Halloween is a time when even as adults we might be fearful or anxious. Between scary decorations, wanting our kids to be safe and maybe knocks on the door at 11pm by towering teenagers wanting candy…well…it can overwhelm. But it is temporary.
Caregivers may face fear and anxiety all throughout the year. They are normal responses to the many stresses of caregiving and associated issues such as health, financial and other worries. Caregiving often comes with a loss of control. Many caregivers feel uncertain about the future and worry about the suffering, pain of the person for whom they care. Often times it comes as a normal part of the grieving process. Fears about loss of independence, changes in relationships, and bearing the burden of caregiving duties as well as worrying that they will be a burden to others if they reach out to others to share the caregiving duties can be too much to deal with all at once. Many caregivers feel stressed trying to balance work, child care, self-care, and other tasks, along with this extra work. All of this is on top of having to worry about and take care of the person who also needs them.
From the immediate need in the month of October, to managing these issues year round, we’ve provided some tools and techniques to help everyone in the caregiving relationship.
Be Proactive with a Halloween Plan
For seniors who live alone, work with your caregiver to put together a Halloween plan. Many aspects of this plan can also be applied on a daily basis to reduce fears and anxiety. You can still have fun with the holiday and be safety smart.
1) Ask around your neighborhood and social network to see what is going on Halloween night. Then make a decision whether to stay in, or out, and then let your caregiver (s) know your whereabouts.
2) Halloween night at home – You can ask your caregiver, young relative or trusted neighbor drop by and check on you during the peak “trick or treat” hours to deter mischief-makers who will be less likely to bother you if you are not alone in the house. If you choose to answer the door, keep your chain lock in place and pass the candy through the limited opening the chain gap provides. Play it safe and never allow a trick-or-treater into your home to use the bathroom or any other excuse they may think of to enter your home. Have your “speech” ready, which may include that you have company and it is not a good time, but they can try xyz neighbor’s house or the local gas station or convenience store. If you are generally not able to be as mobile as the doorbell will demand, you can also simply leave a basket of candy on the front porch with a sign that says, “Please take one. Happy Halloween.”
3) Halloween night out – Be with other people at a scheduled event either at a neighbor’s house for a casual cup of tea or hot cider, visit your local senior center, or the house of a family member.
Year Round Relaxation Techniques
Whether you are a caregiver or the person receiving care, mindfully practicing relaxation can decreases the effects of stress on your mind and body, ranging from everyday stress to that related to health problems such as cancer and pain. Numerous responsibilities and tasks, or the demands of an illness or just every day “living” all may contribute to you missing out on the health benefits that relaxation can provide.
According to the Mayo Clinic, relaxation techniques can reduce stress symptoms and help you enjoy a better quality of life by:
- Slowing your heart rate
- Lowering blood pressure
- Slowing your breathing rate
- Reducing activity of stress hormones
- Increasing blood flow to major muscles
- Reducing muscle tension and chronic pain
- Improving concentration and mood
- Lowering fatigue
- Reducing anger and frustration
- Boosting confidence to handle problems
Basic relaxation techniques are easy to learn, often free or offered at low cost, have low inherent risk and can be implemented at home, at work or even when you travel. Doing each of these for 15 minutes a day can take you from overwhelm to calm, ready to face whatever else may come your way:
Meditation – Research suggests that daily meditation may alter the brain’s neural pathways, making you more resilient to stress. Start in a sitting position, as it is the most conducive to staying alert and relaxed. For those unable to sit, use the alternate option of lying down. What is most important is what you do with your mind, not what you do with your feet or legs. Close your eyes. Focus your attention on reciting — out loud or silently — a positive message that is soothing to you. Or, if that is not something that is easy for you or you do not know how to start, there are thousands of free You Tube videos that you can access to assist with meditation and relaxation. Some videos have visuals with formal guided meditation. Others have been produced with associated photos or video clips in conjunction with calming music or nature sounds. You can find a perfect fit for your preferences and tastes. See the example below (we have to admit that we listened to this while writing the newsletter and it was very soothing!):
Breathe Deeply – Deep breathing counters the effects of stress by slowing the heart rate and lowering blood pressure. Take a break and focus on your breathing. Sit up straight, eyes closed, with a hand on your abdomen. Slowly inhale through your nose. Be aware of how the breath starts in your abdomen and works its way to the top of your head. As you exhale through your mouth, follow the breath’s path in the opposite direction.
Be Present – Slow down. Be silent. Focus on one thing versus multitasking. What does the air feel like on your face when you’re walking? How do your feet when they hit the ground? When you take a bite of food, what is the texture and the taste? This technique eases tension and quiets the mind.
Tune In to Your Body – Lie on your back, or sit with your feet on the floor. Mentally scan your body from head to toe. What parts are tense? Hurting? Fatigued?
Be Grateful – “A thankful heart is a happy heart.” Being grateful for your blessings has the power to cancel out negative thoughts and worries. Purposefully document your gratitude, either through a social media 100-day gratitude challenge, or keep a gratitude journal on hand throughout the day so that you can remember all the things that are good in your life.