Caring for the Caregiver: Reducing the Health Impacts of Stress

Stressed? Burned out? Sick of constantly feeling tired and out of sorts? You’re not alone. 

The stress of everyday life, work and family commitments can be difficult to manage at times. Throw in a health issue, financial crisis or loss of a loved one, and it can begin to feel unbearable. Some people seem to have a natural gift for successfully managing stress, but most of us were never taught how to cope in a healthy way when life gets tough. And the result of this can be devastating to our physical and mental health.

According to the American Psychological Association’s “Stress in America” Report, chronic stress can not only lead to problems such as headaches, fatigue, irritability and insomnia, but also major health concerns including heart disease, obesity and depression. Among the most at risk are caregivers, who are often faced with juggling home, work and caregiving responsibilities with little support and few resources to help them.  Too often, the caregiver gets in the habit of putting everyone else’s needs first, and their own health and wellness ends up at the bottom of the To Do list. 

But how well can you care for the people and pets in your life when you are running on empty? What is left to really give?  And what happens if all that stress catches up to you and you can no longer keep all of those balls in the air? 

Learning to care for yourself and to find a way to silence the racing thoughts and worry that run through your mind are essential not only for your wellbeing, but that of your loved ones as well. And yes, that includes your furry loved ones. When you can recharge and refresh your mind, body and spirit, you have more to give, and you will have a better chance of handling anything that life throws at you.

And that’s where Reiki can come in. Reiki is a complimentary therapy used to reduce stress, promote relaxation and encourage the body’s innate healing abilities. It was developed in Japan in the early 20th century, and is a unique mixture of meditation, breathwork and light touch. Influenced by Buddhism, Traditional Chinese Medicine and martial arts, Reiki stresses the importance of compassion for self and others, letting go of the need for control or power, and trust that we each have the power within us to become our truest selves – healthy, happy and fulfilled

The beauty of Reiki is in its simplicity and its power. Reiki treatments are now available to people (and animals) around the world and are becoming more common in health care settings and veterinary practices due to its proven reputation as a safe, gentle and effective complimentary therapy. It can be used as a tool for ongoing wellness or to help manage chronic conditions. Because it has no known interactions with conventional medical treatments, it can be used successfully with other therapies without negative side effects. An hour-long Reiki session usually results in a profound feeling of relaxation and calm that can ripple long after the treatment ends.

But unlike many other complimentary therapies and healing modalities, one can also choose to take a Reiki class and learn to use it for self-care. To me, this is Reiki’s greatest gift. To have the power to ease your stress, let go of your worries and reconnect with the harmony of the universe at your disposal 24/7.  No prescription can ever guarantee that.

Of course, while anyone can learn Reiki with relative ease, mastering it (if that can even be done) takes a lifetime of commitment and regular practice.  But that’s part of the fun. Once you finally learn how to take care of yourself and to reach that place of inner peace and strength, you will learn to love it – and you will realize that you deserve it too. By strengthening your own body, mind and spirit, you can be a better caregiver, employee, spouse, parent…you can be a better YOU. 

All it takes is that first step. To be willing to invest in yourself for a change. To be open to the process of learning to be still and to feel genuine gratitude for each blessing — and challenge — in your life. To recognize that by healing yourself first, you can then bring healing to others in your life too. 

Stress and worry can control you if you let them, and eventually they will wear you down physically and mentally. By finding healthy ways to manage stress, such as Reiki, you can discover a new way of living and become a stronger, happier, and more capable caregiver for all who rely on you each day.

Would you like to learn more about Reiki? Visit Kerry’s new website at to find out about upcoming classes, what to expect during a Reiki session, and articles about Reiki’s many benefits.  Reiki sessions are also available for companion animals in the Milwaukee area.  Email for details.

About Kerry Malak

I am a Bulldog mom, Reiki Master/Teacher, pet loss counselor and canine cancer advocate who loves working with people and animals to help them live longer, happier and healthier lives.
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