Relaxation strategies to help caregivers

Caregivers can benefit from being grounded and flexible to handle the challenges they face on a regular basis

I’m pleased to have Sean Murphy, registered massage therapist, back for the last column in the series Care for the Caregiver.

Sean’s column focuses on relaxation strategies and exercises for caregivers to fit into their daily lives.

Caring for two or more people, themselves and those they are looking after, caregivers often become overwhelmed with their daily work and responsibilities. Caregivers can benefit from being grounded and flexible to handle the challenges they face on a regular basis.

Here are few strategies to consider:

Take a breath & remain calm

Stressful events often come on with little notice. To remain grounded and calm, the caregiver should focus on their breathing. Often we’re told that we should take a deep breath and count to 10. An even better strategy is to focus on breathing through your nose. While breathing through your nose, let your breath out and keep it out until it starts to get uncomfortable and then breathe in gently through your nose once again.

This slows your breathing and allows us to feel calmer. This can be repeated as often as you like. This strategy only works when we breathe through our nose.

In addition, stand with your feet slightly more then shoulder width apart and drop your weight into your feet. Finally, roll your shoulders up and back so that you create an open chest posture, while keeping your back straight.

Meditation

A longer-term strategy for the caregiver to maintain their composure is to take some time during the day to do some meditation. Ideally, a session of 20 minutes or more gives the best results but even a couple of minutes, provides benefits.

Meditation, or quiet sitting, can be done cross-legged on the floor, or sitting on a chair with a hard seat.

If sitting on a chair, sit at the end of the seat, and make sure you’re on your “sit bones”, with your back straight, hands relaxed on your thighs. Once you’re in this position, close your eyes and focus your attention on your breathing.

Breathe through your nose, following your breath in and going out. Your breathing should be natural, not forced. You’ll find that thoughts will disturb your focus.

This is normal. Don’t get upset, just let the thought “float away” and bring your attention back to your breath. This may happen often but don’t let it distract you from your quiet sitting.

With practice you will be able to maintain your focus on your breathing for longer periods of time. Regular practice will give you a calmer disposition, which will allow you to stay grounded in your daily activities.

Exercise

Exercise is a great stress buster. Exercise you enjoy and do at least three times a week yields the best results. If you are trying to form an exercise habit for the first time, or aren’t a fan of exercise, experiment with different activities. Hopefully, something will grab your interest and you can start a routine.

Regular exercise does not require special clothing or equipment to be effective. Activities such as walking or doing a stretching routine at home can have a profound effect on one’s health.

Many people find it easier to stay on a regular exercise schedule if they practice with others such as walking with a friend or joining a group activity during the week. The local recreation centre has many different exercise options to choose from.

You may even be able to exercise with the person you are caring for, thereby benefiting you both. Our bodies are designed for movement, so finding a way to move them can make a big difference in the caregiver’s quality of life, as well as those they look after.

If you have any additional questions, contact Sean Murphy at 250-941-8181 or at www.ValleyHealingMassage.com.

Wendy Johnstone is a gerontologist and is the founder of Keystone Eldercare Solutions. Her column runs in the Comox Valley Record every second Friday.