5-minute stress busters for caregivers
For those taking care of older relatives, stress can become overwhelming at times.
No matter how much you love them, caring can be frustrating, and there are times you may want to shout, scream and even run away. That’s particularly true if dementia has made their behaviour erratic and challenging.
Fortunately, there are some quick stress-busters you can try using to keep your calm before the stress of being a caregiver affects your entire well-being.
Explore deep breathing exercises
Deep breathing oxygenates your blood and clears your mind. It can help to lower your blood pressure and balance levels of cortisol and adrenaline in your bloodstream.
- Sit in a chair with your back straight and place your feet on the floor
- First, breathe normally and pay attention to each breath you take
- Now take slow, deep breaths and inhale deeply
- Fully empty your lungs as you exhale
- Do this for five minutes, breathing as slowly and deeply as you can.
Slowing down your breathing communicates to your body that you’re safe and your body doesn’t have to go into “fight or flight” mode. When you’re stressed, your vagus nerve can become over-stimulated and need soothing.
There are many different breathing techniques and the 4-8-7 breathing technique is a well-known one. All you have to do is:
- Inhale to the count of four
- Hold your breath for a count of eight
- Exhale to the count of seven
- Do this for five minutes.
Give yourself a massage
Go to a quiet place where you can relax and start rubbing your hands together for a few seconds. This will get them warmed up and start loosening the tight muscles in your arms, neck and shoulders.
- Using your right hand, squeeze your left shoulder gently three or four times
- Rub a little down your arm and then move up to the area between your shoulder and neck and press gently on the muscle
- Now cup your hand and massage your neck
- Do the same on the other side of your body with your left hand.
Once you’ve done that:
- Take the fingertips of your second and third fingers and gently rub your temples in a circular motion
- Shut your eyes and squeeze the muscles in your face and hold for five seconds
- Release and repeat
Now as a final stress reliever:
- Tighten all the muscles in your body and hold for five seconds
- Release and repeat.
Have a creative project at hand
Creative arts like painting, journaling or scrapbooking can be great stress busters. They help you to express yourself and calm you down. When you feel stressed, pull out that journal and express your thoughts in writing, do some work on your scrapwork or take a few minutes to work on a sketch.
It won’t take long for you to feel calmer. You don’t have to do too much at a time but it’s very useful to have a project you can come back to for five or ten minutes at a time when you feel particularly stressed. It will divert your focus from the current stressful moment and make you feel you can carry on.
Staying busy after retirement may include exploring new hobbies. Gardening, walking, biking, or even learning a new language can make retirement years feel fuller and keep the brain and body healthy.
Get five minutes of sunshine
You would be surprised how much five minutes in the sun can lift your mood. The sun boosts a chemical called serotonin, which can help you stay calm and positive.
Sunshine is also good for your body because the UV rays of the sun help your body to make vitamin D. Vitamin D is important for your immune system, blood cells and bones. It also helps you to take in minerals like phosphorus and calcium.
Your eyes need light to set the internal clock in your body which is why early morning sunlight can help you get to sleep at night.
Practise guided imagery
Guided imagery is often used for stress relief and it involves using your imagination to take you to a calm place. Your body and mind are connected, so imagining something well enough can make you feel you are experiencing it.
- Find a comfortable chair, sit back and close your eyes
- Visualise a place like a beach, a mountain setting, a meadow or any scene you choose
- Look around and take notice of all the details, like a breeze blowing through the leaves or the bright blue of the water.
It often helps to add a path so you can imagine following the path and becoming more and more relaxed as you walk down it.
Use all your senses to make the place feel as real as you can. Think about what you can see, hear, smell and feel.
When you feel completely relaxed, take yourself out of the scene and back into the present.
The above quick techniques can help you to keep going when you feel overwhelmed by stress. Deep breathing exercises can bring instant relief and a self-massage will help to reduce muscle tension. Having a creative project available gives you a way to divert your attention when you feel you’re at breaking point and just five minutes in the sun can change your state of mind and allow your body to produce much-needed vitamin D. Guided imagery is another well-known stress-busting technique that will make you feel relaxed and calm.
Author Sherri Carrier is a professional writer working for Essay on Time and is actively involved in writing clubs in New York.
Photo by Max van den Oetelaar on Unsplash