Take a Break


Monday February 17, 2014 (Updated: Sunday February 23, 2014)

Stretch for More Energy

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Why does it feel so good to stretch? Because it's a form of movement that both energizes and relaxes at the same time. Stretching requires deeper breathing, which sends oxygen and energy through your body. It simultaneously releases tension stored in your muscles.

Try taking a stretching break when you're feeling stressed or tired. It's as easy as reaching for the ceiling while you're sitting or standing, wiggling your fingers as you hold the stretch for 10 to 20 seconds or so. Then stand up and reach one arm over your head as you tilt from the waist in the same direction. Finally, reach down toward your toes. (It doesn't matter if you can't stretch quite that far. As one wag said, "If God meant for us to touch our toes, he would have put them on our knees.") Don't forget to breathe slowly and deeply throughout.


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Wednesday July 25, 2012 (Updated: Monday July 30, 2012)

Best Exotic Marigold Hotel: How Accurate Are Movies on Aging?

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Silver-haired stars on the silver screen are still a rarity, compared to the size of the 65-plus audience out there. So when seven older leads show up in one movie, midlife caregivers notice. ("For a lift in your spirits, go see this film," one Caring.com member urged her online support group.)

That new movie, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2012), relocates seven British retirees to a refurbished resort in India that, alas, turns out to be a ramshackle work in progress. One couple has come for a better quality of life than they could afford in the U.K.; a widow seeks adventure; a man seeks a lost love; others seek new love; and Dame Maggie Smith needs cheap, quick surgery unavailable from the National Health Service.

Their experiences turn out to be unexpectedly transformative (of course!) -- adventure, love, and insight are found, and Dame Maggie both heals well and miraculously lose

...  Read more

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Wednesday December 28, 2011 (Updated: Sunday January 26, 2014)

How to Write Away Your Blues

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For many stressed caregivers, keeping a daily diary or journal is a terrific way to offload stress. A large body of research has recorded the stress-easing benefits of sharing your thoughts in the neutral, nonjudgmental safety of a piece of paper. Journaling can help you resolve differences with others, solve problems, and even boost your immunity. Recently a study of testicular cancer patients who journaled found that those who kept diaries of positive thoughts had the strongest mental health benefits. One easy type of positive diary to begin: A gratitude journal, in which you jot down a few things a day that you feel grateful for, even on bummer days and in hard situations.

-- Paula Spencer Scott


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Wednesday December 21, 2011 (Updated: Tuesday January 03, 2012)

Three Questions to Help De-Stress Your Holiday Season

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Quick: When you think about the holidays, what are you picturing? Particular foods or meals to prepare? Decorations to put up? People you must see or buy gifts for? The most stressful part of the holidays can be our expectations. Before diving in on autopilot, ask yourself a few questions: 1) Who am I really doing this for? Try asking family members what matters most to them. 2) If I don't do this, who will miss it? We often cling to outgrown traditions because we mis-read others' expectations. 3) What's the most meaningful part of the holiday for me? Preserve the essence of it (time with family? holiday music?) and this year, let go of trappings and trimmings that add more stress than joy.

-- Paula Spencer Scott


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Wednesday December 07, 2011 (Updated: Tuesday December 27, 2011)

Surround Yourself With the Smell of Relaxation

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No time to relax? Fool yourself into thinking you do by adding relaxation-inducing scents to your day. Many stores use this technique to lull you into a state of calm when you shop. In 2008, scientists set out to create "the world's most relaxing room." The scent of lavender was central to the mood they created. Sachets of lavender in pillows can help you drift to sleep. Or light a lavender-scented candle or use room spray to get a calming effect all through the house.

-- Paula Spencer Scott


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Wednesday November 30, 2011 (Updated: Wednesday May 28, 2014)

Call a Favorite Person, Face-to-Face

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A warm exchange of hellos with a favorite friend or relative is a wonderful boost. What can make it even better? Making it a video chat, so you can see each other on your computers while you visit. Many people use videoconferencing for work, or with a tech-savvy child who goes off to college, but stick to old habits talking to other phone friends the same way as always. The next time you're thinking about catching up with an old roommate or a cousin across the country, suggest setting it up as a video-call. Services like Skype or Gmail Chat are easy even for newbies, and free.

-- Paula Spencer Scott


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Wednesday November 23, 2011 (Updated: Wednesday November 30, 2011)

Stop Multi-Tasking to Ease Stress "“ and Get More Done

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You've probably become an expert multi-tasker, able to juggle two "“ or even three or four "“ tasks at the same time. It seems like the model of efficiency. But in fact, it's probably adding to your stress, making you finish everything more slowly, and affecting the quality of your performance, scientists say. It turns out that our brains aren't wired to attend to several different things at once. Better for you: Vow to focus on just one thing at a time. When the e-mail pings or your cell phone rings, finish what you're doing first and then attend to the next item. Force yourself to downshift, and you might just wind up feeling more energized and accomplish more.

-- Paula Spencer Scott


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Wednesday November 16, 2011 (Updated: Wednesday November 16, 2011)

Escaping in a Book Has Never Been Easier

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Reading fiction is a wonderful way to transport yourself to another reality. Don't have time to sit with a book? Try an audiobook. You can download one onto a CD or your iPod or other MP3 player and listen with headphones or in your car. (Libraries loan them, free.) Some busy caregivers find that electronic book readers have made it easier to get through a novel because they can carry it anywhere and never lose their place. Or just give old-fashioned paperbacks or hardbacks a try, treating yourself to a few pages in the evening when you'd normally turn on the TV -- or lie there tossing and turning as you try to fall asleep. Reading can help you relax and sleep better.

-- Paula Spencer Scott


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Wednesday November 09, 2011 (Updated: Tuesday November 15, 2011)

A Soothing Reason to Build Snack Breaks Into Your Day

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Do you sometimes get cranky without realizing why? Maybe it's because you haven't eaten lately. Rising and falling levels of serotonin, a hormone, affect the parts of the brain that allow people to control anger, according to University of Cambridge research. Serotonin levels also ebb when you're under stress. By being good to yourself and building several healthy-snack breaks into your day you can regulate your mood before biting somebody's head off. Choose lean proteins and complex carbs, such as lowfat cheese and whole-grain crackers, peanut butter on celery, fruit, or a handful of nuts.

-- Paula Spencer Scott


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Wednesday November 02, 2011 (Updated: Wednesday November 02, 2011)

Creative Visits Boost Friendships "“ and Your Health

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You probably know all the health benefits of a rich social network, including a lower risk of illnesses ranging from depression to dementia. The trouble is finding time to see your friends, especially when the demands of caregiving call. Try thinking outside the box. If you don't have the time to sit down for a lunch date or dinner out with a friend, aim for creative alternatives instead. Maybe your friend can accompany you on a shopping outing, or you can arrange side-by-side haircut appointments. Think about something you both like to do "“ or need to do anyway, and work on making your schedules line up: Mall walking together? Joining the same support group?

-- Paula Spencer Scott


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About Take a Break

This is the place to find inspiration and ideas -- just for you -- that will make your caregiving journey a little bit easier.

We hope you'll pour yourself a mug of tea, sit down, and take a moment for yourself.

And we hope you'll share tips that will help make other caregivers' days a little easier, too -- simply add your comments below.