Vim & Vigor - Summer 2017 - University of Virginia - 17
SPECIAL NEEDS, SPECIAL CARE
as the family health captain, scheduling
appointments and making sure everyone
In fact, according to the Kaiser Family
Foundation, 85 percent of mothers
choose their kids' doctors, 84 percent
take them to their appointments, and
79 percent ensure they get the care
As moms and natural caregivers, women
might feel it's their responsibility to take
on the family's health. But there's a risk
to taking on everything.
"Women today are trying to do too
much and move too fast, and we're
often under the false assumption that
by controlling everything we can create less stress for ourselves and others,
when in fact the opposite is true," says
Renee Peterson Trudeau, a work-life balance coach and speaker and author of
The Mother's Guide to Self-Renewal and
Nurturing the Soul of Your Family. "Our
overdoing is putting us in a constant
fight-or-flight mode, which leads to
high stress levels, burnout, anxiety,
depression and even disease."
When you're experiencing stress,
your body releases hormones that
drive up blood pressure, heart rate
and blood sugar levels. With smaller
bursts of stress, these aren't a big
deal and return to normal.
But long term, chronic stress can
increase risk for high blood pressure,
heart disease, menstrual problems
The Importance of
Before they can adequately take care
of others, women must remember their
own needs, Trudeau says.
"Women have to realize taking care
of themselves isn't selfish," she says.
A mother of four, Erin Davison admits that her youngest holds a special place in
her heart. Charlie is 6 but will always be the size of a toddler. With a rare form of
dwarfism, he can't speak, walk or breathe on his own. Davison wears his ventilator
on her back. She is Charlie's schoolteacher and round-the-clock caregiver. She
loves every minute of it.
"I love the challenge of brainstorming and creating things that can help Charlie be
more of a kid and make his life easier," Davison says. "Without a team of people behind
you, this would be almost nearly impossible. You have to rely on others for help."
That team is just a few miles down the road from the Davisons' Charlottesville
neighborhood. It includes a UVA Children's Hospital physician who makes house
calls, and UVA biomedical engineering students, who crafted Charlie a special power
chair. "There's a tendency for kids like Charlie to be left out of society because other
children are afraid of all their medical equipment," Davison explains. "The UVA students went above and beyond to build Cruiser X. It looks like a monster trike, so it's
fun and engaging for other children."
"It's like oxygen; it's their birthright.
And when they feel more alive, whole
and resourced, everyone-especially
That means taking the time to exercise, making sure you get enough sleep
and pressing pause on stress, whether
that's through deep breathing, doing
yoga, meditating or keeping a journal,
And when planning everyone else's
appointments, women shouldn't forget
their own health maintenance-well
visits, mammograms, skin checks,
colonoscopies and dental cleanings.
It's important for women to take care
of themselves just as well as they do
LET IT GO
So how can you possibly take care
of yourself and your family on top of
everything else? Start by realizing when
good is good enough, Trudeau says.
"We're trying to do too many things
perfectly," she says. "We need to pick
and choose what truly needs our attention, what we can delegate and what
can be postponed or fall off the to-do
Maybe your partner, for example, can
pick up prescriptions for the kids and
schedule his own doctor appointments.
Maybe a neighbor or friend can drive a
family member to the eye doctor.
Although it's not easy to delegate, it
can be worth the effort.
"Learning to ask for help can be a
life-changer," Trudeau says. "But it's
typically something we have to learn,
and it takes practice."
Remember, you're the captain of
this team. Organize a huddle and call
the plays (and pass some of the time!),
and you'll be on your way to a win. n
See how 6-year-old Charlie
Davison navigates the world
with his UVA-engineered
monster trike-and see the
smile that captivates his parents and everyone he meets.
Go to uvahealth.com/charlie.
SUMME R 2017