National Relaxation Day is a day to slow down, unwind and take time for yourself. (Even as caregivers).
Relaxation can be difficult to come by for caregivers. Some caregivers work almost around the clock caring for a loved one, managing every aspect of their daily life. Others might spend a little less time providing care, but the rest of their time is often spent juggling a career, children, and household duties. In either case, finding time for oneself often feels unfeasible for many caregivers. It’s no wonder stress is the number one complaint for caregivers. Unfortunately, stress leads to a host of health problems, especially when it is chronic. Long-term increased muscle tension in the body puts pressure on the joints, reduces blood flow, and causes fatigue. Caregivers have higher rates of mental health issues and physical health problems due to prolonged stress. Relaxation techniques are important to try to implement, not just on a holiday like today, but whenever possible. By taking some time for respite, you can return to your caregiving duties with a clearer mind and more positive attitude.
Based on how much time you can fit into your day, here are some suggestions for ways to relax:
IF YOU HAVE 60 MINUTES…
• Do a yoga class (There are many on Youtube and this site). Even if you’ve never done it before, or don’t have a mat, don’t worry! There are many beginner’s classes and a soft rug is a sufficient surface for many basic poses
• Take an Epsom salt bath. Epsom salt has been shown to help reduce stress by balancing electrolyte levels, and can also improve sleep quality because of the soothing nature of magnesium. For added relaxing benefits, use lavender essential oil and light some candles. The antioxidant components in lavender impact the endocrine system to lower levels of stress hormones in the body
• Pick up a book you’ve been wanting to read
•Cook your favorite meal and eat mindfully
IF YOU HAVE 30 MINUTES…
• Try meditative art, or painting
• Listen to a podcast. You’ve likely heard of them by now, but if you haven’t tuned in, they can provide an escape that, unlike TV or reading, allows you to close your eyes and relax while listening, or go for a walk. You can find podcasts for free on the Podcast app if you have an iPhone or Sticher if you’re on Android
• Paint your nails or have a shave
• Play a game or crosswords puzzle or jigsaw puzzle. Puzzles can help enhance memory, increase productivity, combat stress, and produce dopamine in the brain. Puzzles are great for encouraging our minds to relax
IF YOU HAVE 10 MINUTES…
• Journal, write down some things you are grateful for, some goals, milestones, difficulties. Putting thoughts out on paper, rather than having them circulate in your head, can be very therapeutic
• Do a mediation through the Calm app, available on the App Store. Other Meditation apps include Headspace, Mindfulness and Insight Timer
• Try a ten-minute workout (there are thousands online), or a short stretching session to release tense muscles
IF YOU HAVE 5 MINUTES...
• Perform a short five-minute mediation or breathing exercise
•Massage. You don’t have to go get one professionally, but you can do it yourself. Rub your temples, forehead, forearms, working in to outwards. Massages can lower blood pressure, boost immunity and provide therapeutic effects
• Listen to a song you like or something that relaxes you (like ocean waves or rainforest sounds)
•Do a few sun salutations, on the inhale and exhale breath. Sun salutations are a series of poses performed in a sequence, creating a flow of movement. Sun salutations consist of standing upright, a forward fold, a half forward fold, plank, upward dog, downward dog, and then returning. For a video instruction, follow this link. Sun salutations can improve digestion, are good for the heart, and can aid in weight loss
•Try visualization…imagine you are in a hammock swinging, seeing beach waves lull slowly in front of you or any scenario that helps you feel calm
By incorporating some of these relaxation techniques and activities into your life, you will feel more at ease, and ready to take on new challenges. Caregivers often forget about their own health, when constantly focused on another’s wellbeing, but it is crucial to remember that your own health is important too. Self-care is never selfish. If you can’t seem to find time alone, your loved one can participate in the relaxing activity. It can be a great way to unwind, and enjoy each other’s company.