Advice Column: Dealing with Colossal Amounts of Stress

Dear Hailey,

So. Stress. Seems I just can’t get enough. lol. I live with my dad. he does not require a lot of care, but none of us want him to be alone, and left to his own devises he would live on toast and butter and chocolate. He recently had a heart stress test; the injection since he cannot do the treadmill. The bill was three times what he paid before. Mind you, this is not just a money issue. He has enough. He refuses to go back. He will be out of heart meds in about two weeks and no amount of logic, threats of the painful deterioration he is likely facing, or pleas not to stop seeing a doctor he is firm in his decision.

My 20 year old has broken up with the mother of his child and now lives with us. We have the baby for a week and then her mom has her for a few days. He is jobless so there is no rhyme or reason to his visitation. He talks about getting a job but puts in one or two apps. It’s the holidays so no one is calling at the moment. When he doesn’t have her he disappears, often when I am at work, and stays away until he has her again.

I had a recent hospital stay with pneumonia and I am recovering slowly. I quit smoking for 23 days and then a super stressful day at work had me smoking again. Dad smokes constantly too.

My son has no drivers license and I am constantly running. I am exhausted and wanting to just cry all the time. I rarely sleep and putting a good face on is getting harder to do. I know I have to put limits on my son. I am taking him driving Sunday. Mom is just going to have to deal with the baby. Good Lord I’m tired! Oh yes, my rheumatoid arthritis has reared it’s ugly head and I am in pain. Also I gained thirty pounds in 23 days and I’m miserable. Guess I just needed to get it out. Thanks for listening.


Dear Stressed,

You aren’t exaggerating, that is a ton of stress. Even wonder woman would be panicked if she were faced with what you have going on. Recognize that it is simply a lot to deal with. It’s ok to be overwhelmed.

First off, you need to make room for YOU. From what you have mentioned it doesn’t sound like you have any room for personal self-care in your regular routine. You can’t take care of anyone else if you run yourself into the ground. Ideally, have at least one self-care activity that isn’t essential to survival. For now, focus on basic self-care. This includes eating at least moderately healthy meals, getting adequate sleep, giving yourself time to decompress, and regular exercise. After you get those worked into a consistent routine, think about an outlet for you that isn’t essential. But don’t worry about that for now.

Second, think about what you can control. You can’t force your dad to make healthier choices. You can’t make your son kick into gear and own up to his responsibilities. However, you can control how you respond to them, and how to handle your personal stress.

You mentioned that you know that you need to put limits on your son. You are absolutely right. You need to, for your sake as well as his. It is a tough line to navigate between enabling someone and taking care of them. Find what works for you and stick to it, firmly and consistently. If redefining these boundaries isn’t something you are able to on your own, consider family counseling.

Continue to do what you can to encourage your son to get a driver’s license. In the meantime, consider getting him something like a bus pass, a bike, something to give him more independence and take pressure off of you. You mentioned he disappears from time to time, so apparently he is able to find ways to get around without you. You don’t need to be his personal taxi.

If you haven’t yet looked into home health services for your dad, do so. That way he can get medical care in his own home. He may refuse, but that way you know you looked into every option. He is an adult and makes his own decisions, as heart breaking and unhealthy those choices are.

As you practice self-care, and institute healthy boundaries with your son, you will begin to feel better. If quitting smoking is something you still want to pursue, it will be much more achievable with a managed stress level. It will also be easier to eat healthier and lose the weight you gained once your stress is under control.

I realize I’ve given you a lot of things to work on, and please don’t feel that you have to approach them all at the same time. Pick one or two, and once you have mastered one pick another and work on that.

Your letter shows that you have self-awareness, that you know that you can’t continue with your current pattern. You need to start new, healthier, and more sustainable habits, but from what you have expressed I don’t have any doubt that you are able to do this. You absolutely can. I wish you luck in this journey!


Posted in Q&A

One thought on “Advice Column: Dealing with Colossal Amounts of Stress

  1. Thank you for the answer to my stressed letter. It’s nice to have some validation and direction. I am working on setting some boundaries with my son. He did get a job, and I have let him know it is imperative to his living here that he keeps it. No calling off as he has done in the past. I told him we need to write a plan after he starts getting paid for where the money will go. It’s fast food so it won’t be much, but it’ll take some burden off me and he can start banking for a car. My quit date for smoking cessation is 1/12/18. Tomorrow. Just making plans seems to have helped some. Dad is still dad. 🙂

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