Relaxation techniques have been shown to support a healthy immune system, help control both blood pressure and blood sugar as well as reduce stress and pain. Their main goal is to bring the mind to focus on the present and bring the awareness to the body. A specific relaxation technique may become one of your elder parent’s favorite bedtime routines. As a family caregiver, it’s a good idea for you to participate in these as well and relieve some of the stress that’s bound to arise.
Tense and Relax. In this relaxation exercise you will be focusing on one group of muscles at a time. Start at the toes and tense them for a few seconds and then relax. In this way, continue up the body from the feet, calves, thighs, hips, stomach, back, chest, fingers, hands, arms, neck, face and scalp. Remind your parent to take their time and enjoy the pleasant sensation that such a deep relaxation brings. And don’t forget to breathe.
Visualization. In this relaxation technique, one focuses on their breath and gradually brings their awareness to a beautiful location in nature. This could be in the mountains by a river or on a white sand beach next to a crystal clear ocean. Choose whatever image evokes the deepest sense of peace. Remain in this place for at least 15 minutes.
Focus on a word or thought. This could be a positive affirmation such as “I am healthy, happy, harmonious, whole, peaceful and powerful.” Again, focus on the breath and the thought. As other thoughts arise, simply look at them as soft, barely noticeable whispers and let them drift out of your consciousness.
Massage. While the other relaxation techniques have focused on the mind, this is one of the most popular relaxation techniques for the body. Massage designed to reduce stress should focus on long and gentle strokes, more in alignment with Swedish massage than with the deeper therapeutic effects of massage techniques such as Trigger Point Therapy. Relax, breathe and feel your body melting.
There is a host of music designed for relaxation as well as recordings of guided imagery and relaxation techniques available online and on YouTube. Sometimes these can help the mind stay focused on the relaxation technique and not drift so readily to pain or fear. If your elder parent is uncertain, try one of these techniques together and enjoy the sense of peace that envelops you. You may find it becomes a daily activity that you and your elder loved one cherish together.