Grandparents raising grandchildren: Your health depends on recognizing signs of stress and being able to practice coping strategies. This article will help.

Less Stress? Sounds easy…but don’t you just hate it when people offer you advice without knowing what it’s like walking in your shoes? But as grandparents raising grandchildren or caregivers, we know all to well that it takes some determination to even find just a little time for the relaxation techniques it takes to take the stress out…there’s always someone or something that needs your attention.

Not only as grandparents raising grandchildren, but also as vital individuals, we need to de-stress ourselves as much as possible, if only for short intervals at a time. If we fail to do so, we increase our chances of becoming ill. If we become ill, we can’t take care of those who rely on us…the grandchildren.

I usually know when I’m stressed…I start to get a headache and palpatations and my stomach tightens up. For others, there may be other signs…we all respond differently to different levels of problems. If you experience any of the following 10 signs of stress, read further for 10 relaxation strategies that may help you take some of the stress out:

  1. pounding heart, dry throat and mouth and sweating not associated with exercise or illness
  2. general irritability or annoyance
  3. an urge to run or hide
  4. trembling
  5. feeling “keyed up”
  6. not sleeping or sleeping too much
  7. being easily startled by small sounds
  8. feeling pressure to be constantly productive
  9. feeling out of control
  10. loss of appetite or eating too much

If you are experiencing any or all of these signs you may benefit from some relaxation exercises. While there are numerous resources for relaxation and coping strategies, most can be done very simply and easily. Here are some stress reduction strategies suggested by Michael Castillo Ph.D., a San Antonio psychologist.

  1. Be aware of when your home is laugh? There must be an interval that perhaps you haven’t noticed before. When you do find it, grab that moment and take time to sit quietly, in a darkened, quiet room with your eyes closed doing a relaxation exercise.
  2. Keep a card in your wallet or purse with a phrase written on it that reminds you to relax or take a deep breath. Be kind to yourself or use tough love…which ever works!
  3. Take several slow deep breaths several times daily, especially in situations that may cause you stress. This is good for traffic jams, while on hold during a telephone call, etc. I could have used this while dealing with our local FIOS provider…I caught myself actually screaming at the top of my lungs because they weren’t getting my point! ugh!!! Ok, I’m taking deep breaths now…
  4. Learn to say no, when asked to do something you either don’t want to do or don’t have time to do. Sometimes you can’t say “no”, but try to be selective. My principal “asked” me to be on a major committee that will be ongoing until I retire…he assured me it was a compliment, not a punishment…I couldn’t say no…but I’ve found other things for which I say NO so I can find time to for this “honor”. Make an “A” list of your priorities with projected time goals, then make a “B” list with projected time needed.
  5. Take time to sit outside in your garden, listen to music you enjoy.
  6. Don’t fill up your calendar completely, leave some times for just doing nothing. Mark the time ahead so when something comes up, you’ll have a reminder…just say, “I have plans”.
  7. Exercise regularly, take a walk, ride a bike or join a gym. Taking a walk can be spur of the moment or planned with a friend. It is low cost and gives a feeling of freedom. Gyms can be crowded, sweaty, and very costly. For the cost of a pair of walking shoes, you can get up, get out, and get de-stressed.
  8. Go exploring with a digital camera, look for the beauty and the unusual.
  9. Have a secret rendezvous…with a book: Find a library with comfortable chairs and hideout while you read some of that book you’ve been meaning to get to.
  10. Limit caffeine, alcohol, and sugar in your diet.

Nana Finds list of 10 ways to Take the Stress Out are all focused on you, the grandparent raising grandchildren…as a real person, an individual. Keep your identity, the person you were before the grandchildren moved in. That is the greatest advice we can give you to help you take some of the stress out of your daily life, to attempt to keep your stress level to a minimum – whatever that is for your situation.

When relaxation strategies don’t work for you after giving them some serious attempts, your stress may be at the next level…anxiety…which needs attention from trained professionals. We have a family member who couldn’t control his stress levels and was not able to control his trembling, pacing, and his mind was always racing over everything that he could possibly worry about. With medication and counseling, he has it under control.

May the stress not be with you…