Social workers, health care workers, parents, teachers, adult children caring for elderly parents…some of the many types of caregivers. You may even fill multiple roles, like me, a mom who works in social services. One thing remains the same, we all experience an overload of stress from time to time.
You know that feeling – maybe you get headaches, become irritable, cry easily, feel tense or aches in your neck & back. It’s a response that is felt emotionally & physically. It drains you & leaves you vulnerable. How do you keep giving to others when you have nothing left?
Like the flight attendants tell you – you need to put on your oxygen mask before helping others with theirs. Sometimes it might feel “selfish” to take care of your needs, say no to a request or invite, keep the appointment for yourself, but truly, it’s not. Regular self-care helps you fill up your tank.
Lately, I’ve been feeling stressed & wanted to consciously experiment with a variety of suggestions for stress relief. I wanted to get in touch with what works best for me and figure out what really isn’t serving me.
- Create something – This is, by far, my favorite stress reliever. Sometimes I go to my craft room to make cards or scrapbook some happy memories. Last weekend, I painted a pumpkin with my daughter. When I let creativity take over & focus on the project at hand, I stop thinking about the things that are stressing me. If you don’t think you’re crafty, try drawing, coloring or putting together a puzzle.
- Breathe – Another way to calm your mind and body is to just be still & focus on your breathing. Concentrate on the air going in & out. You can imagine positive energy coming in and send out the negative.
- Talk – Often, you need to get it out of your head to process & get feedback or a different perspective. Talk with your partner, a trusted friend, moms in a mother’s group. I’ve even talked to my dog (come on, I know you have, too). It doesn’t always have to be a serious heart-to-heart either. Laughter is powerful medicine! In the professional setting, supervision is key. I have had the pleasure of working with some excellent supervisors who have helped me work through issues as a counselor so I could leave work at work. I’ve also had some supervisors who have been less than supportive & I’ve seen other counselors struggling with a lack of supervision. This surely contributes to feelings of burnout.
- Pets – If you have a dog or a cat, you know the power of petting your furry friend. Spending some time petting & playing with my pups goes a long way in helping me destress after a long day.
- Write – It doesn’t have to be a fancy journal, just get your thoughts out onto paper & feel free to leave them there. You can challenge your negative thoughts, write a letter you’ll never send to someone or just let those thoughts free flow out of you.
- Food & Water – I am guilty of stress-eating. I have learned I seek out carbs & sugar (no surprises there!) to help me deal with negative emotions. It’s not effective. This is one of the main reasons I started experimenting with different methods of handling stress. I was doing pretty well on a low carb diet, and then tested my limits. I felt pretty crappy with the high carbs again, so I’m back on the wagon. And I know you’ve heard all about drinking plenty of water – it’s all true!!
- Get active – Ok, I have to admit that I’m still working on this one. I know that there are so many benefits to regular physcial activity, just haven’t made this a habit yet. I can go as far as saying that I like to stretch each day – it does help me feel more relaxed & releases the tension I am carrying, quite literally, in my neck & back. Some other forms of activity for me includes walking the dogs, cleaning and dancing. I can frequently be found dancing & singing in the car.
- Adequate rest – you need to rest to recharge. Once in awhile, try going to bed earlier than usual. Lately, I’ve been recording some shows I like that are on later in the evening so I can watch them at an earlier time later in the week. Turn off those electronics at least an hour before bed. Do you like to read before bed? Some nights, I fall asleep before I finish the page.
What else would you add to the list of stress management techniques? What do you find to be most effective? Add your thoughts in the comments section below.