Five Quick Pick-Me-ups for Caregiver Stress

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Having one of those days? The best antidote to stress and fatigue is to treat yourself well -- even if in small doses.

Try these pick-me-ups: 10 minutes to yourself that reverberate much further into your day.

1. Read something funny.

Laughter has been shown to trigger the relaxation response, lower heart rate and blood pressure, and even boost the immune system and ease pain. It might seem corny to dive into a comic book collection, a joke book, or a few minutes of America's Funniest Home Videos, but the effects are real.

Not finding the funnies very funny today? Try forcing a smile. The simple act of turning your facial muscles into a smile triggers the brain to initiate a relaxation response. Bonus: Smiling tends to inspire others to smile (not unlike yawns inspiring yawns). So your smile might make your loved one a little easier to live with.

2. Crank the volume.

Music therapy is often used to calm or stimulate dementia patients, but it can have similar effects on anyone. Playing music with a strong beat has an energizing effect. Melodic orchestral or acoustic tunes can improve thinking and focus.

To get the full pick-me-up effect, raise the volume so that the music fills the room. Really listen. Create a few special playlists that you label by mood so you can match the tunes to your needs: "Happy music," "Energy kick-start," "Dance favorites."

3. Take a power nap.

Ten minutes of shut-eye might not sound like much, but it can be enough to feel restorative, especially if you've had a disrupted night's sleep. Midafternoon rest, when the body clock is at a natural lull, is thought to be especially productive.

A longer, 30- to 60-minute nap allows you to fall into the deep stage of sleep that's even more restorative, but it's harder to wake from. If you only have a short break, set a timer or alarm clock, so you don't oversleep.

4. Pump a little iron.

Lifting free weights tones your arms and strengthens your bones -- but those are long-term extras on top of the energy boost this simple (and not too sweaty) workout provides. If you've never used a handheld weight, start with two- or three-pound dumbbells, sold at sporting goods stores or large variety stores such as Wal-Mart or Target. Lift the weights in sets of 8 to 10 slow repetitions, increasing the amount of the weight over time.

Any quick exercise can have the same effect: running through a few yoga poses, stretching, walking around the block if you can get out of the house, going up and down the stairs a few times.

5. Write a letter.

Simmering resentment, anger, or frustration can sap energy. Psychologists sometimes use this tool to help people let go of energy-blocking ruminations: Write a letter to yourself or your loved one. Put in everything you're feeling. Describe specific incidents. Imagine what you wish had happened instead, or what you wish for in general. (More "thank-you's" and appreciation? More free time? Your old pre-caregiving life back?)

The act of putting your true emotions down on paper (or in an e-mail you don't send) helps your body release them, just the way you feel better after confiding in a friend. Then, when you're done, rip up the pages or delete that e-mail.

6 months ago, said...

Good exercise Good exercise Hide

9 months ago, said...

I am trying to follow some of the pickmeups,still feeling isolated and scared.Taking care of my husband with ms for many years feeling alone,family doesnt understand the hardships,and I dont ask for enough help,hopfully Ill get smart and start, I am trying to follow some of the pickmeups,still feeling isolated and scared.Taking care of my husband with ms for many years feeling alone,family doesnt understand the hardships,and I dont ask for enough help,hopfully Ill get smart and start, Hide

9 months ago, said...

I was caregiver for our son, with my husband's help, when he had 5 brain surgeries over a period of 10 years. My husband was a big help even though he worked full time. It was ver emotionally draining for me because my husband and I were constantly at odds over certain aspects of his care. 
 God was very good to all of us and our son can now live a normal life even though he is somewhat compromised by so many brain surgeries. I still worry about him.
 Then 7 months ago, it was... Show more I was caregiver for our son, with my husband's help, when he had 5 brain surgeries over a period of 10 years. My husband was a big help even though he worked full time. It was ver emotionally draining for me because my husband and I were constantly at odds over certain aspects of his care. 
 God was very good to all of us and our son can now live a normal life even though he is somewhat compromised by so many brain surgeries. I still worry about him.
 Then 7 months ago, it was discovered my husband has cancer. I gladly became his caregiver because he had cared for me during a broken leg, life support, and a recent hip and knee replacement. He has undergone 5 months of tough chemo because he has a tough cancer. It has been a very tough time because the chemo made him so sick. He had steroid rage from prednisone so badly I had to call the police. Ativan helped that. He had many throat infections and the dr. stopped chemo when he began passing out and was injured several times. Our son helped when he could but he travels a lot. I was so exhausted and in so much pain, I finally asked friends for some help but was ignored. I guess it was too hard for them to see him like that.
 Now that chemo is over, he is in blessed remission and it is my deepest prayer he stays in it. God is always by our sides. He is back at work, feeling better and is so glad chemo is over. I, however, continue to have emotional problems from it. I have been handling finances, grocery shopping, housework and taking care of him. I scored a 17 on caregiver burnout. :( No, I am not suicidal. I just have such a hard time sleeping, my mind races and Inworry so much about the future. This came at a time we are not quite ready fir Medicare. I had to apply for assistance at two hospitals and God was so good to us and so were the hospitals. We still have a lot of dr. bills and medication bills. I pray so hard I have my husband with me for many years as I love him so much. I am having stomach problems,headaches and tears. I do find meditation tapes help a bit. I was deeply hurt by my friends and family. It was hard to ask in the first place and I will never ask again.
 It's just that between my son's brain surgeries and my husband's cancer. I seem to have lost myself. It is very painful to walk so that didn't help. I lean on God and Jesus and I know it was my faith that carried me through. It helps to be able to get a bit more rest and I pray the future is more kind. It also helped to vent here. Thank you. Hide

10 months ago, said...

