To say that we live in a high-stress society would be an understatement. We all suffer from one form of stress or another, but senior caregivers tend to get more than their fair share of it. Even though they acclimatize to dealing with higher levels of stress than most people, eventually they will succumb to the negative effects of stress.
That being said, there are many ways to deal with the types of long-term stress that caregivers are prone to. Just like with seniors, caregivers must take strides to make sure that they are living a healthy lifestyle, or else they will not be able to take care of others effectively. Here are some of the most effective techniques of stress relief for caregivers.
When we are stressed, our breathing becomes shallow and rapid, and our muscles tense. This is how the body prepares itself for fight or flight. By taking slow, deep breaths, we can send the opposite message to our body, allowing our muscles to relax and bring the stress levels down.
When you feel stress creeping in, bring your hand towards your bellybutton, take a deep breath, and try to concentrate on the way your belly is pushing your hand outwards as the air helps expand it. Hold your breath for an instant and exhale.
Repeat until you feel your heart rate slowing.
Going on vacation is a great way to diminish your stress levels, but that’s not what we mean by traveling in this case. Going on vacation every time you feel stressed is neither practical nor cost-effective. Traveling in your mind to a calm spot, however, can be done at almost any time.
It sounds corny, but it works. You need to concentrate on a calm and restful place, preferably one you know, and try to imagine yourself there. Try to visualize the little details. You will start to notice that your stress is dissipating.
Just like deep breathing techniques, a massage can help relieve stress in a meaningful way. By helping relax the muscles, your brain interprets this as a signal to relax, reducing stress as a consequence.
Not everyone can afford regular massages, but there are many cost-effective alternatives that work just as well, such as massage chairs or even self-massage, which is easy to learn.
Working with the same principle as the deep breathing technique and massage, smiling is a great way to diminish stress. When we feel happy, we smile, which becomes an ingrained habit for our brain.
Even if you’re feeling miserable, smiling predisposes your brain towards happiness, releasing the happy hormones. Laughing works, as well. It’s a big hit in India where you even have laughing clubs.
- Positive Mantras
Keep telling yourself that everything’s ok and you’ll be fine. It may sound like something people only do in the movies, but it really does work.
It will help reaffirm to yourself that you are doing the best you can and will help improve your overall mood. It also leads into our next tip.
- Stay Positive
This can be very hard, especially for people that are taking care of a gravely ill relative or parent with no hope of recovery. Still, it remains true. You need to stay positive and reaffirm your own value and worth regularly, without falling prey to self-pity or recrimination.
Whether you are trying to care for someone while running a business, or are doing it as a full-time job, keeping organized and staying positive will go a long way toward success in any venture.
- Start a Journal
Writing your experiences and emotions on paper is a great way to clarify what is going on with you. It’s also a very efficient type of self-therapy.
- Count to Calmness
Another classic, just countdown to ten. This allows your brain a break to consider what’s going on with you.
Essential oils are a great way to relax. Lavender is among the fragrances that have a proven effect on the human body and psyche.
Working with the same principle as a massage, stretching is much easier to do alone and is a great way of relaxing the muscles and revitalize your body.
- Stay Active
It may sound strange that you should go for a walk or a run to relieve stress and tensed up muscles, but walking helps you breath deeper. Walking can help stretch the calf muscles as well. It’s best to walk outside to get the full benefit but walking inside is okay too.
This has worked for the Romans, and every civilization since. A hot soak is a great way to relax. Add some lavender scent and you’re set for your own mini-spa.
As more research is being done, we are starting to see that music has amazing benefits that we never knew it had. Often, listening to music reaches parts of people that other activities don’t reach. Relax by listening to calming music. If rock music is your thing, dial it back a bit, listen to something relaxing, and take some stress off.
- Shake it Off
If you’re feeling tense, try to tense your body even more. Squeeze your hands into fists. Hold onto your tension for a few more seconds, then exhale and let the tension go. Most people find that they are more relaxed than before.
Caregiver stress is a natural part of senior caregiver life. Fortunately, there are many things you can do to feel better. By following some of the tips that we have laid out here, you will start to see your stress melt away, allowing you to be a better caregiver for your loved one. If you are still looking for other ways to help cope with a difficult situation, contact one of our experienced senior care consultants at Shelton Care Management.