If you are fortunate enough to have a smart phone, you find that you utilize all sorts of apps simultaneously: photo, banking, calendar, email, investment sites, grocery lists, books, fitness, flashlights, calculator, music, Facebook, texting and the list goes on. Have you ever noticed when you use a lot of these apps and keep them running, the power on your phone goes down quickly and you need to charge it or lose all phone capability? Lately, my brain and my body feel like an overused and under-powered smart phone!
I spent an intense three days with Thad in the hospital learning all about shoulder replacement, bone grafting, and what to expect in the healing process. I learned how to dress someone with the use of only one arm without having them live in those drafty hospital gowns for the next 6 weeks or cut half their wardrobe to accommodate ease of dressing. The occupational therapist taught us how to use the ice machine and pack, put on the sling and shoulder bolster. The physical therapist showed easy, passive exercises to use during this initial time of healing. The nurse showed us how to change the dressing on his incision.
There were so many different sections (apps) in my brain being activated I was ready to power off! During my visits in the hospital I felt “mushy” and wanted to climb into the hospital bed with Thad and doze off right alongside him! I would have, too, if I hadn’t been worried about bumping into his shoulder.
I was sharing how I felt with a friend of mine and she had an interesting theory. She thinks there is something piped into the air in the hospital that keeps people calm, submissive, compliant and wanting to sleep. If that is the case, can I get that to go, please? I need that for my insomnia.
Is it the Brahms’s Lullaby that is played every time a baby is born in a hospital? Whenever I hear the music I immediately remember the special moments after our daughter’s birth. The euphoria, the happiness, and the closeness I felt with my husband, the blessed relief from the pain of childbirth and the happy exhaustion that followed led to a mellow state of being.
I think my low power is a normal response to stress. Hospitals are a place where one tries to be strong for their loved ones and that expends a lot of power. Hospitals are a place where there is fear of the unknown, fear of the known, fear of possible pain and the pain itself. The hospital is a place of extremes – both physical and emotional; the joy of the birth of a baby, the death of a loved one and the myriad of events in between.
Although I appeared calm on the outside during those three days at the hospital, there was a low lying mixture of fear of what was going to happen, and what might happen. There was also the worry of not knowing enough, and being able to learn enough. I am, after all middle aged, menopausal and suffering from brain glitches at the most inopportune times.
They say that fear is a great motivator and it certainly works for me. When fear builds I tap into some “apps” that help me work through it. I have a great support network. My friend Donna took me to dinner while Thad was in surgery. This was a good distraction to just sitting in the surgical waiting room watching the seconds tick by on the clock while I empty the candy machine of chocolate. Others came by the hospital to pray and visit with Thad and another made dinner for us when we first got home. Others phoned, sent cards, and visited. We never felt isolated or alone.
I restore confidence in myself when I am reminded that I am a child of God and with God all things are possible. With each and every medical event in our lives, we have been stretched, refined, taught and grown.
I give myself latitude with attitude. Though I know that bad things can happen, I don’t dwell on the what-ifs, only the what-is. Embrace the positive. Eliminate the negative. Count the blessings however small. Having my neighbor as Thad’s Pre-op nurse overseeing his induction into surgery brought us much peace of mind. The morning after Thad’s surgery, he suffered from low blood pressure. I was nervous but reminded myself that he was in the best possible place for this to be happening and I looked with confident expectation that the issue would be resolved. And by noon his blood pressure was back to normal.
I also have found some effective ways to deal with emotions. Now I must be honest. There are times when my Italian blood overrides these “apps” and I get out of control. When that happens I find I am extremely vulnerable and lose the ability to calm and soothe myself. The ability to calm emotions helps regain and maintain balance in a situation. When I am nervous, I tend to organize, clean or do something physical. During Thad’s stay, I often fluffed his pillows, straightened his bed table, and generally cleaned up the hospital room. I did the same thing when he first came home – making sure that all his needs were addressed and he was comfortable and settled. It is my way of coping with a situation. Organizing helps me feel in control when there are certain areas I cannot control.
Speaking of control – preparing for the hospital stay and powering up on knowledge is an effective way of dealing with the fear of hospitals. Thad and I met with the doctor the week prior to surgery just to ask questions, such as the length of surgery, post op recovery and expected level of pain. Knowing this information made it easier for us to cope with the situation.
OK, but after all this I still felt like I wanted to curl up and take a nap by the end of every visit to the hospital. I think it’s the body’s way of telling us to power off, and plug into refresh, recharge and renew just like we do with our smart phones.
Refresh and relax. Set aside some time to relax. Try techniques such as yoga, meditation, and deep breathing. Spend some time with the Lord in prayer. Nothing works better for me than holding and reading my bible during times of stress. I know that nothing is going to happen to me that God and I can’t handle together.
Release and relieve. Physical activity can help discharge frustrations, tension and stress. I enjoy riding my bike in the summer because at least there is a breeze as I ride. I know, I know, it’s hard when you are a caregiver, but the results of even 20 minutes can alter your attitude for the rest of the day. That’s a good return on a 20 minute investment.
Refuel with healthy eating. If you’re like me, I tend to make bad eating choices when I am stressed out. When I do manage to eat healthy, I find that I have more staying power.
Recharge with sleep. I am often wound up with all the new information and list of things to do during a stressful hospitalization. I try not to fall into the temptation to stay up later than normal to “unwind or get caught up”. Sleeping well reduces irrational thinking and helps me keep my cool. And with my “type A” personality, it doesn’t take much to go from 50-150 degrees Fahrenheit!
So let me hear from you. What apps do you run to keep charged up? Is it fresh air or a favorite genre of music? How do you keep from feeling tired, or afraid or unglued when faced with adversity? What do you do when you’re stressed and under fire? What powers down the smart phone in you and what renews, refreshes, recharges and restores you to be the person God created you do to be?