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Care4Elders Columnist Barbra Cohn
Barbra Cohn
Professional Writer and Nutrition Educator

10 Easy Ways Caregivers Can Reduce Stress and Feel Happier and Healthier

My husband had younger-onset Alzheimer's disease, and I spent a decade caring for him before he died in the summer of 2010.

Every day, I put the toothpaste on his toothbrush and walked him through the steps of his morning and evening hygiene routine.

I reminded him repeatedly how to fill a glass with water. I coached him while he dressed, making sure he put on clean underwear and clothing appropriate for the weather.

And I listened to him ask the same questions, often three times within five minutes. It was enough to fray the nerves of Mother Teresa, and I'm no saint.
But I have a strong spiritual background and an ever-evolving philosophy about life and death, which enabled me to weather the storms that arose more often than end-of-summer hurricanes.

And as a professional health writer I had the advantage of researching the myriad modalities that help care partners (the term used when speaking of both patient and caregiver) travel on Alzheimer's slippery slope.

Now that my husband has passed away, I want to help other caregivers reduce stress and maintain their health and well-being.

Based on my personal experience, career as a health writer/researcher and nutrition educator, I offer information on how to maintain equanimity and your health through the use of nutritional supplements, a holistic diet, healing modalities, stress reduction techniques, and much more in my new book, "Calmer Waters: The Caregiver's Journey Through Alzheimer's and Dementia" and on my blog thehealthycaregiverblog.com.

Here are 10 easy waysto help you feel better quickly by enhancing your mood.

  1. Breathe deeply. Most of us breathe shallow breaths that restrict oxygen flow to the lungs and throughout the body, resulting in fatigue and depletion of our vital energy.
  2. Breathing is not only free, but it will set you free. Try this simple exercise: Sit on a chair with your back straight and focus on your breath. Take a deep breath, and then let it go, exhaling all the stale air out of your lungs. Continue for several minutes.

  3. Notice any sensations in your body. Eventually your body and thoughts will settle down, and you'll emerge feeling more relaxed. Try to do this at least five minutes on a regular basis.
  4. Find something to laugh about every day. When your care partner does or says something outrageous, instead of getting upset or angry turn it around and laugh with him/her (not at her).

    It will diffuse the situation and bring the two of you emotionally closer. You can always watch brief "you tube" videos that will elicit least a smile, and hopefully a belly laugh.

  5. Keep a journal. Writing down your fears and frustrations is a wonderful way to express your thoughts quickly without having to leave the comfort of your home.
  6. Don't worry about spelling or grammar. Just get the words down quickly. You'll be surprised by how much better you feel afterwards.

  7. Move! Exercise is vital to staying healthy and strong. The days you feel "stuck" or stiff are the days it's most important to put on your walking shoes, sunglasses, and a hat, and go for a walk.
  8. Take a bath. Hydrotherapy has been used for thousands of years as a healing modality throughout the world to relieve stress, release aches and stiffness, and refresh the mind and emotions. For an added benefit, add Epsom salts and/or essential oil.
  9. Sunbathe for a vitamin D boost and quick mini vacation.
  10. Dance is an amazing healing aid that can instantly enhance your mood and create joy. Put on your favorite Motown, R & B or salsa music and dance in your living room as though no oneis watching.
  11. Chat with/walk with a friend or with you pet dog.
  12. Before getting out of bed in the morning repeat an affirmation several times to set the tone of the day. Some idea: "Today is going to be a good day," "I am a loving, kind person," "I am grateful for my family and friends."
  13. Calm yourself with calming foods. Studies show an association between the levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin and mood.
  14. The good news is you can naturally increase your serotonin levels with food such as these: sweet potatoes, brown rice, oatmeal, amaranth, buckwheat, millet and quinoa allow your brain to process more serotonin.

    Eating protein and healthy omega-3 fats, found in fish, walnuts and flax, will also improve mood. B vitamins, which are abundant in fresh leafy greens and in chemical-free, pasture-raised meat, are another important factor because they're needed for serotonin production.

    Leafy greens, such as spinach, kale, collard greens, are high in folic acid, a B vitamin. Low levels are linked to depression. Bananas contain vitamin B6. They are high in potassium, an important electrolyte for a happy and calm mind.

"Calmer Waters: The Caregiver's Journey Through Alzheimer's and Dementia" contains dozens of more techniques, tips and wisdom to help you care for yourself while caring for a loved one. Available wherever quality books are sold

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About the Author

Barbra Cohn has been a professional writer for 35 years, and has written hundreds of health and travel articles for national, regional and local publications.
For a decade, she cared for her husband, Morris, who passed away from younger-onset Alzheimer's disease at age 69.

In addition to holding a Master's degree in professional writing, Barbra holds a BA in both English and Religious Studies and a Certificate in Nutrition from the Bauman College of Holistic Nutrition and Culinary Arts.

As a nutrition educator, she offers nutritional support to caregivers, guiding them to make healthy food and lifestyle choices.

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