Caring for someone living with mental illness, while rewarding, is not without its challenges. The demands of it all can send your stress levels through the roof, which can zap your energy and diminish your health. Yet, as a caregiver, you may feel it’s selfish to take a break, or that there’s too much to do to even think about slowing down. But, if you’re ill, you can’t tend to anyone. So it’s important that in the process of giving so much to others that you also take time out to nurture yourself. In recognition of Stress-Awareness Month, here are some quick, healthy ways to recharge and restore your strength when the days get tough.
1. Pencil Yourself In
Set aside at least 15 to 30 minutes in your busy schedule to unplug, and treat this appointment just as you would any other important meeting—cancel only if there’s an emergency. Engage in something you enjoy, such as hitting the gym; reading a chapter of a hot new book; writing a short story; drawing; or listening to music. You’ll return to your caregiver duties feeling energized and refreshed.
2. Smell the Oranges
Studies show the scent of citrus can calm nerves. Try burning sweet orange essential oils, or eating a fresh orange from your local grocery store or farmer’s market. You’ll feel a little more relaxed, and ingesting the spherical fruit will help boost your immune system.
3. Hug a Tree
Place houseplants around your home, go for a walk at the park, visit the arboretum, or work in your garden. Research has shown that being in the presence of plant life can brighten your mood and lower tension.
4. Repeat After Me
Take up knitting or start a meditation practice. A study by researchers at the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine in Boston found that doing repetitive activities reduces stress and enhances well-being.
5. Throw it Away
Jot on a piece of paper the emotions, thoughts, and details of your day that got you down, then shred and toss the paper in the trash or recycling bin. Venting in a journal alone has its therapeutic qualities. But, according to a 2012 study published in the journal Psychological Science, writing out your negative thoughts and feelings AND physically discarding them can help minimize the impact they have on your psyche.
Try one or all of the ideas above to help you relax and regroup after a challenging day. Tending to yourself allows you to give your best to those in your care.