When we are stressed, when we are tired and overwhelmed, it’s easy to hold our breath without even knowing it. And when we do that, we deprive ourselves of oxygen, which, in turn, limits our ability to think clearly in the moment and do things like problem-solving and affect-regulation.
Caring for family members with dementia — which is on the rise in the U.S. — causes significant emotional and physical stress that increases caregivers’ risk of depression, anxiety and death. A method presented in one study for coping with that stress by teaching people how to focus on positive emotions reduced their anxiety and depression after six weeks. It also resulted in better self-reported physical health and positive attitudes toward caregiving.
“This study is a reminder to step back and look at what your partner is coping with, to learn about their health conditions, to be conscious of it on a daily basis, and for grown children and clinicians to do the same,” she says. “Having that awareness, and helping one another manage health problems while watching for signs of depression, may help both members of a couple over time.”
Chronic pain is physically and psychologically stressful and its constant discomfort can lead to feelings of anger and frustration. While the medical community may be able to provide treatment for the physical aspects of chronic pain, psychologists are uniquely trained to help manage the mental and emotional aspects of this often debilitating condition and can offer many avenues for pain relief and management. Counselors can help to re-frame negative thinking patterns about pain that may be interfering with normal daily functions such as work, and relationships.
Creative activities like art-making are mindful practices, allowing patients and caregivers to stay in the moment, which by definition can free them from the stress that cancer brings. Caregivers experience stress, which can affect their own health and the patient’s outcome. A recent study showed coloring and open-studio art therapy benefits stressed caregivers of cancer patients.