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How to Relieve Caregiver Stress: 4 Tips from Navy SEALs

caregiver stress

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.

By DailyCaring Editorial Staff Image: Caring Senior Service

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