On Wednesday, I took my spouse to see the doctor. We have the same doc, so I also scheduled a checkup for myself. During the exam, the doctor asked a lot of questions because he was concerned about stress and how it is affecting my spouse — and me — by indicators of behavior and results from physical exams of both of us.
He began by asking me to step on a scale. He watched me remove my boots…
…noted my weight (hasn’t gone up or down since the last time I’ve seen him), then asked, “wouldn’t you be more comfortable in regular shoes?”
Me: “nope. Even the thought of wearing so-called regular shoes makes me shudder and probably raises the hormone levels that cause anxiety and stress.”
The doctor looked at me and did not quite know what to say because he probably did not expect such an answer. My spouse was standing nearby. I could see a slight grin on his face, along with a mild eye-roll. (He sometimes gets concerned when I voice my opinions about ugly, dorky, silly dress shoes.)
The doc then asked me about my workload. I informed him that I was working more than usual because I got a promotion (yay!) but they can’t fill my former position so I am doing two jobs simultaneously. The new job isn’t that new to me because I have been doing it informally for a couple years on-and-off as an adviser. Now the position is formally recognized on the agency org chart, and gives me some more professional power by position authority which is sometimes necessary to get the job done.
The doc became concerned because he knows that workload influences health. He also asked about other things that I do outside of work. I explained that caregiving takes a significant amount of time while I look after my spouse, his mother, and a dozen senior pals who have various needs.
The doc became even more concerned because he knows that caring for others requires special skill and can quickly add to increased stress levels. Okay, yep, all this added stress has made itself known by exacerbating my chronic intestinal condition. I won’t take medication for it because the side effects are worse than the cure, so I manage it by closely watching what I eat and (trying to) reduce stress. (Well, “trying to” is the operative but missing link.)
The results from my physical exam were good — blood pressure, ox sat, heart rate, cholesterol level, blood sugar, etc. — were all within normal limits. I admit, though, I need to pick up on the exercise more often to work at avoiding weight gain that is a persistent problem. I do have something physically wrong with me, but for now, we’re keeping an eye on it and are not scheduling an appointment with a surgeon. Whew.
The doc is happy about one important thing: I get eight hours of restful sleep each night. I didn’t tell him my schedule, though. I’m not sure what he would think about going to bed at 8pm and rising at 4am every day, seven days a week.
The doc asked, “what do you do to relax? I mean really relax?”
That opened the door for a discussion about boots.
I said, “see those boots?” while pointing to the Chippewa harness boots about which he was concerned. “I wear them and boots like them when I ride my motorcycle. Can I tell you how much joy that riding my Harley brings to me? Even just commuting to work and back or occasional rides with my buddies… aside from the usual jerks in cages who cut me off… I have fun. I smile. It makes me happy! And let me assure you that I always wear full protection from my boots to protective gear to a DOT-approved helmet. Always. It’s called ATGATT.” (All the gear, all the time.)
The doc could tell that talking to me about concerns about the safety of motorcycling wouldn’t fly, so he smiled and said, “well, that’s good. But is it enough? What else do you do to relax? Meditation? Yoga? Stuff like that? Do you go to the gym for solid workouts?
Hmmmmm… okay, he’s got a point. Not nearly enough “relax-me time” in my life, and no gym.
He then turned to my spouse and went through the same routine. My spouse’s health condition is tenuous and stress hormone levels are high. I knew this just from observing behavior. He has lost a significant amount of weight due to all this stress, and that’s the last thing he needed. It’s been a rough past three months for the spouse, especially with his mother’s situation being so difficult and distant.
One thing though, the doc complimented the spouse on how well he has remained in remission from his illness, and also on a pair of walking shoes the spouse wears which have orthotic fittings and help him walk without an assistive device.
The doc asked us both what we can do for more time for relaxation to reduce stress. He made me promise that when I come home from work, no checking email. I explained that since I refuse to have a mobile device with email on it, then that’s easy to avoid doing as long as I don’t fire up my laptop. He also asked me to restart my walking routine — a good idea with which I agree.
I explained that I built a pond and patio deep in our backyard forest, which is a great place to go chill out. We have a family of frogs that hang out at the pond and are fun to watch.
The doc demonstrated some breathing exercises and initial meditation steps, and then prescribed “frogs.” Seriously. He said, “you both must promise me that at least for an hour a day, you go sit by your pond, close your eyes, meditate, breathe deeply, and relax. Let daily stresses melt away.”
Okay doc, frogs it is!
Life is short: rebalance your work and daily life.