It’s one of those days when everything’s going wrong—the insurance claim didn’t go through, your loved one skipped his insulin shot and you were up all night long worrying about his blood sugar levels. No wonder you’re stressed!
When asked to rate the stress of being a full-time caregiver on a scale of one to five, five being the most stressful, 63% of caregivers rated it a four or five, according to AARP and the National Alliance for Caregiving.
There may not be time for a night out on the town, but you can help yourself feel better fast with a few simple tricks. Here’s how:
- Grab some gum. Chewing gum can help lower stress and anxiety and even improve your alertness, according to a study published in Clinical Practice and Epidemiology in Mental Health. During the study, after chewing gum twice a day for 14 days, participants’ stress levels were down significantly. Keep a pack of the chewy stuff handy, like in your purse or car glove compartment. That way, you can easily snatch a piece when driving to a doctor appointment or heading to the pharmacy for your loved one’s meds. Just make sure to choose sugar-free gum, which has less calories and sugar.
- Let it out in a letter. Caring for a loved one can cause a flurry of emotions. Write down or type your feelings in a letter to either yourself or a loved one. For example, did your loved one snap at you today? How did that make you feel? Do you sometimes wish you didn’t take on the role of caregiver? When you’re done, rip up the paper or delete the document. Confiding your emotions in a note can help release built-up tension, even if the contents are never shared.
- Turn down the thermostat. Colder temperatures can help boost your mood, according to University of Michigan researchers. As bizarre as it sounds, during the study, either cold or hot air was blown up people’s noses, and the colder air put people in a better frame of mind than the hot. So on days when things aren’t going your way—like if your loved one is sneaking sweets or refuses to exercise—dial down that thermostat. It may just chill both of you out!
- Get yourself to giggle. Laughter is a powerful remedy for stress. Flip to the comics section in the newspaper or turn on a funny TV show and listen as you make dinner. Even merely anticipating a laugh can reduce stress hormones, say researchers at Linda Loma University.
- Relax to a remix. The power of music has been shown to significantly calm stress, foster a sense of control, slow your breathing and heart rate and offer you peace of mind (even when you feel as if you’ve lost yours!). Keep serene genres, like classical, which a University of San Diego study says can help lower blood pressure, on repeat when doing chores, like laundry or cleaning. No music handy? Hum a little tune. This easy stress-buster can help distract your brain from problems.
- Mellow your mind. Need a mental escape after a long day? Try this psychologist-tested technique: Close your eyes and picture yourself walking through a field and spotting a big red hot-air balloon. Then imagine yourself putting all your worries into the basket attached to the balloon. Release the balloon and watch the basket—and your stress—sail away.