If you are acting as a caregiver for an elderly loved one, chances are you have had to find a way to deal with increased amounts of stress. Meditation can be an easy and effective way to manage the stress of senior caregiving and help to avoid the very real possibility of burnout. Below we explore (1) why meditation is good for senior caregivers, (2) what some of the meditation techniques that you can use and (3) what benefits you may find in using this time-tested technique for managing and reducing stress.
Reasons to consider meditation for caregiver stress
Everybody knows that the increased stress that comes with acting as a caregiver can be an unpleasant thing to deal with. However, what you may not know is that stress can actually be harmful to your health. From increased blood pressure to heightened risk of strokes, heart issues, and other things, stress can actually damage your body. As a result, you could compromise your own health when acting as a caregiver. Additionally, stress can compromise your ability to provide quality, compassionate care to your elderly loved one.
Given this, it logically follows that activities to reduce stress are worth your time investigating them. One of the oldest stress reduction practices in the world is to engage in meditation. Properly done, medication
- reduces stress,
- helps clear your racing thoughts,
- and assists in recovery from the intense emotional swings that often accompany the role of a caregiver.
And most important, meditation can help you avoid and/or cope with caregiver burnout-an all too common phenomenon.
Mindful meditation techniques for stressed caregivers
Using meditation to relieve your caregiver stress is not difficult. Sometimes the most difficult part is finding the time and the place to practice. Set aside a time preferably in the morning before the day has begun for everyone else. Further, to practice mindful meditation you first need to find a calm, quiet place away from the hustle and bustle of your everyday life. Removing distractions during this time will let you focus on your state of being and help you calm your thoughts.
Mindful meditation involves training your mind to refrain from reacting to your circumstances. Frequently, as a caregiver, you will find yourself in frustrating or otherwise stressful circumstances. When you allow your mind to react to these circumstances (as opposed to simply responding to them) the effect can be devastating on your personal health: your reaction frequently only serves to increase the stress level and triggers physical changes in your body, such as increased blood pressure, disturbed sleep patterns, an inability to focus on the task at hand, and so on.
Be aware of the continual in-and-out of your breathing…
Begin to focus on your breathing and slowly begin to experience the sensation of simply being aware of yourself. Be aware of the continual in-and-out of your breathing, and be aware that you are focused on such. This will have a calming effect as you begin to leave behind all the stressing thoughts, questions, and so on from the other parts of your life.
Finding a book on meditation or other online guidance to learn more about meditation can help to develop a practice that works well for your personal situation. I can personally recommend Headspace, which is available on your smart phone as an app or at this website: https://www.headspace.com/.
Benefits of meditation practice
This time alone–away from the stressors in your circumstances–acts as a recalibration of your being and turns your focus from your circumstances to your state of existence. By regularly engaging in mindful meditation you can slowly train yourself to automatically respond to your circumstances instead of reacting to them. This will decrease your stress and assist you in leading a calm, tranquil life, even in the midst of the chaos that sometimes arises in a caregiving situation.
Practicing mindful meditation can have a positive impact on the life of a senior caregiver. Acting as a caregiver can be stressful. Mindful meditation presents you with an effective method of managing your stress and allowing you to go about your day to day life without carrying the burden of stressful feelings or circumstances. By regularly practicing mindful meditation you can change the way you view and interact with your environment, preserving your health as well as your ability to provide care for your elderly loved one.
Stang, Heather. November 12, 2015). Reducing Dementia Caregiver Stress: Focus on Mindful Meditation. Available online at http://mindfulnessandgrief.com/mindfulness-dementia-caregiver-stress/. Last visited December 4, 2015.
Whitebird, Robin, et al. (2012). Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction for Family Caregivers: A Randomized Controlled Trial. The Gerontologist, 53(4): 676-686. Available online at http://gerontologist.oxfordjournals.org/content/53/4/676.short. Last visited December 4, 2015.