Editor’s Note: This post originally published on June 1, 2011 was completely updated and revised August 8, 2016.
Are you holding on to hurt or pain that’s adding to your caregiver stress?
Letting go can be an important part of moving forward and reducing your stress.
2011 was a banner year for pears setting. The tree was loaded.
You’d think that would be a good thing, right?
You see the tree was so full of fruit that as the pears grow, they might have broken the branches. Especially the pears at the ends of limbs.
The branches just wouldn’t hold all the mature pears. As you can see…
So how is trimming the excess pears like holding on to hurts and pain in caregiving?
Left untrimmed the weight of the excess pears will eventually stress the tree limbs. In a windstorm or even possibly just from the weight of the maturing pears, the limbs can snap.
And holding on to hurts and pains lets them fester, adding to your caregiver stress. Instead of a limb snapping, maybe it’s your temper that flares. Or maybe you’ll risk developing a medical or emotional problem yourself.
Suppose the limbs bear the pears fine to maturity. I estimate there were hundreds of pears before I started removing them. And the stress of bringing all that fruit could harm the tree, and lead to smaller pears.
Why? Because it’s spending all its energy in making pears, and it can only support a certain number of pears. Maybe the tree needs to put some of its energy into starting new leaves and blossoms for next year, which show as buds this fall and winter.
Unchecked caregiver stress can lead you to neglect important parts of your health too. Possibly putting yourself and those you love at risk.
Stresses on the tree may affect unseen areas, such as the root system. Possibly weakening the tree’s defenses against disease or insect damage.
Just like in caregiving where increased caregiver stress can lead to weakening or impairment of your immune system. Placing you at risk for infections and maybe even diseases like cancer. There’s even evidence that caregiver stress can lead to a decreased response to the influenza (flu) vaccine.
What does that mean? Well it may increase your risk of getting influenza (flu). If you’re ill, the person you’re caring for may be more likely to get it or be at risk because you’re not available to care for her.
Five years later, the pear tree looks like this:
And it’s still bearing pears.
The branches are stronger, and able to hold even more pears. This year there are not as many pears as last, which is probably a good thing. Pear trees like people need a respite on a regular basis.
Are you taking a page from Mother Nature’s book and taking a rest? While a long vacation may not be on your schedule, regular breaks are just as important.
To your Happy & Healthy Caregiving,
Ina Gilmore MD
Purple Angel Dementia Ambassador
P.S. For additional tips and your free copy of A HEART PLAN, sign up for our newsletter!