A dementia diagnosis – and the radical changes that ensue – have repercussions for both those who are diagnosed and their caregivers. Research shows the stress of caring for a loved one (often unexpectedly, with no training) puts family caregivers at an elevated risk for depression and anxiety.
The good news is that scientists have also found that mindfulness – the act of paying attention to the present moment, while intentionally acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts and bodily sensations without attempting to change them – boosts the well-being of caregivers. More specifically, mindfulness strengthens their belief in their ability to cope (i.e., their coping self-efficacy) with the stresses of caregiving. This decreases symptoms of anxiety and depression, reduces a caregiver’s feelings of stress and burden, and also prevents or reverses burnout.
Mindfulness is a vast topic, of course, and its effects are unique to each person. Learning more about mindfulness will help you to discover its role in your life, both as a unique human and as a caregiver. The curated list below presents books on mindfulness that might help you in your caregiving journey.
Get started with the classics
If starting with the cornerstone books on mindfulness seems appealing, turn to Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh and neuroscientist Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD, both widely credited with introducing mindfulness to the Western world (Thich Nhat Hanh) and bringing mindfulness into the mainstream of medicine and society (Jon Kabat-Zinn).
This classic mindfulness primary is used internationally to introduce the fundamental concepts of mindfulness. It’s relatively short, written in the author’s renowned kind and lightly humorous tone, making it a quick, lighthearted read. It provides an overview of mindfulness and contains two types of mindfulness exercises: simple seated exercises where you focus on body and breath and active exercises you can do while you go about your daily tasks.
Also consider other Thich Nhat Hanh classics, including “Peace is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness” and ”You are Here: Discovering the Magic of the Present Moment.”
Full Catastrophe Living (Revised Edition): Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness, Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhDShop Now $12.89
Kabat-Zinn is another foundational pillar in the mindfulness space. Internationally known for his work as a scientist, writer and meditation teacher, Jon Kabat-Zinn is famous for his world-renowned Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program, which is widely used to treat an array of conditions, including anxiety, depression, chronic pain, addiction, immune disorders, high blood pressure and more.
This selection offers an in-depth scientific and analytical breakdown of stress and mindfulness. If you want to invest in all things Jon Kabat-Zinn, he also recently released the three-book Coming to Our Senses Series, which lays out the “what,” “why” and “how” of mindfulness in the first two books and finishes in a more scientific tone with a debrief of the ways mindfulness can change the body and rewire the mind in the third book.
Other options for getting started
Mindfulness for Carers: How to Manage the Demands of Caregiving While Finding a Place for Yourself, Cheryl RezekShop Now $11.95
For a highly relevant read on mindfulness from the angle of caregiving, this book offers an accessible introduction to mindfulness and how it can be a lifeline for caregivers.
Written by the renowned meditation master, this book is an excellent starting point if you’re interested in meditation and its role in mindfulness. It explores the tool of meditation, what it does, and how to make it work.
Touted by most readers as an “easy read,” this book is great for a busy caregiver. With the author’s guidance, you can start your meditation practice with just minutes a day. She suggests integrating it into your day-to-day: short meditation in a bathroom stall, at your desk after lunch, or even a one-minute standing meditation while in line at the grocery checkout. She emphasizes that even one minute is enough to reset your brain.
Don’t be fooled by the title, this book is more about mindfulness than Buddhism. Written by the eloquent and funny Rinzler, this selection is a highly approachable overview of mindfulness, targeted to a younger generation. It teaches meditation techniques that will work with your own unique mind, how to relax into your life despite external pressures (e.g., caregiving), and ultimately how you can start to bring light to a dark world.
If you feel like you embody the definition of “frazzled,” this bestseller may be a great read for you. Written by comedian and neuroscientist Ruby Wax, this book will show you how to de-frazzle for good by making simple changes that give you time to breathe, reflect and live in the moment. It’s an easy-to-understand introduction to mindfulness, weaved together with Ruby’s trademark wit and humor.
Explore your own unique mindfulness experience
This interactive journal helps the reader navigate the confusion and chaos of daily life with a simple reminder: By taking the time to know yourself and what your dreams are, you can appreciate the world around you (even if it’s demanding and chaotic) and achieve your dreams.
A Mindfulness Guide for Survival is particularly relevant to caregivers because it offers exercises and information for when you’re suddenly forced to confront six specific “hard truths,” most of which caregivers are intimately acquainted with: difficult emotions, uncertainty, loneliness, change, dissatisfaction and death. Sound familiar?
In just a few short weeks, you can learn clinically proven mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR), which empowers you to focus on the present moment and permanently change the way you handle the stress of caregiving. The workbook includes instructions, audio downloads and meditations to help you manage stress and start living a healthier, happier life.
Integrate mindfulness into your daily life
It’s one thing to learn and understand the principles of mindfulness, and even more to practice the techniques during the pre-arranged 30 minutes you manage to carve out of your day to sit and “be mindful.” But then what happens during the other 23 and a half hours of your day?
Plenty of resources can teach you how to incorporate mindfulness into your daily life, whether you’re standing in a grocery checkout line, washing dishes, doing laundry or cooking a meal. Think of it as “mindfulness on your feet.”
Each of the 53 exercises in this book includes tips on how to remind yourself to apply mindfulness to your everyday tasks, and also includes a short story or lesson connected with it.
Self-Care for Caregivers: A Practical Guide to Caring for You While You Care for Your Loved One, Susanne WhiteShop Now $16.99
A family caregiver herself and the creator of the Caregiver Warrior website, White offers advice, helpful tips and strategies for caregivers everywhere. On these pages, you’ll find short and simple ways to replenish your mind, body and spirit. The book also offers important caregiving resources to help you care for your loved one.
This book presents mindfulness from a modern, Western approach, emphasizing you don’t need to chant mantras or reserve hours of valuable time to earn the benefits of mindfulness. By building the simple five- and 10-minute practices found in this book into your day, you can free yourself from stress and, ultimately, find more peace in your life.
The Conscious Caregiver: A Mindful Approach to Caring for Your Loved One Without Losing Yourself, Linda AbbitShop Now $14.15
Abbit is the founder of Tender Loving Eldercare and a veteran of the caregiving industry. In this book, she shares her advice on using mindfulness to help those taking care of an older parent or loved one, empowering caregivers to navigate dramatic life change with calm, steady strength. This book offers 40 easy ways to be mindful every day.