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Discover the 3 Best Stress Relief Strategies for Caregivers

Apr 30, 2024 | Discover Our Blog

Whether you are a professional caregiver or taking care of a loved one, navigating this role can be a complicated task. Caring for another person is one of the most fulfilling, most wonderful things we can do in our lifetime. However, it requires us to pay even more attention to our health and well-being since, as we know well, ‘you can’t pour from an empty cup’. With April being Stress Awareness Month, we have been more aware than ever of the importance of self-care. Stress can take a toll on our mental and physical health, making our lives and relationships with others suffer as well. For this purpose, we have put together a series of stress relief strategies that are specifically relevant for caregivers. Keep reading to know more.

Stress Relief Strategies

1. Exercise Regularly

stress relief strategies exercise

We know exercise is incredibly important for our health, both physical and mental. For caregivers, it’s about investing in long-term benefits while seeing results in our day-to-day activities, so it truly is the best of both worlds. For this, we had to give it the importance it deserves with a first position. But how exactly does it help us? Let’s understand all the reasons why it’s one of the best stress relief strategies.

  • It Betters Our Mood

The brain releases endorphins, also called feel-good neurotransmitters, after a moderate to intense exercise session. If you find an activity that works for you and practice it regularly, you will see it gets easier and easier to motivate yourself due to how good it feels. These feelings can help you tackle other areas in life, and approach situations with a more positive attitude.

  • It Improves Our Energy Levels

Exercise is proven to help us get better sleep, which has countless benefits for our physical and mental health as well as reducing fatigue. Additionally, when we move, our body increases its blood flow. Tissues then receive more oxygen and nutrients, which improves our cardiovascular system’s efficiency. This results in better health for our heart and lungs, with long-term positive effects on our body but also an increase in our energy levels and ability to tackle our daily tasks.

  • It Helps Our Body Fight Stress

Working out can help ease stress in our bodies by mimicking the effects of stress, such as the fight or flight response. It gets our bodies used to dealing with stress and makes sure all our systems work well together. Plus, it’s good for our digestion and immune system.

Now, we are aware that as caregivers, it doesn’t always feel like we have time to spare for exercise. Fitting in a workout can seem like a daunting task, especially if you are a sandwich carer. But any level of activity is better than none at all, and it is good to start small and build up depending on your needs. Here are some resources you might want to check:

If you have any health issues or concerns, make sure to check with your GP before starting an exercise routine.

2. Take Control of Your Diet

stress relief strategies balanced diet

Diet is a crucial part of our well-being and it affects many aspects of our physical and mental health. Sticking to expert diet recommendations can help regulate your hormones, support your immune system and give you extra  energy to cope with stress-inducing events. Below are some of the crucial steps to take for a better diet:

  • Reduce Your Caffeine Intake

Caffeine can slightly affect your body’s functions in different ways. For example, it can make it difficult to absorb adenosine, a compound that calms the body by decreasing blood pressure and slowing the heart rhythm. It also might lead to fatigue and low moods after the temporary energy boost. On top of that, sleep is often affected, since this substance is used to keep your body awake for longer.

Overall, it is wise to reduce your caffeine intake, especially when experiencing stress. Even though 400mg is the maximum daily recommendation (around 4 small cups of coffee), caffeine toleration is different for each person. Even a small amount can have negative effects on some people, so make sure to listen to your body. It is also not advised to consume it after 2 pm, since it can stay in your system for up to 8 hours or even more.

  • Eat mindfully

Stress and anxiety can lead to eating quickly without registering how much or what is being eaten. When we make thoughtful food choices, chew slowly and focus on the meal, we can counteract stress. It also improves digestion, which has positive effects on our physical and mental health.

  • Choose nutritious food

Many nutrients obtained from food are extremely beneficial to combat stress. Here are some of the foods that you should include in your diet if you haven’t already:

    • Citrus fruits and strawberries. These fruits are rich in vitamin C, which is associated with reduced stress and improvement of anxiety and depression symptoms.
    • Dark chocolate. Rich in antioxidants, it may help to lower the level of stress hormones in the body, according to a study. It is important, however, to enjoy it in moderation (about 1 to 1.5 ounces a day) and to make sure it doesn’t contain unnecessary added sugars.
    • Unrefined carbohydrates. Research suggests that carbohydrates can increase the levels of serotonin, which helps with moods. Sweet potatoes, whole grains and other unrefined carbs are healthier since they contain more nutrients and fiber as well.
    • Fatty fish. Beneficial for heart health due to their content of omega-3s, fatty fish have been proven to help ease depression. This is due to the nutrients interacting with mood-related brain molecules. Some examples of fatty fish are tuna, salmon, mackerel or sardines. If you don’t eat fish, you could get these nutrients from supplements, milk, soy drinks, nuts, or eggs.

Some foods and drinks, such as warm herbal teas, can also improve your overall mood and well-being. This is not necessarily due to their nutrients, but to the comforting feeling they provide.

3. Practice Meditation and Breathing Techniques

stress relief strategies meditation

Meditation is one of the most popular and effective stress relief strategies. With emotional as well as physical benefits, it has been practiced for years and years and can be a wonderful daily routine to take on. If you don’t know where to start, you can look at meditation techniques to give you an idea of what could work for you. There are also multiple phone apps and online videos that can help you get started.

A crucial part of meditation is using breathing techniques, which can be also used on their own. For example, when feeling stressed, you can try using any of the following breathing techniques:

  • Box breathing

Also called square breathing, 4×4 breathing and 4-part breath, it’s a stress relief strategy proven to calm your nervous system. You can use a visual aid for it (find one online or simply use a square object in the room you’re in). If you do, you need to follow the sides of the square shape clockwise, one for each step, starting from the top left.

    1. Inhale for a count of 4
    2. Hold for a count of 4
    3. Exhale for a count of 4
    4. Hold for a count of 4

You can repeat it as many times as needed until you feel your heart rate going down. If holding it for a count of 4 is too long, you can start by counting to 2.

  • Deep breathing

Short breaths into our chest can make us feel more anxious (and at the same time, when we are stressed, our bodies will react by taking short breaths). To combat this, it’s useful to do the opposite of what the body does in a stressful situation. Deep breathing can be done almost anywhere where you feel comfortable, ideally if you’re lying down or sitting on a chair. The steps are simple:

    1. Breathe in through your nose, filling your belly with air.
    2. Breathe out through your nose.
    3. Place a hand on your belly and the other one on your chest.

You should feel the hand on your belly move with every breath. Feel free to repeat as many times as you need.

Finding Time for Yourself as a Caregiver

Overall, we know that as caregivers it is natural to fall into a routine of only caring for others. However, we must make sure that we find time for ourselves and ways to look after our bodies and minds. This can be as little as a 5-minute meditation or breathing session, or some healthy batch cooking for the week. A walk in nature or a quick home workout can also be wonderful stress relief strategies that don’t have to take longer than 30 minutes. You must remember to start with as little or as much as you can manage, but create a routine with it.

If you need external support, make sure to check out support organisations available in your area. You can also reach out to a reliable home care provider to offer a few hours of support so you can take more regular breaks.