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Relax Away the Stresses of Caregiving

With an aging population and changes in health care, such as shorter hospital stays, more and more caregiving is being provided by family members. If you’re a caregiver, you know that taking care of a loved one can be very rewarding. But being a caregiver can be stressful at times. It is important to take care of yourself, so you are able to take care of others. There are many ways to reduce the stress and relax, but reducing stress can be stressful in its self. Many caregivers are trying to balance jobs and their own families needs along with caregiving so finding time go to the gym to work out or get a massage or even taking the time to have coffee with a friend becomes stressful.

Here are two relaxation techniques that are great stress reducers that you can do in just a few minutes in the comfort of your own surroundings: Breathing and visualization.
Deep breathing is very relaxing and can have the added effect of lowering your blood pressure. At first, this way of breathing may feel awkward, but once you become familiar with the technique, you will be able to reduce stress on the spot by taking a few deep breaths. The procedure is very simple and effective:
1. Find a quiet place where you know you will not be disturbed.

2. Lie down on a flat firm surface on your back and put your
right hand on your diaphragm (just below the belly button).

3. Close your eyes and breathe through your nose.

4. Put your left hand on your upper chest. You should feel no movement here. The breathing should come from your diaphragm and your right hand will gently rise and fall.

5. Notice the feeling and how it differs from chest breathing.

6. Consciously breathe through your nose, keeping your mouth closed. Feel the rising and falling of your diaphragm.

7. When you become used to breathing into your diaphragm, bring your attention to the flow of your breath. Just notice the flow. Is it smooth or jerky? Smooth it out; make it flow gently and smoothly.

8. Do not rush your breath. Be gentle. Let it flow and you will discover a rhythm to the breath.

Visualization relaxation is a relaxation technique that uses the power of your imagination to reduce anxiety, induce feelings of peace and calm, and bring on a general sense of well-being. Visualization is very individualized as it allows your mind to take you to a place that is peaceful and relaxing for you. For me it is sitting on a secluded beach on a bright sunny day, watching the waves as they form whitecaps and listening to the rhythmic sounds as they wash up on the beach. Overhead I hear the sounds of the seagulls as I feel the breeze coming off the ocean gently brushing my face. Explore what you find relaxing.

Visualization is simple, but takes some practice and once you discover your place, you can go there anytime the stresses of caregiving become overwhelming.
With regular practice of deep breathing and visualization exercises, you will be able to evoke sense of peace, calm your mind, and relax your body allowing you to be a better caregiver, while also taking care of yourself.
Steve Kramer

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