Unless one is part of the Activity Professional in-crowd, itís hard for many people to understand how incredibly stressful this profession can be. Who would have thought? I know I didnít when I first started out. Even when you feel down in the dumps, sick, tired, apathetic, etc. you HAVE to smile and be at the top of your game. Itís part of the deal and the role we play as Activity Professionals. Activity Professionals are on the front-line with the residents and cannot take refuge behind closed doors, in an office, for example. Plus, we are expected to smile and bring joy to others. Itís certainly not an easy task to smile when you are feeling overwhelmed, exhausted, or simply BLAH!
We all know how important it is to de-stress the mind, body, and spirit but what can we do about it? I am not a doctor or expert but these are things that I personally do to unwind and de-stress!
1. Make time every single day for yourself Ė This is number one on the list for good reason. It may appear to be selfish and perhaps you feel you need to care for others first, which is likely the case being you have chosen this caregiving profession. But when your cup runneth over, you have nothing more to give. Itís pretty simple. Even if it is 15 minutes a day, make a commitment to yourself to do something that will help your overall health and well-being. You are worth it!
2. Walk, run, exercise Ė Yes, you run around all day long exercising with the residents, pushing wheelchairs, moving tables, etc. Thatís wonderful for your body. But itís also important to exercise, walk etc. for enjoyment. Maybe you can take a walk around the block during your lunch break or incorporate other kinds of exercise routines into your personal schedule. It makes a huge difference.
3. Drink Tea Ė Tea is so glorious and in many cases, very healthy for us. Some of my favorite teas for de-stressing include green tea or chamomile tea. I also love fresh ginger or cinnamon tea, although those arenít typically relaxing. Other soothing teas may include peppermint, lemon balm, or rose hip.
4. Music and Sounds Ė Relaxing music, inspirational music, nature sounds, playing an instrument, drumming circles, bell ringing, tuning forks, singing bowls, etc. can help you to relax. You are surrounded by noise all day long, correct? And then perhaps you like to watch TV, listen to music, watch videos, etc. Thereís nothing wrong with it if that is what makes you happy. But consider what you are watching or listening to. Studies show that music can affect our brain chemistry and our overall health. For example, listening to upbeat music can increase our heartbeat, maybe something we donít want to do if we want to relax. Hereís a great video to learn a bit more. There are also amazing videos on Youtube that demonstrate how various frequencies affect sand and water. One can only imagine then, how WE are affected. To quote Nikola Tesla, ďIf you wish to understand the universe, think of energy, frequency and vibrationĒ. Point being, try listening to some calming music or sounds. It really can set the mood.
5. Breathing Techniques Ė Deep Breathing is crucial to most relaxation techniques. When we relax, our breathing becomes deeper and slower and our heart rate decreases. This is so simple and really can be done anytime or anywhere. For a quick calming reaction, simply breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth. Do this a few times. Itís amazing how fast oxygen can help calm us. Research diaphragmatic breathing for tips on how to make the most of your breaths. You can also try something called, left and right nostril breathing, to help you with your mood and energy! This is a technique where you can breathe in and out through one nostril or alternate nostrils depending on what you are looking to do.
6. Meditation Ė Meditation is a technique that allows an individual to reach an altered state of awareness and focus. I know what you are thinking, ďI donít have timeĒ or ďI canít calm my brainĒ. Meditation doesnít have to be a big ordeal. Thereís something called mindful meditation where you focus on one thing, for example your heartbeat. Pay attention to your heartbeat. When your mind starts to wander and you are thinking about all of the things you need to do, then go back to your heartbeat. You allow your mind to wander but bring your attention back to your heartbeat or whatever you choose to focus on. Guided meditation is also wonderful for those who have trouble with meditation. The key is to be relaxed and comfortable. Even just a few minutes a day can be very therapeutic. Learn more about meditation here.
7. Say positive affirmations - Often times an affirmation, also known as an intention, is spoken out loud, to oneself, and/or written on a piece of paper and placed on various locations. I have a brand new inservice about affirmations available on my website. If you would like to learn more, click here. Affirmations should be very personalized but here are some sample affirmations for calm and peace:
I am calm and relaxed.
I release all stress and anxiety.
I inhale the positive and exhale the negative.
I am blessed, not stressed.
7. Essential Oils and Olfactory Stimulation - If you decide to work with essential oils, please check with your doctor and vet, and do research first. There are many precautions to consider for yourself and your furry friends. Some suggested oils that assist with stress reduction include: lavender, sage, rose, chamomile, or vanilla. You may also burn scented candles, sage, palo santo wood, or incense. You may also sniff fresh lavender, teas, or anything you find soothing.
8. Crystals Ė I wasnít sure if I was going to address crystals in this article. Letís face it, most of you will likely think itís a bit ďout thereĒ or against your belief system. Thatís ok. You can skip this part and go right to animals. However, this wouldnít be an authentic list of my favorite top de-stressing tips if I neglected to mention crystals and minerals. The crystals that I find help me to relax include: Rose Quartz, Blue Calcite, Septarian Nodule, Himalayan Salt, and Lepidolite. One day, I gifted a friend of mine a lovely Rose Quartz polished palmstone. She knows nothing of crystals or proposed metaphysical properties. Two weeks after I gifted this to her, she called me and explained how relaxed she feels when she holds this stone. I then went on to tell her about Rose Quartz and how (in my experience) it offers a calming, loving energy. Another excellent crystal is Himalayan Salt and you likely have seen the salt lamps in many mainstream stores. I find them to be especially calming. If youíd like to learn more about salt lamps, please feel free to watch my video about this subject. I wonít go further into the topic of crystals here, but if you are interested in learning more, please feel free to reach out to me.
9. Animals Ė Research shows that animals help us to have a more joyous life. They remind us to play and relax and offer unconditional love. Even if you donít have your own pet, you can benefit from animals by going to a park, sitting outside, volunteering at a pet shelter, and so on.
10. Play or hobbies Ė I donít even have to mention how crucial playtime is! You do this for a living but we often forget to engage in our own hobbies. What do you love to do? Well, do it! You know itís therapeutic for your mind, body and spirit. This is where you need to walk your talk, if you know what I mean.
11. Take a bath Ė Doesnít a nice, steamy, hot bath sound good? Light some candles. Put on some relaxing music, grab a good book, and sink down into a soothing bath. You may add bath salts or essential oils to enhance the experience.
12. Get outside Ė Sunshine, fresh air, grounding and negative ions are sure to help you feel calmer. You likely are aware that we get vitamin D from the sun and sad to say, many people donít get enough vitamin D. I can attest to how that can cause not only physical issues but also emotional. As for grounding, this is a term that refers to tapping into the electrical energy of the Earth. Think about this saying, ďA tree with weak roots will fall overĒ. There are many references to this concept. You hear of ďhaving both feet planted on the groundĒ, and phrases like this. This is referring to being stable and connected to the Earth. When you walk barefoot outside on the grass or on the beach, you are connecting directly to the Earth and that feels AMAZING! Thereís research on this. Dig deeper if you are interested. Negative ions is another one you may wish to investigate. Ever wonder why you feel so relaxed and peaceful after being near a waterfall, in a forest, or at the beach? Part of that is the grounding experience but itís also the positive effect that negative ions have on us. This is science. Point being, get outside and tune into nature.
There are many other ways you can de-stress such as yoga, tai chi, fun with friends/family, dancing, art, writing, reading, gardening, vacations, and so on. I just wanted to share my top 12. Remember to refer back to my number one tip. You have to make the time for yourself to relax, rejuvenate, and de-stress so you can be the best you the world has to offer.