Carer de-stressing exercises
Whether caring begins gradually or happens suddenly, most carers will need to develop new knowledge and skills. One of the most experienced effects of caring is stress.
Learning to manage your stress is an important and possibly new skill you will need to learn. If you don’t care for yourself, you won’t be able to care for someone else.
These five simple tips can help you manage your stress.
|1. Stay positive. Laughter lowers stress hormones levels, reduces inflammation in the arteries, and increases ‘good’ HDL cholesterol levels.|
|2. Meditate. Practice focused thought and deep breathing. They have been shown to reduce heart disease risk factors such as high blood pressure. Meditation’s close relatives – yoga and mindfulness – can also relax the mind and body.|
|3. Exercise. When we exercise our body releases endorphins. Exercising not only helps you to de-stress, it also protects against heart disease.|
|4. Disconnect. It is difficult to de-stress when it follows you everywhere. Unplug yourself. Avoid emails and TV news. Take some quiet time for yourself each day.|
|5. Things you enjoy. Simple things like a warm bath, listening to music, or spending time on a favourite hobby, and being creative can all help to lower the stress in your life.|
Make time to exercise. Many of us find it difficult to carve out time to exercise – but 30 minutes of moderate activity daily will assist you to manage the emotional and physical challenges of being a carer.
Regular exercise improves resilience, promotes better sleep, reduces stress and depression, increases strength and flexibility, and increases your energy and alertness. It also helps maintain a healthy weight and build immunity, and protects against common health problems.
Here are some easy de-stressing exercises you can do at home.
Belly Breathing or Abdominal Breathing
When we are stressed, we generally breath shallowly in the chest. Taking deeper breaths and filling the lungs completely triggers many physiological changes. Your heart rate slows, blood pressure decreases, and muscle tension eases.
Lie down and put one hand below your belly button. Breathe in through your nose to completely fill your lungs (your stomach should rise). Slowly release, breathing out through your mouth. Continue for a few minutes.
This exercise will help relieve a tired back and release stress.
Lie down and hug 1 or both knees to your chest. If you can hug both knees at the same time, rock from side to side to massage your spine.
Holding tension in your neck and shoulders is common. Shoulder shrugs can help release the tension.
Sitting comfortably with good posture. Breathe in and bring your shoulders up towards your ears. Tighten your arm and shoulder muscles. Breathe out and relax your neck and shoulders pulling your shoulder blades down. Repeat a few times.
In this exercise you’re trying not to anything. Sounds a bit contradictory but it’s more difficult than you think. It’s about noticing and acknowledging your thoughts and feelings but not dwelling on them.
Lie down with your arms, palms up, relaxed at your sides. Close your eyes and focus on the rise and fall of your breath. If you have invasive thoughts, acknowledge them, and visualise them floating away. Return to focusing on your breathing and relaxing any tight muscles.
If one method doesn’t work for you, try another. Learning to de-stress takes practice. Be patient with yourself and you will reap the benefits.
Getting help from a professional is always a good idea, especially if you feel that nothing seems to help. Talking to your primary care doctor is a great place to start.
Contact Carers NSW on 02 9280 4744 or Carer Gateway on 1800 422 737 or visit www.carergateway.gov.au