Managing a to-do list, sorting through medication, running to medical appointments, dealing with one challenge after another — caregiving responsibilities are many and varied. Even sleep may be hard to come by as you think about the day ahead. Busy caregivers can benefit from several stress reduction techniques, including practicing mindfulness.
While there are many aspects of caregiving that one cannot change, there are some strategies that can help caregivers carve out space for themselves and their own thoughts each day. Mindfulness-based stress reduction has been found to improve overall mental health, reduce stress, and decrease depression in caregivers.
How Caregivers Can Practice Mindfulness
Mindfulness is a form of meditation where you focus on being aware or “in the moment” for a defined period of uninterrupted time. Mindfulness may also involve specific breathing techniques and other strategies to help you relax — and reduce stress.
Here are five proven tips for caregivers who wish to incorporate more mindfulness into their busy lives.
Take dedicated time for deep breathing and visualization.
Schedule five to ten minutes each morning or evening at a set time — for instance, after you brush your teeth or right before your morning coffee. Try to keep your mind present, allowing thoughts and sensations to come and go without judgment. If your mind wanders, gently bring it back without being critical of yourself.
For those who have difficulty quieting their thoughts, visualization may prove beneficial. Choose an image you find relaxing, such as a favorite vacation destination, lying on a sunny beach, or walking through a vineyard.
During this time, focus solely on your breathing and the image you have created in your mind. If you are worried about drifting off, set a timer on your phone. Visualizing these types of scenes can give you a “mental vacation” that is brief, but refreshing.
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Participate in creative play.
Creativity and mindfulness are closely associated with one another. Engaging in creative play can be an easy way to engage in mindfulness, as your mind focuses intensely on your project for the duration of play.
What are some of your favorite creative activities? Knitting, scrapbooking, painting, and even baking can provide positive benefits.
Engage in mindful walking.
Walking — especially outdoors — is a great way to practice mindfulness. Even a quick walk around the block allows you to focus on the sheer joy of moving, delight in the smell of a rose, or pause to watch the glistening of an icicle on a neighbor's roof.
If you find your mind wandering back to your responsibilities inside, try counting your steps or focusing on your breath. This will help clear your mind of distracting thoughts and emotions and allow you to simply enjoy your walk.
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Embrace your commuting time.
There’s a great deal of pressure in our society to cram as many tasks and activities as possible into every spare moment of our lives.
However, it’s important to realize that the human mind needs rest like any other part of us. Instead of tuning into the radio, juggling your phone, or even listening to music during your commute from one appointment to another, try practicing mindfulness on the bus, train, or even while taking the elevator.
Mindfulness and gratitude go hand-in-hand. Practicing gratitude helps reframe your circumstances — allowing you to become more aware of the love, joy, and blessings you are experiencing in the moment.
Take a few minutes and write down three things you are grateful for each morning or evening. This could be as simple as hugging a loved one, sharing a funny joke, or enjoying time outdoors on a brisk winter day. This simple act can help you focus on the here and now.
Interested in More Caregiver Resources?
If you are looking for more ways to destress and focus on your health as a caregiver, explore some of our other articles, such as practicing simple self-care ideas, or learning more about different types of yoga and their health benefits.