There are many aspects of humans to consider when talking about living a holistic, healthy life. In this article we’ll touch on 4 different areas. Caregivers must remember to care for themselves first so that they can provide optimal care for those they are servicing.
Our bodies need rest. Studies show that the vast majority of people need 8 hours of sleep a day. Available research states there are a few people who function normally with less than 5 hours of sleep. But the eight-hour mark is where most human beings must fall. Currently, most people are not getting enough sleep and therefore are not able to perform to their full potential.
If it is difficult being able to get a good night’s rest, there may be respite programs, day programs or in home care that you can utilize in order to get some rest or have time to get a break from caregiving. Geriatrician Dr. Rosemary writes in her book Take Your Oxygen First, that it is imperative that we find ways to take care of ourselves in order to be able to be there for the person living with dementia.
Diet is another way to reduce stress in our life and ensure we are well taken care of. Cutting out processed, fried and high calorie foods is a good place to start. If you have been overwhelmed by the amount of advice and contradicting literature that is out on a healthy diet, here are some very basic steps to starting to eat well.
- Omega 3’s are probably the single most important nutrient we need for brain health.
- Eating healthy fats which include: monounsaturated fats like olive oil and fat from avocado, saturated fats from grass-fed beef, eggs, butter and yogurt and coconut oil, and unsaturated fats from fish oil, flax oil and raw nuts.
- Reducing your sugar intake is another easy way to improve your diet and exercise is really important to reducing stress and having a healthy lifestyle.
Exercise is also an important factor in reducing negative stress and adding some positive stress to the body. Exercise that is the most beneficial is aerobic exercise. Twenty minutes of walking or swimming will improve your health and can dramatically decrease stress.
It is important to find ways to maintain our emotional state. Being a caregiver to someone who is living with brain change can be emotionally draining. As the person we care for changes, we can often feel a range of emotions that include but are not limited to sadness, pity, compassion and anger. It is important that we remember that feeling these emotions is normal. We can have anticipatory grief for what is to come, and we grieve the changing stages of dementia. Our brain is designed for joy, love, and connection. It thrives in positive emotional conditions. It is important to find people with whom we can connect and find support when we are caregivers, and a good resource is the Alzheimers Associate Atlanta Chapter.
When we learn new things and engage our brains in fun and creative ways, our brain is stimulated. Reading, and writing have been shown to help maintain brain health, as well as working our memory, learning new information or adapting to new ways of doing a task. If you can find new routes to the store, pick up a new hobby, learn something new on the computer, or write in a journal, this learning will help reduce your stress and can improve brain health. The website Games For the Brain is an easy way to start.
It is also very important to recognize and value our spiritual life. For some of us our spiritual path includes a religious tradition, but it can also be found in nature, in sacred spaces, being with people who share our beliefs and values. In times of stress and difficulty, it can be difficult to find ways to slow down and quiet our mind in order to meditate and pray. One way that helps us move into a space where we are able to quiet our minds is to find our spiritual on-ramp. This on-ramp is the way that we are oriented to our world. There are all kinds of misconceptions about how we should meditate and pray but the one way that can really help is finding our spiritual on-ramp.
We are all oriented to our world differently and therefore your meditation may not look like someone else’s meditation or prayer. Some people are oriented to their world through their sight. If you are a person who is visual, you may find your spiritual on-ramp through different sights. If you are a person who is oriented to their world through sound, you may find your on-ramp through music or guided meditation through a drumming circle or nature sounds. If you are a person who loves to move, you may find your best ways of meditating are when walking, dancing, or doing another kind of physical activity.
Final Stress Reduction Tip
One more tip to decrease the stress of an already very busy life with many decisions to make, is to sit down and write up a list of things that you can do to reduce our stress in your life. Therefore, when you find that you are feeling stressed, you do not have to think about what to do, just go to the list and pick out something!
Orchard at Athens wants to be part of your solution and help make your life work for you! We do this by supporting you in a holistic approach to life and focus on the body, heart, mind and spirit, and are always open to being flexible and creating new opportunities to make your life work for you. We have a highly trained team seeking that you and your loved one keep your focus on the health and well-being a holistic approach to live can create, no matter a medical condition. Please contact us to learn more about our community.