After an emotionally intense day of caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s, it’s time to unwind.
Rather than bingeing on comfort food or alcohol, let’s talk about healthy ways we can unwind to relieve the stress, worry, fear and sadness.
These tiring emotions are loyal companions on the caregiving journey. They leave us depleted and in a bad mood.
So let’s re-group and re-center. Let’s think about what rejuvenates us.
Now I’m not talking about an island vacation or a day at the spa. Wouldn’t that be wonderful!
I’m talking about things you can do at home after a day of caregiving when you need to be ready to do it all again tomorrow.
This is the “put your mask on” moment before the airplane crashes.
This is you taking care of yourself so you can continue helping loved ones who depend on you.
Ways to Relieve Caregiver Stress
Release those toxic emotions with a workout. There are so many free exercise videos online.
Click here to check out 21 popular fitness channels on YouTube as curated by Good Housekeeping.
Personal trainers are hustling for viewers and creating new workouts every day for all fitness levels.
This gentle Pilates workout by Trifecta Pilates is a personal favorite of mine.
You can read more about the benefits of exercise here.
2. Spend time in nature
Get outside and breathe in some fresh.
Turn off your phone and focus on the sights and sounds of the natural beauty around you.
If there is a wooded area nearby, meander through it.
Much has been written about the benefits of forest bathing.
3. Take a hot bath or shower
Wash off the tensions of the day and let the water relax your shoulders and neck.
You’ll feel better both physically and mentally.
Studies show a hot shower or bath can even lower your blood pressure for a few hours and help you fall asleep faster.
4. Spend time with a pet
Cuddle your kid’s bunny or Guinea pig. Play fetch with the family dog. Or have a chat with your cat.
Spending time with animals is a proven mood lifter and stress reliever as detailed here.
Even a few minutes staring at a fish aquarium has stress relief benefits. For more information, click here.
5. Listen to music
Do you have a go-to song or album that lifts your spirits and transports you to your happy place?
Caregiver Elizabeth Beighey Miller has compiled her favorites into a Spotify playlist called Caregiver Anthems.
6. Play an instrument
Dust off that marching band instrument from high school or the piano your kids once played.
You can exercise your brain AND lift your mood by playing an instrument.
Online videos abound if you want to teach yourself how to play.
7. Lose yourself in a good book
There’s nothing like making new friends with the characters of a good book and then looking forward to meeting up with them at the end of the day.
8. Drink a cup of herbal tea
The health benefits of herbal tea go beyond stress relief as detailed here.
9. Watch a funny movie
They say laughter is the best medicine.
Rotten Tomatoes – the rating site that aggregates critics and moviegoers reviews – has a list of the 150 best comedy movies.
You can also check out the top reviewed comedies on Amazon Prime.
10. Get hooked on a series
Whether it’s The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, All Creatures Great and Small or Stranger Things, binge-worthy series on Netflix and other streaming services are certain to distract from the dilemmas of the day.
Not only is it a great distraction, it will give you something to talk about other than caregiving when you next find yourself in a social situation.
11. Engage in a favorite hobby
Caregiving can be all consuming. So it’s important to hold onto at least one hobby that’s part of your core identity.
Carve out some time, if not daily then weekly, to do what you love.
It doesn’t matter if it’s gardening, baking, knitting, photography, fishing, painting, writing or crafting, if it’s part of your essence, then make a little time for it.
And if you don’t have a hobby, here are Six Reasons to Get a Hobby.
12. Manipulate a stress toy
Fidget toys are not just for kids. The marketplace has responded to the needs of adults who like a hand-held manipulative to manage stress.
Check out 18 Fidget Toys for Anxiety.
13. Work a puzzle
Having a mental challenge with a discoverable solution can be a satisfying stress reliever after an emotional day of caregiving.
While coloring is sometimes recommended for loved ones with Alzheimer’s and dementia, it is also an excellent activity for caregivers.
Waiting on a loved one to get dressed? Tie their shoes? Or brush their teeth? Pick up a coloring book and get busy.
Hovering or attempting to rush a loved one along only upsets everyone.
Here are some popular adult coloring books you might enjoy.
15. Play a game
I first played Wits and Wagers on New Year’s Eve, and now it is our go-to game for Family Game Night.
The obscure, and often ridiculous, trivia questions will have your quarantine pod laughing and chatting away the stress of the day.
Click here to view more popular games.
16. Pray or Meditate
Science is starting to catch up to what many of us already know. Prayer and meditation are calming mental exercises. Here is a CNN Health article about the Psychological Benefits of Prayer.
If you are looking for inspiration in scripture at the end of a challenging care-giving day, here are 8 Encouraging Bible Verses for Caregivers.
And here is a Mayo Clinic article on Meditation: A simple, fast way to reduce stress.
Going to church is one of the things I miss most about living through a pandemic. Many churches are now streaming their services online. Here is a list of Online Church Services to Watch at Home.
My family now joins Father Dave Swantek and his dog Cragly each Sunday for YouTube Mass. This 40-something-year-old priest connects pop culture with spirituality, making ancient scripture relatable in a modern era.
There’s lots of research on the benefits of deep breathing, which triggers your brain to calm down and relax.
Four popular techniques are belly breathing, 4-7-8 breathing, roll breathing and morning breathing.
You can read all about it here.
18. Try Tapping
This technique is mentioned frequently in online support groups for caregivers looking for stress relief.
19. Turn on a Diffuser with Essential Oils
Some people keep a diffuser on their desk, adding a few drops of lemongrass, peppermint or eucalyptus to support productivity.
Others station a diffuser in the bedroom with a few drops of lavender or Mandarin oil to promote sleep.
For stress relief, some recommend sandalwood, chamomile, rose or frankincense oils.
Note: experts caution against using essential oils if you have infants, young children or some pets.
After you have engaged in one or more of the above tips for relieving caregiver stress, it’s time to get a good night’s sleep.
Put down that book. Turn off that Netflix series. And go to bed at a reasonable hour.
Making sure you are well rested will set you up for success in dealing with caregiving challenges the next day.
And if you wake up feeling tired no matter how long you’ve slept, there may be a medical issue, such as sleep apnea.
Be sure to schedule a physical with your primary care physician to address underlying health concerns that may keep you from getting restful sleep.
The Alzheimer’s Association has a 24/7 Helpline at 800-272-3900. If the events of the day were overwhelming and you want to speak with a clinician, call 800-272-3900.
Please share what works for you in the comments below. We’re all in this together!