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Taking care of yourself

  • To take care of your loved one, you also need to take care of yourself.

    • Take time each day to be by yourself, or take one or two days off during the week. This can refresh you and help you provide better care.
    • Take time to do activities you enjoy.
    • Do not be afraid to ask your loved one's care circle for help.
    • Ask about community agencies, volunteer groups, churches, respite care or nursing agencies that can help you.
    • Talk to a psychologist about how your life has changed.
    • Join a support group.

    Support groups

    Support group members share common experiences about caring for a loved one. Members "lend an ear" so you can share your feelings with others who may have similar needs and feelings.

    Support groups can also give you ongoing education, helpful tips and sources of help in the community. Support group members can become your new friends or give you support.

    Tips for reducing stress

    • Take stroke recovery one day at a time. Be hopeful for a successful recovery.
    • Appreciate each small gain your loved one makes. Your loved one's emotions and ability to do things may vary day to day because of fatigue. He or she may need to learn how to do things in different ways or try new ways of doing tasks, talking, speaking and organizing his or her social life.
    • Expect that your skills and knowledge of how to provide care will improve. This is a time of learning for both you and your loved one.
    • Plan for breaks so you and your loved one are not together all the time. Time apart is important for both you and your loved one. Try to do activities that get you both out of the house.
    • Ask your loved one's care circle to help.
    • Try relaxation, massage or meditation to cope with your stress. Ask a nurse about your options.
    • Learn from others who have had similar experiences. Read about them or join an in-person or online support group.
    • Be patient with and kind to each other. You may feel frustrated some times. Do not take your frustrations out on others. Talk with a family member, friend, professional or support group about your feelings.

    Progressive muscle relaxation

    Progressive muscle relaxation is a short and easy exercise to help you relax.

    Getting started

    Find a relaxing position. You may sit down or lie on your back in bed. Be sure your legs and hands are not crossed.

    You may close your eyes. If you prefer, you can keep your eyes open, but focus on one spot in front of you.

    Bring your attention to your breathing. Think about where your breath comes in and out of your nose or mouth. Think about how your chest moves up and down with each breath.

    Imagine a gentle, safe wave of relaxation that will slowly and warmly flow through your body. The wave can help you find those places that need to relax and give them permission to relax.

    You can also imagine this wave in any way you find most comfortable. You may see it as light, water or just a feeling.

    If your mind wanders, gently bring it back to your breathing.

    Relax from your head to your feet

    • Bring your attention to the top of your head and begin to imagine a wave.
    • With your next breath out, feel the wave flow through your head. Feel your jaw soften and relax.
    • Breathe in.
    • With your next breath out, focus on the back of your neck. Let it soften and relax.
    • Breathe in.
    • With your next breath out, imagine the wave moving through each arm all the way to your hands. Feel your hands become slightly heavier where they are lying.
    • Breathe in.
    • With your next breath out, imagine the wave of relaxation roll gently and safely down your spine. Let all of your back muscles relax and soften.
    • Continue to breathe. Feel the wave flow as you breathe out.
    • Let the wave flow through your pelvic area and hips into your upper legs and thighs.
    • Breathe in.
    • With your next breath out, allow the wave to find those areas in your legs and knees that need to relax. Give them permission to relax.
    • Breathe in.
    • With your next breath out, feel the wave move into your calves, then your feet. Feel your feet become a little heavier.
    • Take two deep breaths. Imagine any remaining stress gently flowing out the bottoms of your feet.

    Take a moment to observe the still place you created. With practice, relaxation will become easier.

    Guided imagery

    You can use your imagination to help you breathe easier. Guided imagery helps manage distress and gives you a better sense of well-being.

    • Think about a pleasant or restful place. It can be anywhere: a beach, a cabin, the woods or a safe place at home.
    • Let happy thoughts of your favorite scene or place relax you.
    • Close your eyes and picture that scene or place.
    • Focus on the sights, sounds and smells of your favorite scene or place as you relax.
    • Let your body relax and your breathing become deeper.
  • Source: Allina Health Patient EducationUnderstanding Stroke, fifth edition, neuro-ahc-90662
    Reviewed by: Allina Health Patient Education experts
    First published: 02/01/2007
    Last reviewed: 05/01/2018