Caring for the Caregiver: Alleviate Tension and Stress

Caring for the Caregiver: Alleviate Tension and Stress

Caring for the Caregiver: Tips to Help Alleviate Tension and Stress

Caregiving is stressful. Under stress, many people begin to experience tight muscles in the neck, shoulders, and back. A lot of times, tight muscles in the lower back, hips, or legs can contribute to tight muscles in your upper body. As a result, your stressful situation is made even more miserable because your body feels so uncomfortable. But there are activities and stretches you can do that can help alleviate some of this discomfort.

Word of caution: Although these activities and stretches are low impact, please consult a doctor before doing any kind of physical activities.

Don’t sit too much: Sitting down for long periods of time has been linked to serious health problems, such as weight gain, cardiovascular diseases, and an increased risk of death.[1] Additionally, sitting down for long periods often results in tightness in the lower back, hamstrings, and quadriceps. Rather than sitting, try to find more opportunities to stand. If you work in an office environment, invest in a standing desk, walk laps around the building, and stand up to answer the phone. Try to avoid sitting for more than 30 minutes at a time. If you want to stand, then invest in comfortable shoes and/or shoe inserts to help support your feet and avoid knee and back pain.

Watch you posture: Poor posture, like hunching your back and slouching your neck, can contribute to muscle tightness in the back. When you sit or stand, make sure you contract your abdominal muscles, stand up straight, hold your head high, and keep your shoulders from rounding forward.

Stretch: Stretching relieves stress because it promotes better circulation, deep breathing, and pain reduction, all factors that have direct impacts on physical and mental health.[2]

Try some of these stretches. All of these stretches should be performed with your abdominal muscles clenched tightly to support good posture. Make sure to hold each stretch for about 30 seconds, breathing deeply in and out during the stretch.

Upper Back Stretch:

  • Stand up straight with a slight bend in your knees
  • Clasp your fingers together and put your hands in front of you
  • Point your thumbs down and extend your arms forward
  • You should feel the stretch in your upper back and shoulder area
  • Hold for 30 seconds

Neck Stretch:

  • Stand up straight with a slight bend in your knees
  • Touch your chin to your chest until you feel a stretch
  • Inhale and exhale slowly and deeply
  • Lightly roll head to right, hold, and breathe for 30 seconds
  • Lightly roll head to left, hold, and breathe for 30 seconds
  • Return to center and slowly lift head to starting position

Lower Back and Hamstring Stretch:

  • Stand with a slight bend in your knees
  • Slowly bend forward to touch your toes
  • Fold your arms over your head
  • Slowly breathe in and out and let gravity pull you down
  • Stay in this position for at least 30 seconds
  • Come back up very slowly without over exerting your back (it may be helpful to be near a chair or table for assistance)

Gluteus Maximus Stretch:

  • Sit in a chair with, lift one leg, and rest that ankle on your knee
  • Keep back straight and lean forward. You should feel a stretch in your glute
  • To intensify the stretch, lightly push down on the knee of the leg being stretched
  • Hold stretch for 30 seconds
  • Repeat with other leg

Quadricep  Stretch:

  • Find a table or wall to keep balance
  • If you start on the left side, bring your left foot to your buttock and hold that ankle with your left hand
  • Keep abdominals tight and stand up straight, try to thigh back, bringing your angle closer to your buttock.
  • You should feel a stretch in the quadriceps
  • Repeat with other leg

Quadricep Stretch Variation:

  • You will need a belt or towel for this exercise to tie around your ankle
  • With a belt or towel tied around one ankle, lay face down on a bed or on a padded surface
  • Bend the leg with the belt on it and grab the belt with the corresponding hand
  • Pull the belt forward, bearing in mind that you should feel the stretch in your quad
  • Hold the stretch for 30 seconds

If you have questions, or would like to learn more about how to alleviate stress as a family caregiver, then please visit our website or call 888-285-0093.

[1] Source: http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/expert-answers/sitting/faq-20058005

[2] Source: http://stress.lovetoknow.com/Why_Does_Stretching_Release_Stress

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