Contributed by Michelle Hassler
Taking on the responsibility of a caregiver requires a great amount of time, energy, and patience. Unfortunately, hectic schedules and endless priorities often make it difficult for caregivers to create balance in their own lives. This often results in caregivers de-prioritizing their own needs which can be detrimental to their own health. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, the best thing you can do as a caregiver is to stay physically and emotionally strong. Finding positive ways to deal with caregiver stress is essential to help maintain a healthy, productive life.
Here are ten easy ways to unwind and ultimately combat caregiver stress:
Take a Walk
There are numerous benefits to walking and one huge perk is that you can do it anywhere. Whether you enjoy a leisurely stroll or are a competitive runner, moving is a great way to unwind after a stressful day. Along with the benefits of exercise, the uninterrupted time will help to clear your mind of daily stressors.
Try Relaxation Techniques
An overly active brain can achieve quiet or self-awareness through practicing meditation or yoga. Focusing on deep breathing and visualization practices can help to alleviate caregiver stress and return to a peaceful state in the body and mind. Meditating independently or listening to a guided meditation can be done when it benefits you the most – at the beginning or end of the day. Attending a local yoga class, following a video or simply trying a few poses can also help to release tension in the body, increase your strength, and improve posture.
Call a Friend
Sometimes the commitment of caregiving can cause you to lose touch with friends or even family members. Taking the time at the end of the day to make a friendly phone call, write an email, or send a quick text message will improve your mood and reinforce important relationships. Keeping in touch with friends, family and your community will help to strengthen your support system and keep your loved ones abreast of what is going on in your life and vice-versa.
Take a Day Off
Whether it is once a week, or once a month, pick a day for someone else to cover your caregiving responsibilities. Allow your community to help you with the support that you need. Plan to do something special during this time, or simply enjoy the sensation of doing nothing at all. The beauty is that you get to choose for yourself — free from caregiver stress.
Join a Club
Pick a hobby or activity that interests you and find out how you can become involved. Whether it is a book club, pottery class, or soccer league, you will be reenergized by engaging in an activity and being surrounded by enthusiastic, like-minded people.
Indulge in something. It could be as small as stopping for frozen yogurt, buying a new pair of shoes, or going to see a movie. Do something because you deserve it – guilt free! A treat will also give you something to look forward to when you are having a rough day.
Find a Support Group
Seeking the support of others who are dealing with a similar situation is a good way to alleviate caregiver stress. Being able to share your experiences with others will not only allow you to vent and unleash frustration, but you can gain valuable advice and emotional support from others who understand.
Please Your Senses
Light a candle, get a massage, or listen to soothing music to help you unwind. Indulge your taste buds with a relaxing cup of chamomile tea. Also, do not underestimate the power of fresh air and natural light to awaken the body.
Sit, relax, and be entertained. Spend some time reading a book, enjoying a favorite television show, or watching a basketball game. Let yourself sit back and be part of the audience. For once you don’t have to be a doer – just observe and enjoy.
Establish a Routine
Whether it is walking the dog after dinner or drawing a hot bath before bed, establishing daily rituals will help to alleviate caregiver stress. A routine that helps you to nourish both body and mind will help you unwind and could even lead to a better night’s sleep. Journaling positive experiences or pinning inspirational quotes on Pinterest may be a good ritual to add to your routine if you are being bogged down by negative thoughts and worries.
Dealing with caregiver stress in a productive way will not only help you to live the best life possible, but it will help to avoid burnout and enable you to be a better caregiver for the one(s) you love. Taking some time – even if it is only a few minutes — to unwind is something that should be done every day. After giving so much of yourself, you need it and you deserve it.