Simple Self-Care Techniques for Caregivers

The Presbyterian Disaster Assistance National Response Team hosted a “Care for Caregivers” workshop on May 14-15 at the Joint Field Office in Everett, where the Washington Emergency Management Division, FEMA and other federal agencies are partnering together in SR 530 Slide recovery.

The Caregiver workshop was a special time for disaster workers to reflect on their SR 530 Slide recovery experiences, practice self-care tools, and craft a personal self-care plan for future use.Three people stand in front of a table with candles and objects meant to calm and soothe such as leaves and glass.

“I could feel the weight lifting from my shoulders” said FEMA Disaster Recovery Center Manager Wendy Newsom.

Many of the self-care techniques are simple steps anyone needing to manage stress can incorporate into their busy schedules.

Set the stage: Having a calm, peaceful setting helps you relax and prepare to reflect and meditate. Facilitators encouraged lighting scented candles, playing soft music, or finding a comfortable place to relax. Let people around you know you need time to yourself and ask not to be interrupted.

Relax and Breath: Mindful breathing is a way to help you relax and clear your mind. Breathing exercises can be done anywhere, anytime, and require no special equipment. One example, the 4-7-8 exercise, also known as Relaxing Breath, is described as “a natural tranquilizer.”

Writing, journaling, drawing: Whatever your preference is, put your story to paper. Start with the phrase “This has been a time when….” Expressing thoughts on paper helps sort out personal feelings and emotions. Do you notice any special words or themes? Why? Did you find any surprises? One workshop participant explained how he found himself writing about a crisis in his life that occurred 20 years ago. He was surprised at how the SR 530 Slide took him back in time.

Share with others: Workshop participants wrote their words on colorful pieces of paper, and then taped them on the wall to depict a “Patchwork Quilt of Emotions.” The workshop group’s quilt represented emotions like: love, inspiration, anger, grief, challenged, gratitude, and unfinished. It helps to know you aren’t alone in your thoughts and feelings.

Acknowledge stress: After a traumatic event, physical or emotional reactions are common. Reactions may appear shortly after the event or some time later. Examples are fear, sadness, or shock; confusion, oversensitivity, or nightmares. Behavioral changes might be withdrawal, loss of appetite or emotional outbursts. Spiritually you may feel doubt, emptiness, or anger. Consider how you’ve been feeling or acting.

Identify ways to cope: Think about an extremely stressful situation from the past. What did you do that made you feel better? Some people like to sit on the beach, take a walk in the woods, go fishing, or sing. Others exercise, read, cook, or write. Learn to laugh. Learn to cry. Hug your kids, play with a pet. Talk to someone who will listen without judging or trying to solve the problem.

Physical well-being: Self-care when you aren’t under stress can be just as important. General good health and a balanced lifestyle will help with personal resilience. Eat a well-balanced diet, exercise, drink plenty of water, get enough sleep.

The Snohomish County provides information for managing stress online. To access the information click SnoCo resources.

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