Life can be stressful before the additional stress of a Disability. When many forms of stress exist in your life it can be overwhelming. How might you overcome these stresses?
What is Stress anyway?
In simple terms Stress is an imbalance of forces. The forces we face in life are many. I like to think of them in four categories; physical, emotional, social and spiritual.
The physical forces in our lives are those things that keep our bodies functioning. Food, water, rest and exercise are key among them.
The emotional stresses in our lives can result from the physical aspect of who we are. Emotions result from the release of hormones by our brains. The impulses our brains receive from our bodies and the environment determine which parts of the brain get triggered and which hormones are released.
Social stresses are those rules of conduct that come into play as we engage with others. We learn and re-learn them. They change as our social roles change.
Spiritual stress occurs when we are afraid we are out of alignment with the Universe. Religion taught us this system and our society reinforces it. Our life experiences reinforce our beliefs even further.
The presence of a disability adds more stress in all these areas of our lives.
We name Disabilities by the limitations they add to our lives. A broken leg impedes our ability to move. Thus the major stress it causes is physical. Yet, the pain and inflammation of the injury changes the hormones our brains release and then our emotions are affected.
These physical and emotional changes impact our interactions with others. If we are a parent, lifting a child and caring for them has new limitations which can cause stress. You can respond to your stress by teaching your child new skills or getting outside help.
We might ask the spiritual question, “Why did this happen to me?” One immediate answer a simple injury provides usually suffices. “This too will pass.”
The combination of normal stresses with those added by a broken leg will require changes. Since we know that the leg will mend in a few weeks or months, we allow ourselves to accept those changes. We rest and use crutches. Others around us step forward to ease our personal and social loads. We expect that we will return to our pre – injury life. There will be memories that will need integration into our brains. Those memories will not take over our brains or our identity.
A stroke or brain injury may give us a similar physical disability, but could create more stress. Recovery will take longer and may not be complete. We will always see ourselves as vulnerable. This episode will haunt us the rest of our lives. We may ask ourselves, “Did God play a role in this?”
If our leg was amputated as a result of the injury, even more stress enters our lives. We can’t hope to return to our pre-injury selves.
How do we handle the stress of Disability and life together?
First, we need to pause. The more overwhelmed we find ourselves the longer this takes. When we try to avoid this simple step we compound the problem. A parent worries their broken leg might cause them to drop their child.
If we as parents feel this way it is important to pause for a moment and let ourselves settle down. Taking time to be still allows our bodies to proceed thru several phases. First, our brains released stress or threat hormones. The stress hormones allow us to deal with the acute situation. They need about 30 minutes to get out of our systems. During this time we tend to pace and not think clearly.
Minor injuries recover during this phase. With a broken leg or stroke we are headed to the hospital. This will force us to take the next step.
Meditation and similar practices can help us transition to the next phase – focus and assessment.
We need to focus and assess our situation. Wearing a cast on our leg and walking with crutches will limit our mobility. A stroke usually means a stay in the hospital. Both interrupt our normal daily patterns. Our natural desire to return to our previous life activities will make us aware of the differences.
During these pauses we assess our situation and make plans. In the emergency room most of us can plan our lives with the broken leg. Strokes require more complicated assessments and plans.
The pain of a broken leg seems mostly physical. The pain responds to pain killers. Rarely do these medications cause serious changes although some of us become habituated or even addicted.
The consequences of a stroke or amputation seem more emotional, social and spiritual. Doctors and nurses have learned to address these “pains.” Clergy (inside and outside of the hospital) can help with the spiritual “pains.” All these professionals have a ways to go before they achieve the same quality of relief provided by the “pain meds.”
So, have we dealt with the Stresses of Disability and Life?
Only to the extent that we have been forced to do so do we deal with the Stresses of Life and Disability. The Stresses of Disability and Life can cause us to pause in other ways.
Instead of overwhelming us physically, it may take an emotional or social form. We have all gone thru emotional outbursts. We yelled at others when we did not mean to. We failed to meet social obligations. Sometimes others forced us to look at our situation. A boss might reprimand or fire us. A friend or partner may avoid us.
In all these situations we can use the same process: pause, focus, assess, plan and work with it.
When overwhelmed by Stress, Pause, let your self cry or get drunk. Then you will be focused.
You will ask yourself “What happened?” Usually we only focus upon the immediate situation, but to really heal we need to look deeper.
Why did that situation upset us? Did it upset everyone we know? Why not? What differences exist between you and the others who were not upset by the event?
These are the assessment questions that allow us to make plans.
Living out the new plans we made is hard work. Most of us need help. Family, friends and life Coaches can help with the process of assessing, planning and living the plans.
The Process of Overcoming the Stress of Life and Disability is this:
Pause and let the acute situation settle,
Focus your attention on what happened, (The more traumatic the more issues the focus needs to encompass),
Assess the cause and options,
Plan to go forward, and then live out your plan.
When you keep getting overwhelmed, get Help.
As All Ways, Seek Joy,