Stress Management

Stress is probably one of the most difficult things I deal with, it is twofold. First I try very hard not to let myself get into circumstances that could be stressful. Second, if I do get into a stressful situation which are sometimes unavoidable, it is important that I deal with it calmly and try to end the situation as quickly as I can. Here are a few examples of situations that I can find myself in.

Work. One of the hardest things I had to do was to take early retirement. After talking to my neurologist, one thing was clear, I had to be as close to stress free as possible. There were other reasons for retiring, but from a health standpoint, this was critical.  Due to the type of work that I did, stress was present all of time. It might have been as simple as having several meetings in a row and worrying that one would run long and I would be late for the next one. Sometimes getting so nervous about it that I couldn’t sit still. We were starting a huge software upgrade of our main operating system that I would have been responsible for. That alone caused a high degree of anxiety. Worrying I would forget something, not do something right, eventually causing the project to be delayed. Challenges like these were what I thrived on 5 years ago. That was one of the things I loved about my job. I might have had on my HR hat one minute, IT hat the next, and then dealing with an Operational issue 5 minutes later. I would have grabbed onto this IT project with both hands and told people to hang on, we were going for a heck of ride.

Disability Payments. We thought we hit a snag on our disability last week which sent me into a tail spin. The disability company informed us after everything was finalized and the payments started that I needed to file for Social Security. I immediately thought the worst. They did a horrible job explaining what we needed to do. They neglected to tell me that I had to file for Disability through Social Security. Big difference! Of course, I thought the worst. This would have a dramatic impact on what I can draw at 65 when the disability payments stop. Needless to say, Debra and I were both stunned that this hadn’t been mentioned until the phone call. It was very traumatic. It was then we decided that the issues of disability was something I could no longer deal with. It was just too stressful. Debra would have to take over talking to the attorney. We are finding out it is a process that takes months and could be expensive. (Topic for a different blog. ) On days that I am dealing with something like this my BP goes up and I feel myself gritting my teeth, so antsy that I can’t sit still. Double the antsy feeling if issues come up during the evening hours, I know sleep will be difficult for me.

Sports. I noticed when I was watching the World Series or Professional football on TV and there was a bad call (in my opinion), I overreact by getting verbal and loud. I have always been very passionate watching sports, but this is a new emotion for me. Things that do not go according to plan cause me stress and anxiety bad enough that it can take hours to calm down. When watching sports now, if I feel myself getting wound up a little, I either walk away or change channels. I find myself recording the games and watching them later. It is easy to just pause and walk away.

News & Politics. Are the Republicans ever going to thin the herd of candidates? Are the Democrats going to come up with someone I like? I’m not getting political here, I’m trying to explain why I avoid news and politics. I feel overwhelmed by enormity of the media coverage, it is hard for me to overlook things like politics.  I want the quick fix and there never seems to be one. The bombings in Paris are another example of how media coverage has me dwelling on the issue for a long time and I get very emotional about it.

How I’ve learned to deal with this is with Debra’s help. We sit together every morning, she reads the paper and then gives me the condensed version and we discuss. I do get some news on the Internet but I have learned to be careful. I am usually with Debra when I am reading the stories and we are discussing it together.

Dad. As of this writing, my dad is in hospice care dealing with brain cancer. After an episode that left him hospitalized, he was moved into a care center last weekend. There were some minor transfer issues moving from the hospital to the care center in another town on a weekend. It was hard for me to deal with this. My expectation was that there shouldn’t be any bumps in the road, the reality is that my role is changing, I am not the “fixit” guy anymore. Dad’s transfer turned out fine but I was very nervous and upset about the prospect he wouldn’t have his medications, meals, and care when needed.

The Alzheimer’s in me tells me that when these things happen I have to become very pessimistic. In my mind the worst possible things will happen even though they usually don’t,  but that is where my mind goes. I become edgy, anxiety sets in and my stress level increases. This is difficult to adjust to but with Debra’s help I am learning to adjust. It is always best when I can avoid these times of stress but of course it is not always possible.

This isn’t just about disability, work, or how I deal with external pressures, issues or stressors. This is an internal struggle I deal with. I was the “fixit” guy at work, in my family, in my whole being. This was a role I carried proudly, unfortunately, I can no longer take on that role. I now struggle a great deal with learning this new dynamic of who I am. I am now dependent on others which is completely out of the norm for me.

 

Proclamation Day

Monday, November 9 was Proclamation Day in Lincoln NE. It was an honor to be invited to the event. Governor Pete Ricketts proclaimed November 2015 as National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month, National Hospice and Palliative Care Month, National Family Caregiver Month, and National Respite Awareness Month.

The event started with a “Celebrating the Family” luncheon at the Governor’s Mansion. The speakers were Dr. Anna Fisher, Hillcrest Health Services and Dr. Stephen Bonasera, University of Nebraska Medical Center. This was my second time meeting Dr. Fisher. She is a fantastic speaker, her enthusiasm is contagious. I came away with a new appreciation for caregivers! Dr. Bonasera echoed what Dr. Fisher said, as a society and a nation, we would be in trouble if it were not for the caregivers, whether family, respite or hospice. They are definitely some of our nations unsung heroes.

Proclamation Signing. After the luncheon, we went across to the capital where Governor Ricketts signed the individual proclamations. Pictured below is Governor Ricketts, Dr. Viv Ewing, the Executive Director of the Nebraska Alzheimer’s Association and myself.

Governor

After the proclamation signing, we went outside to the Ribbon Tying Ceremony on the Care Tree that is on the Capitol lawn pictured below. Each color of ribbon represents one of the organizations, purple being the one for the Alzheimer’s Association.

Care Tree

It was a good day, beautiful weather for Nebraska in November. Thank you to the Alzheimer’s Association for including me in the event.

Ronald Regan designated November as Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month in 1983, some of the numbers about Alzheimer’s are surprising and scary. Along with that, I included some facts about caregivers.

  1. In 1983, fewer than 2 million Americans were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.
  2. Over 5 million Americans live with Alzheimer’s disease today, and it is thought that this estimate could be very low because many are undiagnosed.
  3. Over 700,000 Americans 65 and older will die in 2015 from Alzheimer’s.
  4. It is estimated, without a medical breakthrough, the number of American’s with Alzheimer’s disease will rise to over 13 million by 2050.
  5. Two thirds of those diagnosed with Alzheimer’s are women.
  6. Alzheimer’s is the 6th leading cause of death in the United States.
  7. In 2015, Alzheimer’s and other dementias will cost the nation 226 billion dollars.
  8. By 2050, Alzheimer’s and other dementias could cost the nation 1.1 trillion dollars if no medical advances are made.
  9. Alzheimer’s is the only cause of death of the top 10 in America that cannot be prevented, cured or slowed.
  10. Only 200,000 Americans diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease are under 65 at the time of diagnosis (younger-onset).
  11. There are more than 15 million Alzheimer’s and dementia caregivers. The toll it takes on these friends and family members is tremendous.
  12. It is estimated that 17.5 billion hours of unpaid care is administered by these caregivers at an estimated value to the nation of 217 billion dollars.
  13. Over half of these caregivers are children caring for parents.

These are just some of the numbers. This information is all from the Alzheimer’s Association 2015 fact sheet.

Mike