By Marlo Sollitto, AgingCare.com contributing editor
Feeling frazzled? Balancing life with work, kids, bills and managing a household can put anyone on the verge of a meltdown.
Caring for others, you probably forget to take care of yourself. But if you’re not healthy, you not only suffer, but so do those in your care. What you do isn’t easy, and you probably don’t have much time in your day for yourself, but reducing stress levels whenever possible is crucial to good health and good state of mind. So take a deep breath, and read on. Here are some surprisingly simple stress busters.
Laughing for one minute is the equivalent to 15 minutes on an exercise bike or 10 minutes on a rowing machine. Laughter can reduce stress hormones, boost your immune system and lower your blood pressure. So pop in an old Seinfeld video, read your favorite comic strip, turn on Comedy Central, call a friend who makes you laugh or pull out old photos albums. Go ahead: laugh out loud!
2. Embrace routine tasks
Instead of rushing through the day on auto pilot, elicit the relaxation response while you’re doing simple household tasks, like folding laundry or washing dishes. They may seem tedious and tiresome, but the repetitive quality of activities like these can actually have a soothing effect by short-circuiting stressful thought patterns. The key is to focus your attention on a particular aspect of what you’re doing, such as putting a crease in your pants as you iron them, which will keep your mind from drifting to more stressful thoughts. Focusing on relaxation while doing chores doesn’t take any longer, but it does take away from stress.
3. Reinvent your vocabulary
Words have a powerful influence over our mind. Think positive thoughts and use positive words. You don’t need to buy a dictionary and start learning lots of fancy new words. Just ban two simple words from your vocabulary…and add one important one. Never utter the words “I can’t” again. Saying things like “I can’t do it anymore” is a defeatist attitude that is a recipe for failure. And with failure comes stress. So don’t say “I can’t.” Say “I’ll try.” And here’s a word that many caregivers need to add to their vocabulary: “No!” It’s one of the first words that babies learn - and they use it often. But as adults, the word seems to have slipped from our vocabulary. Learn how to say “no.” Know your limits and stick to them, whether in your personal or professional life.
4. Talk slower
Whenever you feel overwhelmed by stress, practice speaking more slowly than usual. You’ll find that you think more clearly and react more reasonably to stressful situations. Stressed people tend to speak fast and breathlessly. By slowing down your speech you’ll also appear less anxious and more in control of any situation.
5. Get a haircut
Beautify! Invest in a good haircut, adopt a 5-minute makeup routine or get out of those sweat pants. Looking good makes you feel better. Even if you just do a quick swipe of blush, mascara and lipstick, you’ll feel better. A funky necklace or a great pair of earrings can quickly lift your spirits – even if you’re not leaving the house.
6. Stop counting calories
Counting calories every single day can be very tiring, stressful and makes you even hungrier! Instead, focus on making healthy food choices. A diet rich in fruits, veggies, beans and whole grains, is high in water content and fiber, you’ll feel full and be less inclined to overeat or eat unhealthy foods. And in turn, this will reduce the stress connected with weight gain and self-blame.