As a family caregiver, you know you need to de-stress. But who has time to go to five yoga classes a week or the money to indulge in a professional massage? Fortunately, there are ways to alleviate stress without leaving your home and without spending money. You’re surrounded by everyday household items that have the power to help you relax and unwind. You just have to know where to look! Regularly treat yourself to a few of these simple activities to help prevent caregiver burnout and reduce caregiver stress.
6 Easy Ways to Relieve Stress at Home
Hot Hand Towel
Soak a hand towel in water, wring it out (it should still be damp throughout) and then microwave it for 30 seconds until it’s steamy. Carefully check the temperature of the towel before using. Place it on the back of your neck and then over your face. As the soothing heat hits your skin, your body will instinctively relax. This is an excellent approach for caregivers who tend to hold tension in their shoulders, neck, jaw and face.
Don’t keep your anger, fear and frustration all bottled up. Explore your emotions and vent by putting pen to paper. Studies show that writing about stressful events in your life for just 10 minutes dramatically lowers your perception of your personal stress. Experts aren’t exactly sure why it works. Perhaps it’s because writing is an outlet for getting your worries out of your head and into the real world where it’s easier to do something about them.
Writing about past or present stressors (expressive writing) can be cathartic. One study published in the Journal of Aging and Identity found that expressive writing may help dementia caregivers find meaning in their role despite the challenges they face. For other family caregivers, writing objectively about how they spend their time can be beneficial as well. Another study published in The Gerontologist concluded that caregivers who journaled about time management experienced improvements in their mental and physical health, including reductions in anxiety, insomnia, intrusive thinking and depression. Regardless of how and why writing works, the result is the same: less stress and a better mood.
Some people are more comfortable just writing for themselves, especially when it comes to expressing their innermost thoughts and feelings. However, others can benefit from writing about their experiences and sharing them with fellow caregivers in an online caregiver support group. Online support groups are unique in that they’re available 24/7/365 and there’s no need to leave your home or schedule respite care to vent, be social or receive advice from other caregivers. Studies have shown that participating in technology-based interventions can “reduce caregiver burden, depression, anxiety, and stress and improve the caregiver’s coping ability.”
Looking to join an online caregiver support group? Visit AgingCare’s Caregiver Forum to get started today.
Brew a Cup of Tea
Skip the coffee and opt for a “cuppa” instead. Research has shown that drinking tea on a daily basis can help lower stress hormones and induce greater feelings of relaxation. Even the ritual of putting the kettle on can be comforting for regular tea drinkers. Try proven stress-busting brews like chamomile or black tea.
How often do you turn on the TV for “background noise”? Instead of reaching for the remote, pop in a CD or switch on the radio. Music has proven therapeutic benefits and does wonders to alleviate stress. Experts suggest that it is the rhythm of the music that has a calming effect on us, even if we may not even be listening closely to what is playing. Research has shown that listening to music with strong yet slower rhythms encourages slower brainwaves associated with relaxation and meditative states.
Not only is running water a great noise muffler, but the sound and feel of water is therapeutic. Take 10 to 20 minutes for a hot, unhurried shower or a warm bath and feel the stress melt away. For maximum effectiveness, focus on the task at hand. The goal isn’t to scrub down and towel off as quickly as you can. Massage your head as you shampoo, use a scented body wash and loofah your skin gently. When you emerge, you will feel rejuvenated and ready to take on the rest of your day.
Aromatherapy is, well, therapeutic. Lavender, jasmine and chamomile are a few classic scents that relieve stress and relax the mind. Light a scented candle, put a couple drops of essential oil into a diffuser or give yourself a mini massage with your favorite scented lotion. In the meantime, take several minutes to engage in slow, deep, even breathing. Imagine that, with each breath, the scents are entering your nose and spreading throughout your body, relaxing tight muscles and alleviating tension.
Sources: Exasperations as Blessings: Meaning-Making and the Caregiving Experience (https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1015439218276); Does Expressive Writing Reduce Stress and Improve Health for Family Caregivers of Older Adults? (https://doi.org/10.1093/geront/47.3.296); The effect of caregiver support interventions for informal caregivers of community-dwelling frail elderly: a systematic review (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3601532/); Does A Cup Of Tea Reduce Stress? (https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/160668#1); The effects of tea on psychophysiological stress responsivity and post-stress recovery: a randomised double-blind trial (https://doi.org/10.1007/s00213-006-0573-2); Chamomile: A herbal medicine of the past with bright future (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2995283/); Feeling the beat: Symposium explores the therapeutic effects of rhythmic music (https://news.stanford.edu/news/2006/may31/brainwave-053106.html)