Get tips to reduce caregiver stress from Navy SEALs
When caring for an older adult, learning to reduce and relieve stress is critical to your health and well-being. But managing stress is easier said than done.
When The Huffington Post asked former Navy SEALs to share their stress-busting secrets, we knew their tips would be helpful for caregivers. Navy SEALs are the special operations force of the U.S. Navy. In their jobs, they frequently face life-threatening danger.
If they can stay calm, manage stress, and avoid burnout under those conditions, their techniques must really work!
4 battle-tested (literally!) stress management tips
1. Visualize success in mental dress rehearsals
When you feel overwhelmed by caregiver stress, practice a technique SEALs call mental loading. If your mind fills with caregiving “what ifs,” run through some realistic scenarios and imagine yourself managing them in the best possible way. This calms anxiety and gives you confidence to react calmly to surprises.
For example, you might worry “What if mom falls while I’m running errands?” Imagine that you find her on the floor when you get back from the store. Visualize yourself staying calm, calling 911, and reassuring mom in a soothing voice. When emergency responders arrive, you speak calmly with them and provide needed info. They decide to take her to the hospital to get checked by a doctor. You grab your hospital essentials bag and follow them, prepared to be your mom’s health advocate.
This might sound horrifying, but when you calmly think through each step in the scenario, it actually becomes less scary and uncertain. It’s something you’d never want to happen in real life, but at least you’re mentally prepared if it does.
2. Use positive self-talk to remember what you’re doing well
Positive self-talk may be the most important skill SEALs learn in their 15-month training. The most successful SEALs learn to turn their negative thoughts around.
When you’re feeling discouraged or having negative thoughts about your caregiving situation, turn them around by reminding yourself that you’re doing a great job and you’ve got the grit and skills to get through tough times.
For example, you might say “I did a great job organizing dad’s medication. Before, he was getting them mixed up or forgetting doses. Now that I got him a pill organizer and posted a chart that shows what he needs to take and when, there are no more mix-ups. I can definitely do this caregiving thing!”
3. Embrace the hard times
The toughest times give you the chance to shine and be awesome. Ok, it’s not the most comforting thought, but the mindset that you can get through it and that you’ll be proud of yourself later helps get you through the times that really suck.
Do your best to meet the challenge and get through it. For example, when your older adult has made yet another giant mess, they’re trying to leave the house at 3am, or you’ve gotten their medical bill and it has thousands of dollars of incorrect charges.
Tell yourself it sucks, but that you can definitely handle it. Afterwards, give yourself with an imaginary medal – you deserve it!
4. Take a deep breath
When you’re feeling stressed, practice what the SEALs call 4 x 4 x 4 breathing. That’s when you inhale deeply for four counts, then exhale for four counts. Repeat the cycle for four minutes, a few times a day. If this breathing technique calms SEALs before they search for hidden bombs, it will most likely help with caregiver stress too.
Next Step Get the full Navy SEAL perspective on managing stress at The Huffington Post
You might also like:
— 2 Ways to Manage Caregiver Emotional Stress: Tips from a Social Worker
— Two Steps to Recover from Caregiver Burnout
— Low Cost Therapy Options Help Caregivers Cope
By DailyCaring Editorial Staff
Image: Caring Senior Service
Thank you very much for share to reduce mental stress, deep breath is really working for all. Personally I use this tips and it is working.
So glad the suggestions in this article are helpful!
Thank you for this website!! I have been caring for my husband for 2 years now. He suffers from Parkinsons and Alzheimers. It is so comforting to know I can share my frustrations and depression with others going thru the same thing. I am 76 years old and suffer from aches and pains and extreme fatigue(physical and psychological). I need all the help and encouragement I can get. I have not had any chance to get away for a respite so I have to treat myself with small escapes during the day while he sleeps. God Bless You.
We’re so glad our website is helpful!! I’m so sorry about your husband 💔 You’re doing a wonderful job caring for him and it’s great that you’re finding ways to take breaks during the day — they help a great deal. For even more support, we’d highly recommend a caregiver support group. It’s so comforting to chat with other people who are going through similar situations. In-person ones are great, but online ones are fantastic too and they’re available 24/7 from anywhere.
More info on caregiver support groups:
And a couple of articles about taking breaks and coping with stress:
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[…] attractive visuals. Check out one of their recent posts to get a sense of their content style- How to Relieve Caregiver Stress: 4 Tips from Navy Seals explains the stress-busting secrets Navy SEALs practice that frazzled caregivers can also apply in […]
BRADLEY A. KENNETT SR
THANK YOU SO MUCH, I’M WILLING TO LISTEN OR READ ANY ADVICE TO HELP ME BECOME MORE HELPFUL AND UNDERSTANDING WHILE I VOLUNTEER TO HELP THESE OLDER MEN AND WOMAN AND THE FAMILIES WHO’S SUFFERING FROM ALZHEIMER’S. AS AMERICANS WE NEED TO PULL TOGETHER AND HELP OUR ELDERLY. I WATCHED MY POOR MOTHER-IN-LAW SUFFER AND LOOSE HER MEMORY OF THE MOST IMPORTANT THINGS IN HER LIFE, HER CHILDREN AND FAMILY. IT’S SO SAD.
Thank you Bradley! I’m so glad you found our website helpful. It’s amazing that you’ve used your experience with your mother-in-law as inspiration to volunteer to help people with Alzheimer’s! The world needs more caring, compassionate folks like you 🙂
(PS – If you’d like more tips and advice, please sign up for our daily email newsletter! Just enter your email address in one of the blue boxes on the right or at the bottom of the page.)