Do You Mind? Meditation for Caregivers
By Sally Abrahms
If you are a "typical" caregiver,then you are strapped for time and under way too much stress. You don’t need a study to know that many caregivers feel financial, physical and emotional fallout from their role.
What you need is a way to remove some of that stress – and many caregivers are turning to mindfulness and meditation,. Sometimes referred to as “mindfulness meditation," they relax the body and calm the mind. One mindfulness instructor I know describes it as "hitting the pause button."
I think of them more as putting the brakes on anxiety or “time-out" for the brain. You’re taking a moment for yourself to slow down, clear your head and feel more peaceful.
Mindfulness and meditation require no heavy lifting. You can meditate anywhere, any time for any amount of time—no equipment or pricey gym membership. All that’s needed is you!
More on meditation and mindfulness
Meditation involves deep breathing and focusing on right now. You become more aware and appreciative of that moment—the present--and can feel your body as it releases tension.
There are several different types of meditation, but here are the basics: You sit comfortably in a quiet place, either in a chair or on the floor. Take repeated deep breaths (inhale through the nose, exhale through the nose or mouth). As you inhale, pay attention to where that breath goes (from the nose, to the chest, to the ribcage, and down to the belly.)
When your mind wanders (what you’re going to make for dinner, a task you have to do, an incident with your parent)--and it will—simply let those thoughts float away and go back to your deep breathing. Meditating around the same time every day gets you in the habit.
Meditation is a form of mindfulness. Others include yoga, tai chi and qi gong. (Chair yoga is great for a parent who is less mobile. They can do all the movements sitting down.)
You can practice mindfulness in a variety of situations. These are just a few:
- Taking a walk and feeling your steps on the pavement, looking around and consciously being aware of your surroundings
- Chewing your food slowly while really experiencing the different textures and tastes
- Taking a shower and focusing on the warm water splashing on your body
- Some instructors suggest being mindful while washing dishes. (I have never tried it.) There are many opportunities for mindfulness when you are by yourself, but not on your cell phone, computer or other technology!
Benefits of Meditation and Mindfulness
It works! Research shows how daily meditation or mindfulness can impact your health. It can:
- Reduce stress, depression, anxiety, pain and high blood pressure
- Improve respiration, metabolism, heart rate, focus, memory and self-control
- Prevent or mitigate medical conditions exacerbated by stress
It’s significant that the University of Massachusetts Medical School has opened a Center for Mindfulness. And, cardiologists often recommend meditation to their patients.
Meditation for seniors and caregivers
I wish I had had an open mind about these practices when I was taking care of my parents and my mother-in-law. I was stressed to the hilt. At the time, I thought meditation and mindfulness were exotic and woo-hoo, for Buddhists or people trying to “find themselves."
Hardly. They have become as mainstream as it gets (and oh so cool!). Meditation and mindfulness are for all ages, from elementary school students to older adults at senior centers.
In fact, I am taking an eight week, one-hour mindfulness/meditation course at what might seem like an expected place: an assisted living facility. There’s so much demand that they’re offering it year-round. It’s open to non-residents so I thought I would give it a try.
In my class, a family caregiver and her 85-ish-year-old mother are taking the class together. They both say they’re hoping it will reduce their stress, caused, of course, for different reasons.
It’s doing the trick for me. After I meditate, I feel calmer and less anxious. During the day, if I’m tense or upset, I often start the deep breathing, even if I’m sitting in my or waiting in line.
Resources for mindfulness and meditation
If you want to take a mediation/mindfulness class in your area, Google those two words and your city or town. There are also meet-up groups for mindfulness and
Lots of people prefer to learn through smartphone apps, tapes, books, podcasts and online videos.
These sources are good starters:
YouTube video: One Moment Meditation
Video: Meditation for beginners
Smartphone apps: Breathe, Calm, Insight Timer, Headspace
Podcast: Meditation Oasis
Video: Mindfulness: An Introduction,
Jon Kabat-Zinn https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xeCXhXDkzpw
Books: Miracle of Mindfulness, Tich Nhat Hahn
Book: Full Catastrophe Living, Jon Kabat Zinn
Deep breathing has become my new BFF. Who says it’s hard to make new friends as you get older, (especially when you’re a caregiver)? All joking aside, meditation and mindfulness are something to think about.