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Don't Forget to Take Care of the Caregiver: You

When you are the caregiver for an older adult, caregiver stress and burnout - both physical and emotional - are very real and common side effects of the job. For this reason, it is imperative to recognize your limitations and know when it is time to take a break.

Having strategies close at hand for quick relief can ward off fatigue and stress while providing much-needed comfort, patience and peace of mind. Learning to take time to care for yourself also allows you to be a better caregiver. Here are some proven stress relief tips that are easy, effective and realistic:

1. Take slow, deep breaths. A fast way to relieve anxiety is to breathe deeply and mindfully. By taking slow and controlled deep breaths, your body rapidly shifts from stress mode to relax mode. Breathe in for six seconds through your nose, hold six seconds, exhale slowly through your mouth for six seconds. Repeat as needed.

2. Use aromatherapy. Smells can instantly spark memories and are powerful in stimulating and or calming the body's nervous system. Researchers reveal that essential oils contain countless healing abilities; for example, lavender oil has calming effects similar to anti-anxiety medications. Some oils can boost energy levels and aid with muscle aches, digestive issues and headaches. You don't have to be an expert; just buy an inexpensive diffuser and fill the air with calming aromas. Or, place drops of oil in your hands, rub palms together, cup them to your face, and inhale with controlled breathing.

3. Release tension with exercise and stretching. Exercise is a valuable way to relieve stress and tension, boost the mood, and improve health physically and mentally. No need to spend money or hours at a gym; just a 15-minute walk or jog, yoga or stretch session can make a difference. Exercise also gives a sense of control and achievement which elevates the mood as well. Plus, you can do it anywhere.

4. Talk with a trusted friend. Connecting with a support group and people that have been in similar situation is another stress buster. Voicing your frustrations, concerns and ideas helps you strategize while also confirming that you're not alone. Or, talk about something completely off subject to clear your mind.

5. Listen to music. Music is an amazing mood enhancer. Whether it's energetic tunes or calming classical, playing music will help you de-stress. It's quick and easy to create a playlist on your phone.

6. Go outside and get some sun and fresh air. Studies verify that short periods spent outside, breathing fresh air, getting minimal natural sunlight, and looking at nature are all effective in reducing stress levels, boosting the immune system, and diminishing anxiety and depression.

7. Laugh. Doctors have studied and "prescribed" laughter as a stress reliever for years. Sometimes all you need is a good laugh! Carry a joke book, browse the cartoons on your phone or watch a comical video.

8. Take a spa-like bath or shower. A hot bath or shower is a soothing way to unwind at night. Add bath bombs, essential oils, Epsom salts, magnesium flakes and candle lighting. Bathing with magnesium is said to soothe sore muscles, reduce stress, and improve circulation.

Kimberly Chase Crawford is the quality assurance manager for Senior Helpers Hilton Head Island. seniorhelpers.com/hiltonhead-beaufort-sc