Practical and Gentle Stress-Relief Techniques for Caregivers
Caregiver stress comes with the territory. Taking care of someone you love who has suffered serious injury, disability, or illness is rewarding and honorable. But there's a physical and emotional toll that can be devastating if you don't know how to manage it. Left unchecked, caregiver stress can leave you feeling overwhelmed, alone, and irritated. It can also start affecting you physically.
If you're like many caregivers, you might think doing something for yourself takes away from the care for your loved ones. But that's not even close to being true. Over time, stress can keep you from being the amazing caregiver you are. Take care of yourself, too, so you can better care for your friends or family members by practicing one or more of these practical and gentle stress-relief techniques.
Take a Few Slow, Deep Breaths
Who knew that stress relief could be as simple as breathing? It's one of the most effective tools you have, and all you need is three to five minutes to get some seriously soothing results. Start by sitting down comfortably. Place one hand on your stomach and start by taking one deep breath in through your nose, feeling your stomach press out without much movement in your chest. Hold your breath for a few seconds and release it slowly through pursed lips as your stomach goes back in. Repeat 10 times.
Get Some Exercise
Whether you hit the yoga mat, take an aerobics class, or lace up your sneakers for a brisk walk, taking time for exercise is an effective part of any stress management plan. It gives you a healthy dose of endorphins – your body's natural feel-good chemicals – while helping you get your mind off the things making you worried or anxious. Exercise also boosts your mood and helps keep you healthier, so you'll be better able to care for your loved ones.
Focus on Gratitude
During dark times, it can be easy to slip into a negative mindset. As a caregiver, you're going to experience challenges and other things that are beyond your control. But getting into the practice of mentally noting or writing down the things that make you grateful can combat that negativity and enhance a positive mental outlook while relieving stress and anxiety. You can practice gratitude in several ways. Journaling and writing down three to five things you're grateful for every day is one option. You could also combine it with a five-minute deep-breathing session, thinking about the great things you have in your life as you breathe in and out.
Push 'Play' on Your Favorite Playlist
Music has great power and the ability to affect our moods. Something upbeat will give you positivity. Tunes with a slower tempo can soothe your mind and encourage your muscles to relax. Research suggests some of the music that's most effective in busting stress include Celtic, Native American, Indian stringed instruments and flutes, nature sounds, and light jazz. But ultimately it's got to be music that works for you. Consider pushing "play" and having a little dance party while you're at it.
Take a break from your caregiving tasks and responsibilities and immerse yourself in a creative project. Activities such as gardening, painting, coloring, knitting, and cooking all refocus your mind away from your thoughts about caregiving, directing your focus on something fun and positive. Research shows that doing creative things can actually decrease the amount of cortisol – a stress hormone – in your body. As a bonus, this is a great opportunity to do something fun with your loved one, which will build your relationship and help you both feel better.