By Dorcas Greene, MEd & Stacy Hennis, PT, C/NDT
We’ve all experienced it – heart racing, muscle tension, irritability. Perhaps stomach pain or a clenched jaw. Anxiety goes along with not sleeping at night and feeling tired all the time. It can lead to forgetting things, or feeling life is spiraling out of control while you’re powerless to stop it.
These are just a few of the things people experience when under stress. In the U.S., there are 54 million people with a disability according to the US Census Bureau. According to the Family Caregiver Alliance, there are 44 million people in the US providing care to family members. For both those with the disability as well as their caregivers, the stress becomes chronic and can lead to other medical issues.
Chronic stress can lead increased risk of heart attack, diabetes, stroke, obesity, depression and cognitive impairment. On the other hand, exercise helps to lower blood pressure, blood sugars, improve your cholesterol, amongst it’s other numerous benefits.
There are many things that can be done to deal with stress, ranging from meditation, time with friends, laughter, yoga, Tai Chi, etc. One thing proven repeatedly is #exercise. Harvard Medical School states that exercise not only releases endorphins which elevate your mood, but can lower the amounts of other stress hormones, such as cortisol and adrenaline. Many times, the exercise can give you a “high” and you find that you’ve forgotten the irritations of your day, especially if you avoid distractions while exercising. In other words, put down the iPad, turn off the tv and concentrate instead on the movement your body is performing.
For those family caregivers, it’s especially important to be kind to yourself. A 20 minute walk with a neighbor keeps you from being isolated. It can be so relaxing to talk with someone about something other than “caregiver” talk. If this isn’t possible, then take your mug of coffee for a walk around your own home. Spend 15 minutes in your garden. Bending over to pick weeds or plant some flowers can be exercise! Do not quit your gym membership. Don’t feel guilty if you can’t make it 3 times a week – stop in whenever you can for 30 minutes.
While at home, doing some simple floor stretches while watching television might help motivate them to do some chair exercises. Perhaps you can both join a chair yoga class. Local community centers may have yoga classes that fit your schedule. There are even laughing yoga classes – mix exercise with laughter to feel even better! And if you can’t fit a good laugh in, then remember breathing. Even a few deep breaths, slowly exhaled can lessen stress and anxiety.
#exerciserelievesstress #familycaregivers #lessenstress #lessenanxiety
Dorcas Greene, Collaborative Coaching USA, has been a family caregiver for over 40 years. Her passion is ensuring that other family caregivers maintain their sanity and health. Stacy Hennis, New Beginning Physical Therapy, specializes in treating adults with chronic medical conditions. These conditions affect the family, not just the patient. To reach Dorcas, please call 760-301-5247 or online at DorcasGreeneCoach.com.