Working in caregiving may be one of the most rewarding jobs that you can have—but it is also one of the most stressful. Learning how to effectively deal with stress can be the difference between a long and fruitful career, and burning out early. The following tips are important not only to your own personal health and wellbeing, but also to the individuals in your care.
Deep and Focused Breathing
Taking a few deep breaths when you feel overwhelmed or agitated can help slow down your heart rate and decrease the tension in your muscles. This will help keep your nervous system from becoming overly stimulated, which can help you think more clearly during moments of high stress or anxiety. And it’s something that everyone can do with a little practice. The next time you feel yourself becoming tense, try taking five long and deep breaths in, letting the air out slowly and evenly.
Mindfulness and Meditation
A lot of people might think terms like “mindfulness” or “meditation” are just for hippies and yogis. All this really means, however, is just letting go of your concerns and focusing on the present moment. When you start to feel yourself overcome with stress, try and find a quiet environment where you can be alone for a few minutes. Close your eyes and focus intently on your breathing exercises. Visualize the stress exiting your body as you exhale. At the beginning, you’ll probably find that thoughts will keep popping up in your mind—that’s okay. Just continue to focus on your breathing, and they will become more manageable.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation
One of the best ways to decrease the amount of stress you are feeling and relax your body is through progressive muscle relaxation. The process is easy: slowly tense and then relax different muscle groups, one at a time. It helps to start with your feet and then work your way up to your face (or vice versa). Squeeze the different muscle groups for five to ten seconds at a time, relax them, and then move to the next muscle group. Pair this practice with the breathing and mindfulness exercises that you learned earlier for maximum effect.
The above exercises are all excellent at decreasing some of the physiological effects of stress on your body. And, while it may sound like a cliché, changing your perspective can also make a huge difference. Practicing gratitude can help make a stressful situation seem much more manageable, and turn some of some of the anxiety you are feeling into positive motivation. Try and start every morning by thinking of three things that you are thankful for. In moments of high tension, remind yourself of these things. Sometimes the little things can make the greatest difference.