Modern life is stressful. We face a barrage of constant stimulation and not enough quiet time. Whether you’re a senior living at home, a resident in a care facility, or a caregiver to a chronically ill person, you probably experience stress on a daily basis.
I don’t have to tell you how harmful stress is to your health. You probably know that unrelieved stress can cause headaches, insomnia, chest pain, and fatigue. You definitely feel the increased anxiety, restlessness, or irritability that results from feeling stressed. And you may even be aware that too much stress for too long can contribute to high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes.
Relieving your stress will help you feel better today, and the health benefits will endure forever. Here are some tips for relaxation you can use on your lunch break:
Meditating for just a few minutes a day can help ease stress, anxiety, and depression. Meditating is natural and easy: sit up straight and place both feet on the floor. Close your eyes and recite a positive mantra, either silently or out loud. Examples of positive statements are “It’s a wonderful day,” or “I feel so at peace.” You can rest a hand on your abdomen to sync your mantra with your breathing. If any thoughts come into your mind, let them pass without distracting you.
Similar to meditation, deep breathing is another great way to reduce stress. Get into a comfortable position, close your eyes, and slowly inhale through your nose. Place a hand on your abdomen and really feel your breath as it begins deep in your belly and builds up to your head. Then slowly exhale through your mouth, feeling the breath leaving your body. Your exhale should be at least as long as your inhale.
Deep breathing can also help when you’re in the thick of a stressful situation. When your heartbeat speeds up and you start feeling panicky, close your eyes and practice slow, mindful breathing. Just a few deep breaths will steady your heartbeat and open up your brain to better problem solving.
Connect with Others
Talking to others—preferably face-to-face—is one of the best ways to manage stress. By reaching out to your friends and loved ones, you can share what you’re going through and gain valuable new perspectives. Many caregivers find comfort in support groups, where members can understand and empathize with each other.
As we outlined in a previous post, laughter really is the best medicine. A good belly laugh lowers the body’s stress hormone cortisol, and boosts the brain-stimulating chemical endorphin. Take some time to laugh every day.
Listen to music
Playing music can lower your blood pressure and heart rate. Create a playlist of your favorite music to listen to when you feel stressed. Some people prefer listening to classical music or other soothing genres, while others choose to blast their upbeat music and sing their hearts out. You can also listen to nature sounds—soft rain, ocean waves, birds chirping, etc.—to allow your mind to relax.
Besides all the other health benefits of exercise, it’s a great stress-reducer. “Runner’s high” is a real thing, and it doesn’t just come from running. All forms of exercise release those feel-good endorphins and leaves you feeling better. A quick walk around the block, or even some stretching exercises like head rolls, can alleviate some of your stress.