Parent Carer Wellbeing Stress busters by Joanna Griffin

Quick and easy stress busters for times when things are overwhelming.

There is considerable evidence for part of our nervous system called the vagus nerve – which connects the gut to the brain – playing a vital role in our wellbeing. The vagus nerve is an important part of the parasympathetic nervous system. It carries signals to and from the brain and regulates the body when it is in a calm and relaxed state.

Here are some simple strategies that tone your vagus nerve and have a stress-relieving effect on body and mind:

  • Movement – such as sitting on a gym ball or in a rocking chair
  • Physical warmth – holding a hot drink, wrapping up in a warm blanket
  • Sing, chant or hum
  • Breathing techniques which focus on extended exhalation (sighing, blowing bubbles)
  • Massage the sides of your neck
  • Look after your gut health
  • Connect with people that feel safe

Physical touch is also beneficial for our wellbeing. It soothes and calms the body. Once again it is connected to the vagus nerve and touch can produce oxytocin – often referred to as the ‘love hormone’.  This is why sometimes a massage may be helpful for wellbeing.  You can trigger this response with a cuddle with your child or partner or even stroking your pet.  A recent study suggested just ten minutes of interaction with cats and dogs showed a significant reduction in stress hormones.

Unfortunately for many parent carers when our stress levels are high our sleep suffers. This then has a knock on effect on all other areas of our life. When we are sleep deprived it is harder to problem solve, notice positives and look after ourselves in healthy ways (e.g. we may crave unhealthy, quick-fix food and avoid doing exercise).

There are useful tips for getting a good nights’ sleep here.

I share many strategies for looking after your wellbeing in my book, Day by Day: Emotional Wellbeing in Parents of Disabled Children, which is available here. The book includes tips from other parent carers as well as research more widely.

Wellbeing is personal and may entail different things on different days. It is helpful to have a wide-ranging repertoire of things that help you and I hope that by sharing what I have learnt in my personal and professional journey others may find something that resonates with them

You can purchase Joanna’s book Day by Day: Emotional Wellbeing in Parents of Disabled Children here: https://amzn.to/3k1NReK

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