Home caregivers are intimately familiar with stress. They are called upon to keep dozens of balls in the air: making meals, scheduling appointments, running errands, giving medications, and tending to specific patient needs. With all those demands on their time and energy, they may find that their stress levels can easily rise beyond what is both acceptable and healthy.
Finding a way to deal with such stress is important. Home caregivers seeking ways to cope may want to consider the process known as mindfulness meditation.
What is mindfulness meditation?
Mindfulness is really just about being aware of and in tune with what we are feeling and experiencing at any given moment. Most of us think that we are aware of these feelings and experiences, but often we are simply scratching the surface. Many times, we are focusing more on what has already happened (holding onto the past) or what may yet happen (fretting about the future) than on what is happening in the here and now. Mindfulness meditation helps to bring the focus of one’s attention to the exact present.
The goal of this form of meditation is to bring about calmness and help relieve the stress that frequently accompanies everyday life.
How to do it
The basics of mindfulness meditation are easy to understand. You want to spend a dedicated period of time doing your very best to concentrate on nothing but the here and now, on what you are feeling and experiencing at this very moment.
This can be harder than it sounds. It’s very easy for our thoughts to drift to other subjects: I have to remember to pick up lettuce. Why hasn’t the bank called me back? I wish my son were getting better grades. When practicing mindfulness, push distracting thoughts away.
Here’s what is needed:
- A peaceful place. Any kind of meditation requires a location that is as free from distractions as possible. For home caregivers, finding such a spot may be challenging; however, it’s worth it to find a few minutes every day when you can be alone and focused. Perhaps while your loved one is watching a television program or reading a book, you can slip away to another room.
- A good place to sit. You want to be comfortable, but not so comfortable that you find yourself falling asleep, so lying down is not the best option. Sitting up straight, in either a chair or on the floor, is usually ideal.
- Something to use as a focus. Mindfulness involves focusing the attention on one thing. It can be something that you see with your eyes, such as a candle or a spot of color on a painting, something you see internally with your eyes closed, such as a memory of a peaceful setting, or something you say, such as a sound, word, or phrase that you repeat like a mantra. Some people like to use both a visual cue and a sound cue.
- The ability to re-focus. After getting comfortable and starting to focus on your visual or sound cues, your mind will probably drift. You may find yourself being distracted by other thoughts that don’t have to do with experiencing the here and now. It’s important to be gentle with yourself here: when this happens, acknowledge it, gently push the intrusive thoughts away, and return to meditating. Distracting thoughts sneak in, especially in early sessions; learn to work around them.
Home caregivers who are able to practice mindfulness meditation daily will likely find that their stress levels become more manageable. This practice can provide a soothing sense of peace and calm – which is always welcome!