On Cumulative Stress

I read the most wonderful article this morning that I think applies to those of us living with families with hidden disabilities: The Theory of Cumulative Stress

It is not uncommon for me to spend long hours sleeping on weekends. Often I get sick on weekends (this past weekend I was laid up in bed with a fever), while I seem to be less sick or able to push through on weekdays. I like the idea of calling the story behind my weekend crashes the “theory of cumulative stress.”

This article helped me to see how this is simply my body reacting to the cumulative stress of trying to manage a full-time job, three children in very different stages in life, a husband with an acquired brain injury, a home, and my workouts – which, while they do rejuvenate me and help manage some stress and depression, can also lead to physical fatigue and burnout.

I am trying to find creative, useful ways to refuel without encroaching on my time with my family or my job (or my workouts). I am paying more attention to what activities “energize” me. Sometimes, I feel that there are no activities that energize me, only the constant drain of the life of a busy working mom. Other times I am able to peer through the fog of emotional and physical fatigue and remember that I do have activities I enjoy. I need to make a conscious effort to engage in these activities to refresh and refuel my weary soul.

I joined a new Bible study in our church, and even though it’s challenging to drag myself to yet another weekly meeting, I have noticed the nuggets of wisdom I learn about God in these weekly meetings stay with me and encourage me through the week. I am making a conscious effort to reach out to friends, even if it’s just sending a brief text or email. And I am trying to plan date nights with my husband where we can go out and talk about real things…anything but our schedules, his disability, and our fatigue!

Sleep, nutrition, and laughter help, too.

This article helped me to realize that I need to be more proactive about cumulative stress. I need to deal with my fatigue and/or burnout before it stops me in my path. And I also need to be gracious with myself when a weekend rolls around and I spend more time resting, reading, or sleeping than I would like. I need to remind myself that this is my body’s way of recovering from the cumulative stress of the week.

I am reminded of the story of Moses in Exodus 17:11-12: “So it came about when Moses held his hand up, that Israel prevailed, and when he let his hand down, Amalek prevailed. But Moses’ hands were heavy. Then they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it; and Aaron and Hur supported his hands, one on one side and one on the other. Thus his hands were steady until the sun set.” We all need to find activities that can act like the stone to hold us up, and the support of people like Aaron and Hur, to help us manage cumulative stress.

Nancy

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