Caregivers spend a lot of time in “fight or flight” stress mode
When you’re in a stressful situation, your body automatically goes into “fight or flight” mode. In prehistoric times, fight or flight mode helped early humans protect themselves from danger like hungry tigers.
This mode helps keep you alive, but is tough on the body. That’s why it’s important to turn it off once the danger has passed.
To help your body switch into the relaxation response and de-stress, we found a free mobile app that gets the job done quickly. It uses visual cues for a simple breathing exercise that can be done anywhere, anytime.
Constant stress causes serious health problems
Today, we don’t have to worry about wild animal attacks. But a caregiver’s days are filled with the daily stresses that come with helping your older adult with bathing, dressing, cooking, and everything else they need.
This constant stress keeps that fight or flight response active all the time, which is harmful to your body. It can cause a variety of serious health problems, including heart disease, cancer, diabetes, decreased immune system, anxiety, and depression.
Slow, deep breathing brings stress relief for caregivers
It’s not realistic to completely avoid the caregiving stress in our lives, but it is possible is to practice healthier ways of responding to and managing stressful situations.
An effective and fast-acting caregiver stress relief tip is to use a slow, deep breathing technique developed at Harvard Medical School by cardiologist Dr. Herbert Benson.
This type of breathing shifts your body out of “fight or flight” mode and into the relaxation response. This quickly decreases stress and lowers blood pressure.
Free app helps you relax through slow breathing exercises
We found a free mobile app called MyCalmBeat that helps you breathe slowly and deeply. No sign up is needed and it’s available for free on iPhone and Android mobile devices.
According to the app, taking about 6 breaths per minute switches off the “fight or flight” system. The more you use the app to practice your slow, deep breathing, the more your body will get used to switching into this mode when you need to calm down and relax.
MyCalmBeat app home screen
How to use the MyCalmBeat app
Set your breathing rate
The Breathing Rate is how many breaths per minute you’ll be taking. Test it out to find the rate that works best for you – start with 6, but feel free to adjust.
Set the timer
The timer to the left is how long you want to do the breathing exercise. Use the up and down arrows to set it for as little as 1 minute or as long as 20 minutes. Whenever we try it, we can feel relaxed after only 2 minutes!
Follow the “breathing” on the screen
When you press the start button, you’ll see the lungs on the screen filling up and emptying out.
Do your best to match your breathing to what you’re seeing on the screen. If it’s too fast or slow, adjust the breathing rate until it feels good to you. The idea is to breathe as slowly and deeply as is comfortable.
Adjust the bell sound
There’s a bell that signals when to breathe in and out. If you don’t like the sound, you can easily switch it off by tapping the sound icon in the upper left corner.
Exhaling along with the app
Stress is something that comes with the territory when you’re caring for an older adult. It can’t be completely eliminated, so the best we can do is learn how to manage the stress so it doesn’t damage our bodies and minds.
Give this free app a try and find out how a simple thing like breathing slowly and deeply can be so calming and relaxing.
Recommended for you:
— Stress Relief for Caregivers: Free App Helps You Relax in 2 Minutes – Calm.com
— Manage Caregiver Stress with a Useful Smartphone App: Virtual Hope Box
— Reduce Caregiver Stress Using Your Smartphone Alarm
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