year after year, the responsibility may become a significant stressor. Added to these simple tasks is the emotional dependence on the caregiver. Getting relief for the caregiver allows them to share the weight, and it is critical for the health of both.
“If you ask what is the single most important key to longevity, I would have to say it is avoiding worry, stress and tension. And if you didn't ask me, I'd still have to say it.”