Chronic stress, that ongoing stress when the end is unknown, depletes us of our energy. It creates an environment that is not healthy for your body or mind. When someone is under chronic stress the people around them try to help you but eventually, even they can become overwhelmed and begin to feel helpless and fatigued by your company. I know, I have been in both places. Trying to help others, and being the one who needed the help.
Caregiver fatigue happened to me when I spent years helping people and not feeling like I was making a difference. It started long before my career took off. In fact, everyone told me I was such a good listener that I could be paid to help people. I was always being told to get my counselors certification but that was not what I wanted to do. Yes, I was a good listener, but I didn't want to do that all the time. I spent enough time listening to peoples problems from my friends and family, why would I want to do that all day at work too?
Yet, that is what I ended up doing. I never became a licensed clinical professional counselor, or a social worker, but I became a parent mentor and spent years listening to the struggles of parents trying their hardest to raise children with learning problems, substance abuse, and/or emotional and behavioral challenges. My focus was to listen and then connect them to people who could help them the best. I spent hours looking for additional resources for families. While searching for resources, I met others in similar situations or read many testimonials from parents who had "been there, done that, learned this".
Please don't get me wrong. I loved my job. I connected with families better than most therapists because I offered to them what many therapists couldn't ~ or wouldn't. History of being in their shoes and "living to tell about it". I met some wonderful people (parents, caregivers, and professionals) along the way; caring, loving, and extremely stressed out individuals who after awhile, also suffered from the effects of chronic stress on their bodies. I listened to all of their problems and worked with people who were referred to as "workplace bullies" which creates enough stress right there. I carried their problems with me everywhere. I also had chronic drama in my personal life so combine that with what I was feeling from work and I was a stress bomb accident waiting to happen.
I needed to learn to let go and not feel responsible for the way others felt or behaved. That was the first step of many more to follow.
I won't get into all the scientific reasons about stress and illness because that is not the purpose of this blog. There are many resources available online from credible sites such as WebMD.com, National Institutes of Health (nih.gov), Help Guide (www.helpguide.org) or one I found a few months ago ~ the Global Healing Center www.globalhealingcenter.com. All of these sites provide information about the effects of chronic stress and what you can do about it.
I mention it today because I heard from another person I used to work with who is counting the days to retirement. She has been under so much stress over the past few years that she continues to suffer from health problems that I know will diminish ~ and might even disappear altogether ~ by this time next year. What is ironic in all of this is the fact that SHE is the person who taught me about stress. I had help getting to the place I am at now because the decision to eliminate my position from the non-profit I worked for, forced me to make the decision to look at my life and reflect on the decisions I was making and why I was making them. It forced me to take a step back, slow down, quiet my mind.
This past year has allowed me to rest and recover. Saturday was my 1 year anniversary of being official