Wellness With Age: Suggestions for dealing with stress and caregiving

Last month, August 2023, I wrote about dementia. This month I am writing a two-in-one piece dealing with stress and anxiety, and caring for the caregiver. As you know, the two subjects are related yet are independent of each other.

Here are suggestions for dealing with stress. These activities are valuable because they can be done any time and any place.

Diaphragmatic breathing: Exhale slowly and tighten your abdominal muscles. Then inhale slowly while extending the abdominal muscles. This exercise engages the parasympathetic nervous system which calms the body.

Questions: Ask yourself questions. Answering them causes the brain to switch from emotion to logic, enabling it to deal with stress more rationally.

Music: Experts say musical activities gives the brain a reprieve from stressful situations. This allows you to return to the stress refreshed and able to cope. When this is not possible listening to calming music is a good alternative.

Switch languages: If you know a foreign language, even slightly, using it causes the brain to switch to analytical thinking. Foreign languages have various interpretations for some concepts, allowing for different viewpoints. An example is in American Sign Language the sign for ‘you are welcome’ translates as ‘thank you for thanking me’.

Visualize: The easiest way to do this is to close your eyes, breath deeply, and imagine a favorite place or person. Research has proven the brain reacts to a strong mental image as though it were real.

Writing: A good way to deal with stress and anxiety is to write. The physical act of moving a pen across a sheet of paper helps to release adrenaline. Also writing allows us to clarify our thoughts. E. M. Forester said, “How can I know what I think till I see what I say.”

Before I discuss caregiving, here is a list of foods proven to support brain function; almonds, blueberries, dark chocolate, eggs, salmon, and yogurt. Herbal teas and essential oils also have calming choices.


Being a family caregiver is one of the most important yet exhausting positions a person could be in. This is especially true in caring for a parent with dementia.

It is possible to suffer from caregiver overload and be unaware of the fact. A few symptoms are constant worry, always tired, and sleep disorders. Also weight changes, easily angered, and continuous sadness. Isolation is a giant issue for caregivers.

Chronic stress can harm your health, making self-care critical. Fortunately a little can go a long way.

Here is a short list of suggestions for self-care (for more input, ask your healthcare provider for resources and check online):

• Do not be hard on yourself; no one is perfect

• Focus on what you can do and prioritize

• Break tasks into smaller steps and do each one when you can

• Follow a routine as much as possible as this gives your loved one security

• Gather much information on your loved-one’s condition

• Ask for help and be specific in what you need; people want to help but may not always know what to do

The most valuable information I can share is to take care of yourself, even if it means paying someone for respite care several hours a week. It is less costly than a hospital bill for you.

Feel free to share your thoughts and comments with us at [email protected]. I personally reply to every email.

Crystal Linn is a multi-published author and an award-winning poet. See crystallinn.com.

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