Good tips to help caregivers relieve some stress.
 Music helps me a lot. I play soothing music for my Alzheimer's patient and it helps me calm down a bit.
 It is so important for caregivers to be creative in finding some peace for themselves, especially because money can be an issue (or lack of money can be an obstacle). We all need vacations from the demanding work we do, but probably can't afford the vacation we need!
 For now, music, walks, sunshine, eating healthy fruits... Show more Good tips to help caregivers relieve some stress.
 Music helps me a lot. I play soothing music for my Alzheimer's patient and it helps me calm down a bit.
 It is so important for caregivers to be creative in finding some peace for themselves, especially because money can be an issue (or lack of money can be an obstacle). We all need vacations from the demanding work we do, but probably can't afford the vacation we need!
 For now, music, walks, sunshine, eating healthy fruits and vegetables, and naps will do. Hide

about 1 year ago, said...

It gave some good ideas on what to do to keep me from burning out It gave some good ideas on what to do to keep me from burning out Hide

over 1 year ago, said...

AFTER 2-1/2 YEARS OF CARING FOR THE LADY IN MY LIFE, SHE IS NEARLY BLIND & MUST USE A WALKER OR WHEELCHAIR, I FEEL THAT I AM BEGINNING TO DROWN IN THE SEA OF MEETING HER NEEDS. YOUR TEST CONFIRMED THAT I DESERVE MORE RESURRECTING NAPS, NATURE WALKS, MEDITATION, AND LISTEN-TO-MUSIC BREAKS. AFTER 2-1/2 YEARS OF CARING FOR THE LADY IN MY LIFE, SHE IS NEARLY BLIND & MUST USE A WALKER OR WHEELCHAIR, I FEEL THAT I AM BEGINNING TO DROWN IN THE SEA OF MEETING HER NEEDS. YOUR TEST CONFIRMED THAT I DESERVE MORE RESURRECTING NAPS, NATURE WALKS, MEDITATION, AND LISTEN-TO-MUSIC BREAKS. Hide

over 1 year ago, said...

When I care for my son who is very ill I have to be with him at every moment. I do 12 hour shifts everyday of the week. I then pick up every open night shift that nurses do not show. I do not know how to do any of the above, except turn up the music. It is refreshing when I do listen to some music. The problem is my son will only tolerate it for a few minutes. it is really hard to do relaxing events when we are so busy and tiered. I even have problems concentrating when I am with him on... Show more When I care for my son who is very ill I have to be with him at every moment. I do 12 hour shifts everyday of the week. I then pick up every open night shift that nurses do not show. I do not know how to do any of the above, except turn up the music. It is refreshing when I do listen to some music. The problem is my son will only tolerate it for a few minutes. it is really hard to do relaxing events when we are so busy and tiered. I even have problems concentrating when I am with him on anything else except him. Thank you for the ideas. Hide

over 1 year ago, said...

Power Naps - I don't do this enough Writing - I love to write-don't do this enough, always resort to computer Lifting weights - this really helps me Thank you, Ella Power Naps - I don't do this enough
 Writing - I love to write-don't do this enough, always resort to computer
 Lifting weights - this really helps me
 Thank you, Ella Hide

almost 2 years ago, said...

Things like this article are becoming cliche's. In depth help and personal evaluation. Things like this article are becoming cliche's. In depth help and personal evaluation. Hide

over 2 years ago, said...

This is extremely helpful. Thank you. This is extremely helpful. Thank you. Hide

over 2 years ago, said...

walking the dog for 30 minutes or so, also helps to relieve stress. You can think about your surrounding's, the sky, the birds, the weather & anything else. It works. walking the dog for 30 minutes or so, also helps to relieve stress. You can think about your surrounding's, the sky, the birds, the weather & anything else. It works. Hide

over 2 years ago, said...

Every tip! I know these, but I'm printing them off to remind me! Thank you so much Every tip! I know these, but I'm printing them off to remind me! Thank you so much Hide

almost 3 years ago, said...

My care giving has come on gradually for the past four years. My husband's dementia is progressing slowly but surely. My score is 37 which seems pretty accurate to me. I have had a few health problems recently that likely reflects the B's and C's. I am having a hard time making the decision to get busy and plan at least one day off during the week. Early on, I tried to do that with a paid care-giver and my husband was extremely resistant....."I don't want to pay someone to watch me... Show more My care giving has come on gradually for the past four years. My husband's dementia is progressing slowly but surely. My score is 37 which seems pretty accurate to me. I have had a few health problems recently that likely reflects the B's and C's. I am having a hard time making the decision to get busy and plan at least one day off during the week. Early on, I tried to do that with a paid care-giver and my husband was extremely resistant....."I don't want to pay someone to watch me sleep!" Hopefully, this information will help me work this out. Thank you for your help. jkg Hide

almost 3 years ago, said...

