Stress Reduction Techniques
Reducing your stress load
Caregiver stress, caregiver
burnout, caregiver meltdown -- there are many different words we use
to describe that feeling when you just can't go on caring any
longer, when you are beyond exhaustion, drained of all physical,
spiritual and emotional reserves. Stress does more than just affect
our moods, it can even threaten physical health.
The best way to deal with stress is
to prevent it from becoming overwhelming in the first place. Don't
wait until you are at your wit's end to start learning how to deal
Take a look at these simple tips
and techniques to prevent life's frustrations from controlling how
you feel. You will probably be a better caregiver if you are not
feeling overwhelmed or resentful.
Exercise to reduce stress
Even a small amount of exercise
every week can help you handle your anxieties much more effectively.
Before you start exercising, think about the type of workout that
would be the most fun for you.
The more you enjoy exercising, the
more likely you'll stick with it. For example, you could try walking
three or four times a week through your neighborhood or on a trail
at the park, just for ten minutes or so.
Explain to your spouse how
important it is that he cares for mom for these few minutes each
day. Telling yourself "I'll start tomorrow," or "Next
week I'll sign up," is a sure way to keep from getting
When you find an exercise that
appeals to you, begin it as soon as possible. Your new activity will
provide you with something to look forward to, and your body will
thank you for the exercise.
Tips on choosing and sticking with
an exercise plan:
- Invite a friend or exercise
partner to start with you.
The companionship can be an added pleasure and encourage you to
- Make a plan, but choose a
realistic time. If at all possible, keep that time protected in
- Write the exercise plan schedule
on your calendar.
- Keep track of how successful you
are with your plan.
Learn how to breathe properly to
Many of us, especially when we're
under stress, tend to breathe poorly. Most of us are "chest
breathers", meaning that we pull upward with our shoulders and
upper chest to inhale. When we do this, less oxygen reaches our
bloodstream and brain than our body likes.
The result is often that our heart
rate goes up and we become more tense. Breathing more deeply
requires using the diaphragm muscle, taking a deep breath by
expanding the whole chest and belly, and breathing more
This induces a more appropriate
carbon dioxide oxygen exchange in your blood, which leads to a
feeling of relaxation.
To understand how proper breathing
feels, either lie down or sit, and place one hand on your belly and
the other on your chest. Inhale through your nose and count silently
to three, making the hand on your belly rise. The hand on your chest
should barely move. Then exhale slowly.
So next time mom calls you from her
room asking for yet another glass of water, watch your breathing.
Before you let the stress tip you over the edge, take a deep breath,
count slowly to ten before you respond or reach. You may be
surprised how much better you feel.
Mind-calming techniques to reduce
Yoga is a wonderful way to relax
your body and release stress by using breath, movement and body
control. Meditation can help you relax your mind and body, too, and
helps you develop greater control over your thoughts and worries. Or
find a quiet place, and for a just a few minutes think of an image
that relaxes you- maybe, a beach with a warm breeze or a happy
Another simple way to calm your
mind is to distract yourself -- go to a movie, play a sport, immerse
yourself in a hobby, listen to some favorite music. It cannot be
emphasized enough how important it is that caregivers spend some
quality time alone every week, doing exactly what it is you like to
Watch what you eat to reduce
Studies show that certain foods can
help reduce stress, like complex carbohydrates -- pasta, potatoes --
that are more slowly absorbed. Maybe that's why we call them comfort
foods! The main thing is that you don't want to not eat.
Often when people are stressed,
especially when they're feeling down, they tend to stop to eating.
When your body is deprived of nutrients for a long period of time it
too becomes stressed. In terms of what you eat, stay away from the
usual villains like sugary snacks. Watch the coffee and the hidden
stimulants in things like medicines, soda and some of the bottled
waters that contain excessive caffeine.
The tips above are things you can
do in your home, and without too much disruption to your daily
routine. But don't forget that there may well be lots of services in
your community already in place to help you cope with the pressures
of care-giving ranging from counseling to adult day care and respite