DE-STRESSING is something everyone should learn to do. For some people, yoga sessions or massages work wonders for them. For others, it could be cooking, painting, art and craft, or going out for walks or movies.

It’s great when you can find such regular “me time” to rejuvenate, away from work and home. This is something that’s much needed, which is why employers grant a set number of days for the employee to take a break. Then there’s also the time off for emergency leave, compassionate leave and so on.

For caregivers, however, it’s not quite straightforward or easy. Unless you have a good support system, you’re on call almost 24/7. One of the few ways for caregivers to de-stress is to sneak some time for themselves if they’re not too tired.

Hot and cold towels are one of the best things I find that can help – hot towels to relax, and cold towels to refresh. Keep half a dozen ready to use in the fridge. Store them in a plastic container. You can scent those towels with refreshing fragrances of essential oils.

For hot towels, just soak the towel in water enough to get the entire face towel wet, and microwave it on high for a minute. If you find that one minute isn’t long enough to heat the towel, just zap it for another minute.

Be careful to test the towel first and shake off the initial heat so that you don’t burn yourself. Place the towel on your face and neck. You’ll feel instantly soothed. The heat of the towel can help you relax instantly.

If you’ve been on your feet most of the day, soaking your feet in warm water can help ease out the tension. Add some Epsom salt or any coarse salt to it and a few drops of essential oils to really get the full effects.

I’ve often wondered how Epsom salt can help. It seems that the magnesium in Epsom salt can be absorbed through the skin, which can help reduce swelling and pain related to inflammation. It’s also great for other foot issues like itchy feet.

TIME OUT

On some days, a long hot shower or bath can help you relax. Take some time for an unhurried shower to melt the stresses away. Massage your head as you shampoo and loofah your skin gently using your favourite scented soaps. You’ll feel the difference from the usual one-minute shower that you’re accustomed to just to deal with the day’s tasks.

To unwind for the evening, a nice cup of hot tea can help you in more ways than one. Choose tea over coffee if you can, and avoid black teas for the evening. Instead, opt for some flower or herbal teas like chrysanthemum, rose, lavender, lemongrass or ginger.

Through the years, I’ve developed a ritual to wind down using these simple steps because there were times I couldn’t leave the loved one in my care alone. But even on days that I could, I wouldn’t. I’d instead share this ritual with them.

On a calm and uneventful evening, I’d do a footbath together with my late mum if she were game to join in. We’d sit side by side, and I’d put on some soothing music or one of those nature sounds like crashing waves or babbling brook.

I’d dim the light and put on some scented candles for full effect. Mum used to laugh when we did this, saying that it was our spa night. These days scented candles in an air-conditioned room are no longer recommended. You could instead use a diffuser with essential oils for the same effect.

It’s amazing what simple things like these can achieve. The flickering lights and the entire set up was so relaxing that in between the silence mum would sometimes open up and tell stories about herself.

There were times when she’d protest the end of the session. She wanted it to go on. I’d have to coax her to get her feet out of the water, rinse them and gently dry them. While I massaged some foot lotion before putting on her socks, I’d also inspect her toes to see if there were cuts or wounds that needed attention. At this point in her life, we had to take diabetic foot care very seriously. She nearly lost a toe due to infection a few years before.

At the end of each day, and if I still had the energy for it, I’d write in my journal about the day’s events. Most of the time it was very short. There’d be days when I needed to vent and it would be there that I poured my heart out. Nothing was more satisfying than using pen on paper.

Whatever you choose to do, the net result is the same: less stress equals to better mood.

Putri Juneita Johari volunteers for the Special Children Society of Ampang. She can be reached at [email protected].