This blog is for the person with early LBD although the information works for anyone. The brain is a wonderful organ that can calm with soothing messages almost as easily as it excites with danger messages. The “almost” is because it does take a little more effort at first. Sending these calming messages isn’t as instinctual as the flight and fight reaction that leads to so much stress. However, with practice it can become second nature. The following ideas don’t take any training although they do improve with use. Practice them daily:
Use compassion. This is usually easier with others than it is with oneself. When you feel overwhelmed, ease back on your standards, slow down, and treat yourself gently.
A friend asked me to review her writing. I was glad to oblige. I’ve done a lot of proofreading in the past and I’ve always enjoyed doing it. But not this time. When there was more than a single comma in a sentence, I’d find myself going back and re-reading it over and over. I couldn’t seem to get past those commas! I called my friend and told her she’d have to find someone else. This was too stressful for me. –Jan
Jan is beginning to notice some early LBD symptoms. Commas separate thoughts or ideas. Several in a single sentence triggered her budding LBD and stopped her reading. Jan knows the importance of managing stress and so she didn’t punish herself by trying to continue to do something that had become too frustrating. She gave herself credit for trying and moved on. If you begin to feel you’ve failed, be as generous with yourself as you would be with a loved one.
Use positive thoughts. Negative messages increase anxiety and keep the ANS sending out those danger signals. Rephrase to make your experience positive. For example a problem is a challenge—something to make life more interesting. Instead of thinking, “I can’t do that anymore” tell yourself, “It won’t hurt to try.” Trying and not succeeding isn’t failure; it’s a learning experience. When you take longer to do something than in the past, don’t consider yourself too slow. Think instead, think “I have plenty of time.”
Remove negatives like can’t, from your vocabulary. Like Jan, you may find some tasks that used to be easy are now frustrating. Instead of telling yourself, “I can’t do that anymore” think, “I’m taking care of myself by eliminating unnecessary frustration.”
Listen to music. Soft, easy listening music is relaxing for most people. Our bodies will slow down or speed up to match the music. It is also a part of many stress management exercises. Be careful not to let it be distracting however.
Exercise. Besides including regular exercise in your schedule, add a little more when you feel uptight. There is a strong connection between exercise of any kind and stress reduction. It increases your feel-good endorphins, improves your mood, distracts you and becomes “meditation in motion.”
Do deep breathing. Stop whatever you are doing and take some deep breaths immediately when you begin to feel stressed. Taking slow deep breaths increases oxygen and adds to your reserves. This slows a racing brain and helps you think more clearly. You can do deep breathing anywhere, anytime. However, regular practice is also important so that when you need it, you can do it correctly. Be careful not to hyperventilate by exhaling more air than inhaled. This results in dizziness and adds to the problem instead of reducing it.
A Caregiver's Guide to Lewy Body Dementia is a resource book for all LBD caregivers. Go to The LBD Book Corner in LBDtools.com to buy the book from Amazon. The small fee they pay us helps to support our work.