A grandparent raising her grandchildren once told me, “The definition of life is STRESS.” As you read in a previous post on NanaFinds,10 Signs to Recognize Stress and 10 Ways to Take the Stress Out, one of the techniques listed was exercise. The importance of exercise cannot be stressed enough, especially at our age.

Not only is exercise important for maintaining a healthy body, it is also essential for maintaining a healthy mind and coping with stress. If you’re a grandparent living with high levels of stress while raising your grandchildren, you’re putting your entire well-being (and your grandchildren’s) at risk. Stress narrows your ability to think clearly, function effectively, and enjoy life. Before you, the grandparents, can care for the the grandchildren you are raising, you need to take care of yourself first.

Exercise, one of the most useful stress management skills that grandparents raising grandchildren can use, is also known as moving meditation. This stress reduction technique of exercise can be accomplished with little or no instruction and can fit in with your busy schedule. No one exercise is preferable-you need to find what works best for you. Exercising regularly, even just 20 minutes at a time, until it becomes a habit that is part of your lifestyle is the key.

  • Exercise can cause release of chemicals called endorphins into your blood stream. These give you a feeling of happiness and positively affect your overall sense of well-being.
  • Physically fit people have less extreme physiological responses when under pressure than those who are not. This means that fit people are more able to handle the long-term effects of stress, without suffering ill health or burnout.
  • The physiological effects of regular participation in exercise (jogging, bicycling, brisk walking, hiking, swimming, dancing) is very similar to what happens when one practices meditation. Breathing and movement, act as a mantra and may in part be responsible for the feelings of calmness and tranquility claimed by some in response to exercise.
  • Listening to up-beat music can help motivate and maintain a desired pace of breathing and movement.

The time spent exercising, even if just walking around the block, can be also used for self-reflection or creative problem solving for grandparents, such as “How can I react in a more positive manner the next time my grandchild….? or “How can we, as a family, get up and out in the morning with less chaos?”

With a constant, repetitive motion your mind becomes more relaxed, and your thought process flows more easily making it easier to “see” things more clearly.

Nana Finds for grandparents raising grandchildren…

Exercising by yourself can be rewarding when you remember that you are accomplishing something for yourself and giving yourself some “me” time.

Exercising, no matter which one you choose, can be a free or low cost stress reducing technique, but participation must be long-term and consistent in order for it to be effective for reducing stress and improving your health.