by Karen Bromberg
So, it’s 2018. Can you believe it?
If you’re anything like me, you look upon this time of year with excitement, hope, relief (yes, you actually survived 2017!) and even a little bit of dread, gazing upon your care recipients, remembering with fondness what they were able to do last year (two years ago, three years ago, five and ten years ago) at this time.
You try not to think about it, but can’t help yourself yet the more you think about it, the worse you feel.
But, there is good news and no, it has nothing to do with turning back the hand of time. It does, however, have to do with making small changes that can reap great benefits.
Needless to say, the exercise that I go over below should not be done while driving or in a public place. To that end, I recommend finding a quiet place in your home to do them.
SUGGESTIONS FOR REDUCING STRESS
- Spend five minutes (more if you can) every morning in meditation. Meditation is great. It allows the mind to be quiet and the body to relax. Feel free to sit up in bed, back resting against the headboard, or in a chair with feet on the floor. You can even lie down (though you may end up falling asleep). The main thing is to have a quiet environment where you feel safe (both physically and mentally), close your eyes then once your eyes are closed, focus on your breath. Repeat an uplifting phrase. No, it doesn’t have to be “OM,” but something that works for you.
- Spend at least five minutes (more if you can) in meditation before going to bed. As stated above meditation can be done sitting or lying in bed. In my experience, quieting the mind and relaxing the body before sleep allows for a far more restful slumber.
- Sit for a few minutes every day doing nothing but focusing on the breath. The inhalations. The exhalations. Feeling the cool air going into your nostrils. The warm air releasing from them. You’ll notice that the mind will be less active and your body will feel less stressed.
- Do a grounding exercise once a day. Sit comfortably, feet on the floor, and slowly look around. That’s all it takes. Look in front of you, behind you, to your left, to your right. Look up and look down. But just don’t look. Really look. See what’s there. The objects in the room. The walls. The floor. The lighting fixtures. The patterns in the linoleum. Examine any pictures that may be in the room. Tell yourself, “I am here. This is 2018 and I am sitting in my home. I am performing this grounding exercise and in this moment everything is okay.” By scanning your environment you take yourself out of your head and the scary future and ground yourself in the immediate present.
- Eat properly. I know, we’ve heard it a million times. If we don’t fuel the body well, how can we expect it to perform? But think about it. If we don’t feed it well, we force it to work harder. We force it to work harder, it becomes stressed. It becomes stressed, we end up feeling the stress. Now I’m no dietician, but the argument seems to make sense to me. If we feed the body well and fuel it properly then we’re just better able to navigate the world. But, the question is how do we do it when we have NO time? My thoughts . . . Batch kitchen tasks.
:: Cut up all the veggies you’ll need for the week at the same time.
:: Marinate all the meats you’ll be cooking for the week at the same time.
:: Cook several meals at once. This is especially easy when you prepare stews or soups.
- It’s well known that exercise relieves stress. If going to a gym is not possible then do it at home. Look on the Internet, on YouTube, find something that will be fun. Put on some music and dance around your living room. You can even buy a piece of equipment and if space is an issue, no worries, there are really small ones. I have a mini elliptical which stores away in my closet. If you don’t have time, then exercise for five minutes, ten minutes, anything is better than nothing but make sure to check with your physician first, before starting any exercise program or before ramping up whatever exercise you are currently doing. Seriously. It’s important.
- Laugh everyday day. Do it even if you don’t feel like it, even if there seems to be nothing to laugh about. Get on the phone and talk to a “funny” friend. Stream a funny movie or TV show. Laughter increases serotonin (the “feel-good” chemical) in the brain, which, in turn, relaxes the body.
- Finally, allow the people in your life to help you. It’s hard, I know. Letting others do for you when you are far more comfortable doing for others. But think about it, wouldn’t it be relaxing to have someone take care of you once in a while?
The key here is to start small – one thing at a time – and build slowly. Be gentle with yourself and remember only you know whether something is working for you or not. If it’s not, then forget it and move on.
I want to wish you the happiest of new years!
Karen Bromberg is the founder of Help You Thru, LLC, an online resource for family caregivers offering resources, relaxation and relaxation techniques to overwhelmed caregivers. Feel free to contact her, either by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via phone 929-276-2109.