Relaxation Techniques for Caregivers


Relaxation exercises are a good way for caregivers to keep themselves composed when they undergo distress. The Family Caregiver Alliance (FCA) prescribes 6 really helpful relaxation techniques that caregivers can use to remain positive and calm. Let’s explore these techniques to see how caregivers can ensure their mental well-being in times of stress.

1. What are relaxation techniques?

 Caregivers are often on-the-run since they may be trying to balance their roles as caregivers along with their regular roles in their workplace, families, peer groups, and society. A common emotional response to this stress may include being overwhelmed or feeling helpless in the situation. Relaxation exercises have proved to be a good way to reduce stress and have a positive effect on a caregiver’s health.

 The exercises have the most benefit when they are incorporated into the daily or weekly routines of caregivers since that ensures that they have a period in their day in which they have time completely devoted to themselves. Practicing these relaxation techniques would take around 10-20 minutes a day, and can also be practiced while waiting in line at a grocery store or while waiting for a doctor’s appointment.

 Ideally, a safe place should be chosen to relax, where the caregiver can have some privacy and is not distracted by any noise in the environment. The best relaxation exercises are the ones that give comfort to the caregiver and do not cause any pain. During or after the exercise, some caregivers may have a lot of thoughts that arise and may want to keep a journal nearby to record all those thoughts.

It is crucial for caregivers to realize the importance of taking time out for themselves so that they can cope better with the demands of their social roles. This will not only maintain their mental strength but keep them full of sangfroid in times of distress.

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2. Deep Breathing for Relaxation

Breathing deeply is a quick and efficient way to relax. Deep breathing is the most effective when done from the abdomen to get a lot of fresh air into the abdomen and lungs.

Ideally, deep breathing can be incorporated as an exercise in meditation and other techniques of mindfulness such as body scans. This can be carried out in a closed room with minimal noise distractions, where the caregiver can have space and time devoted completely to themselves. However, in times of distress, when caregivers are busy and always ready to spring into action, deep breathing as a relaxation exercise can be incorporated into daily tasks such as while sitting in the backseat of a car or can be practiced for 10 minutes before sleeping at night.

Deep breathing can be paired with an awareness of the rise and fall of the abdomen and mindfulness about any movements that may happen in the body. One may notice that there may occur muscle constrictions and relaxations as one breathes, but overall the stillness of the body is what relaxes. The main purpose is to take control of the breathing process and breathe deeply in an organized manner.

By practicing relaxation exercises such as deep breathing, caregivers can keep themselves in a state of tranquility for at least a short duration of time. This will enable them to make better judgments and think through their decisions calmly.

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3. ‘Triangle Breathing’ to Keep Caregivers Calm

‘Triangle Breathing’ has psycho-physiological benefits such as a lower heart rate and reduced levels of tension and stress.

The process is three-fold and each step of Triangle Breathing is to be done for 3 seconds, hence giving the technique its unique name. The first step is to inhale deeply for 3 seconds, then hold it for another 3 seconds and finally exhale slowly and completely for three seconds. This process can be repeated 3 or 4 more times and can be done anywhere.

By incorporating this technique into their daily routines, caregivers can gain control over their minds and thoughts, giving them the power to be reposeful when they feel burdened by the challenges and demands that their roles in families or their workplace imposes on them.

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4. ‘Muscle Relaxation’ for when life seems like an arduous journey

Since caregivers are always ready to spring into action and may find themselves physically exhausted, it is crucial to keep their bodies healthy and relaxed. Muscle relaxation techniques are an easy and effective means of ensuring this. Combining muscle relaxation with deep breathing can be even more effective in relieving stress.

To practice this technique the caregiver may want to concentrate on one body part at a time, tensing the muscle as tightly as they can for 10 seconds and then releasing it. The body part may feel heavy after this process, but will also induce a sense of complete relaxation. By repeating this process for every body part from head to toe, the caregiver may find their body almost inert but completely slackened.

Some people find muscle relaxation to be soporific and hence practice this technique right before they sleep at night. This technique can either be paired with earlier techniques such as Deep Breathing or Triangle Breathing or with other relaxing activities such as having a warm bath before. This will help the caregiver sleep better, thus ensuring that they wake up fresh the following morning.

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5. ‘Imagery Meditation’: Where imagination meets relaxation

Imagination has the power to cause trepidation about fear-inducing scenarios that one may envisage, but it can also be used to create a utopian escape place where caregivers can be in a state of positivity. One may choose to imagine a place that one most enjoys like the beach, or a mountain valley or beside a stream or in a meadow full of flowers. By using the same place every time one practices this technique, one can experience a special calming influence that may be associated with this imagined place and can replicate the calmness in stressful situations. Any thoughts that may arise at this time may be allowed to pass and the attention may be brought back to the special place. After about 10 minutes of imbibing the sensual experiences of the place, this exercise may be followed with another relaxation technique such as Deep Breathing.

Imagery meditation is a powerful technique since it reminds the caregiver that “the mind is a servant, not the master”. Though the mind has the ability to induce anxiety about situations that the caregiver may find themselves in, they must remind themselves to stay strong and not give in to the stress that these apprehensions bring with them. The powers of the mind can hence be used to the caregiver’s advantage to keep them composed in times of uncertainty.

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6. ‘Guided Imagery’: Imagine your way to tranquility

One of the challenges that caregivers may face while practicing Imagery Meditation is that they may find their attention wavering, inviting unwanted thoughts that may not help them completely relax. ‘Guided Imagery’ can keep the caregiver’s attention confined to their imagination of a peaceful special place.

‘Guided imagery’ provides a way of escape from the distressing reality to a utopian world that the caregiver can come back to at any time. This transition from reality to imagination provides a medium for the caregiver to completely detach from the world and calm themselves down in a place where there is no scope of stress. This will immediately lower the heart rate of the caregiver and reduce the physical symptoms of stress, which helps them cope with their arduous situations better.

One main difference between this technique and Imagery Meditation is that instead of just observing what is happening in the placid place, one may also imagine doing actions on things that are present in this place and the sensual experiences associated with it.

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7. Relaxing through the process of ‘Mindfulness Meditation’

‘Mindfulness Meditation’ is an effective way of calming down and stop running on auto-pilot as many caregivers may find themselves doing amidst their busy lives. There are various methods of practicing mindfulness meditation such as body scans (observing every part of the body without judging if the sensations felt are good or bad).

Unlike ‘Muscle Relaxation’, this technique does not involve the tensing and relaxing of every body part individually but just mere observation of every part to build awareness of the body as a whole. This may lead to the perception that the body is getting heavy, or some movements may occur, but one may choose to just observe them and move on. The process should be repeated for every body part from head to toe and hold the body in awareness until a sense of inertness is reached.

Mindfulness Meditation can be practiced in a safe and quiet environment with minimal noise distractions. Some may also choose to accompany this technique with soft music or the sound of anything that they find relaxing. This lowers the heart rate and leaves the caregiver feeling satisfied and rejuvenated.

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In balancing the demands of everyday life, amidst all the roles that caregivers play, there may be times when the most prominent feeling may be distress and being overwhelmed by the situation. It is essential for caregivers to take some time out for themselves from their busy schedules and learn the art of maintaining equanimity so as to cope better with the situation.

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