Thanks for these stress-relieving tips. I can do them! I used to hate hearing my dad tell me to smile when I was crotchety, especially because I quickly discovered it works. And I know all these tips work - but have only been promising myself to do them "when I have time." No more promises- just "a couple of minutes" will help a lot. Thanks for these stress-relieving tips. I can do them! I used to hate hearing my dad tell me to smile when I was crotchety, especially because I quickly discovered it works. And I know all these tips work - but have only been promising myself to do them "when I have time." No more promises- just "a couple of minutes" will help a lot. Hide

about 3 years ago, said...

It was a good article that reminded me of several things I already knew, but I wasn't doing them. I would add the benefits of pets to the article, having the unconditional affection of a pet helps me greatly. It was a good article that reminded me of several things I already knew, but I wasn't doing them. I would add the benefits of pets to the article, having the unconditional affection of a pet helps me greatly. Hide

about 3 years ago, said...

Great reminders ... thanks! I get so caught up in things, that I forget to do those little things that take care of me. Show more Great reminders ... thanks! I get so caught up in things, that I forget to do those little things that take care of me. Hide

about 3 years ago, said...

Paula, very helpful advice for sharing with my leading two men's support groups. Paula, very helpful advice for sharing with my leading two men's support groups. Hide

about 3 years ago, said...

CONSIDERING THE QUESTIONSW ASKED AND MY ANSWERS. CONSIDERING THE QUESTIONSW ASKED AND MY ANSWERS. Hide

about 3 years ago, said...

My family and I continue to try to figure out how we can get a helper, even once a week. I would like to just get in my car and drive around a little with no particular place to go Our current problem is my wife's obsession with security and related issues. She fired our housekeeper thinking she was stealing jewelry. I know this was not the case since I found the item in question in a sock stuffed at the back of her underwear drawer. This continues to happen. So I get to do most of... Show more My family and I continue to try to figure out how we can get a helper, even once a week. I would like to just get in my car and drive around a little with no particular place to go Our current problem is my wife's obsession with security and related issues. She fired our housekeeper thinking she was stealing jewelry. I know this was not the case since I found the item in question in a sock stuffed at the back of her underwear drawer. This continues to happen. So I get to do most of the housework. We had to discontinue trash pick-up because she fretted that the trash men were going to steal our dog to use him in a dog fighting ring. The Sheriff did break up a dog fighting ring about ten years ago, but for my wife it was just yesterday. So we get to go the dump (Whoops! I mean re-cycling center.) once a week. You meet the nicest people at the dump....see your neighbors getting rid of their empties. I do find that my sense of humor remains intact, but some days it too disappears. Support from other local men in the same boat and web sites like caring.com are integral parts of my life these days. Hide

about 3 years ago, said...

I learned where I fall within the Caregiver burnout scenario. It was interesting to read the methods to reduce caregiver stress. I will try to use some of these when I feel the need and when practical. My husband rarely rests; thus, it is difficult to get away by myself (Right now he is pounding on the table in the dining room!). I am fortunate, though, to have a loving caregiver twice a week, and lately our Son has taken time off work to come here and help me with his Dad. This has... Show more I learned where I fall within the Caregiver burnout scenario. It was interesting to read the methods to reduce caregiver stress. I will try to use some of these when I feel the need and when practical. My husband rarely rests; thus, it is difficult to get away by myself (Right now he is pounding on the table in the dining room!). I am fortunate, though, to have a loving caregiver twice a week, and lately our Son has taken time off work to come here and help me with his Dad. This has given me time to actually get out with a friend in similar circumstances. We talked about going to Anna's Linens for over a year--and just ventured out today! It was wonderful to get things that we really needed; however, I find that I am exhausted!! Guess I should do more exercise here at home. Thanks for all the great information on your site! Hide

about 3 years ago, said...

Yes, I scored a 37. I know I must do the things suggested and already do, to an extent. My dear wife sleeps a bit more and I use this time for myself. I read, correspond with friends by email and FB and cyber loaf on the Internet. Yes, I scored a 37. I know I must do the things suggested and already do, to an extent. My dear wife sleeps a bit more and I use this time for myself. I read, correspond with friends by email and FB and cyber loaf on the Internet. Hide

over 3 years ago, said...

That there are things that I can do to help my spirits in short periods of time predetermined to at least 5 times a day. To focus on the fact that I am doing things to help me. That I need to recognize my true emotions. That I need to exercise even if only for short periods. That friends are important and help my emotions. That there are things that I can do to help my spirits in short periods of time predetermined to at least 5 times a day. To focus on the fact that I am doing things to help me. That I need to recognize my true emotions. That I need to exercise even if only for short periods. That friends are important and help my emotions. Hide