The Whitworths of Arizona, bringing science to you in everyday language.

Friday, February 21, 2014

LBD and Stress 6: Stress Management Tools

Oops! Got ahead of myself and didn't post this last week. Rather than get too far ahead. I'm going back and publishing it this week. Next week, we'll go back to talking about communication. Like the information in the 2/7/14 blog, these tools also send calming directives to the brain. However, they usually take more training. For best effectiveness, choose one or more and make it a part of your weekly, if not daily, routine. Both caregiver and loved one can do these exercises, especially if you begin early in the journey.

The goal of these tools is to send oxygen to your brain and give you some space from what's going on in your head and in your world. Some add exercise which increases oxygen intake and provides a temporary mental escape as well. You will find that you can think more clearly and deal with issues more objectively after a session of any of these stress management tools.

Whole books are written about stress management tools. Colleges and community centers offer classes. Magazines and the internet have countless articles. Here are some suggestions to get you started. Choose one or two to learn more about. Then make them yours by using them regularly.

Muscle relaxation. Tensing and then relaxing muscles one set at a time from toes to head helps to consciously relax tense muscles. It releases the oxygen and energy held there and allows it to travel to places that need it more—like the brain. This is most easily done using an audio tape with guided muscle relaxations.

Self-guided relaxation: Think of a favorite restful place and put yourself there. Mine is sitting with my back against a shady tree near a babbling stream on a warm sunny day. Someone else might imagine they were lying on a beach near the ocean, or relaxing against a rock on top of a mountain with a gorgeous view. Combine this with some deep breathing for best effect. Guided recordings are also available for this type of relaxation.

Meditation: Sit in a comfortable position, close your eyes, breathe deeply and silently repeat a calming word or phrase like Oommm or Let it go. This prevents distracting thoughts while you relax the mind.

Yoga: Perform a series of postures and controlled breathing exercises to promote a more flexible body and a calm mind. While often strenuous, yoga can be adapted to fit the needs of a person with limited physical abilities.

Tai chi: Perform a series of slow graceful movements while practicing deep breathing. Tai chi is recommended for the elderly because the gentle movements are done standing instead of down on the floor.

With any of the above methods, also consider the following:
Be consistent. These tools need to be used regularly. If you don’t like one, try something else until you find one you enjoy. This makes it more likely that you will practice enough to make it a useful tool.
Avoid excitement. An exciting activity may be distracting, but remember that a LBD-compromised ANS may recognize excitement as danger, which will increase not decrease stress.
Practice, practice, practice. First response people like firemen or EMTs practice until their actions in a crisis are second nature. They don’t have to think about them, they just do what they’ve learned to do. Athletes do the same. They don’t become proficient swimmers or ball players or dancers without hours and hours of practice. They too need to train their muscles to act automatically. Practice your chosen stress management method every day so that when a crisis comes, you will be prepared. Practice so that you react with calming behaviors automatically.

Find more about LBD in The Caregiver's Guide to Lewy Body Dementia available on in the LBD Book Corner.

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