Caregiving

Beating back stress with the basics

I went back to work after being out for awhile following my husband’s open-heart surgery. It’s been two weeks now and I have to say, it has been stressful.

So stressful that I got a tension headache that lasted several days during my second week at work. I am working with some different colleagues. No one I haven’t worked with before, but different. I am learning  a new front-end computer system. I am re-learning how to produce a section for our audiences. Yes, there is support at work, and I have availed myself to all of it, but frankly, probably not often enough.

My new partners at work have been very supportive and going S-L-O-W-L-Y for me. Thank goodness.

I’m also adjusting to a new schedule at home. My husband has physical therapy three days a week. He needs some help with his new LVAD (left ventricular assist device) that pumps life-giving blood through his body, though really he’s doing pretty well on his own. My main role is changing the dressing that protects the small hole in his body where the driveline exits on his right side. The driveline is the electrical cord from the pump in his body to the power unit he always holds close to him in a small case that hangs on a shoulder strap. Changing the dressing requires a clean environment, patience and, for me, nerves of steel. I get through it like I get through so many difficult tasks: step by step, without thinking too much or too hard about it till it’s over.

Without the stress of work, I was doing pretty well on the food front at home. Very little  junk food and no candy passed my lips. I was calm when I was home with my husband.

As soon as I returned to work, my hand hit the candy dish that is too near my office.  After being with my husband most of the time for five weeks, I was on pins and needles wondering how he was doing at home alone. Sweets seemed to calm that feeling. Of course, if the sweets had really worked, I wouldn’t have had a tension headache, right?

All of the life changes take time to adjust to, but they all are demanding my attention NOW and QUICKLY. It’s hard to concentrate.

So I went back to basics, and used my never-fail method for getting rid of a headache:  I worked out. And it worked.

I don’t know exactly how it works, but working out in any form; walking, lifting, rowing, biking (especially biking) helps reduce my stress. Working out opens up my blood vessels, and the pain just drains away.

And working out regularly helps me eat better. Because when you work out you want to eat better to fuel your body.  And then I remember why I’m doing this — because I don’t want to be one of the unhealthy African American women who are obese or overweight. Eighty-percent of us. And I want to be around for my husband and the rest of my family.

So here comes the third week, and I hope I can get it under control. I’m going to stick to the basics and take it from there.

And hope it works this time.



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