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 since you started acting in this capacity. If you have not yet considered meditation, you should know that it is an easy and effective way to manage stress and avoid burnout. In this article we will explore some of the techniques used in meditation and the benefits of using this time-tested technique for managing and reducing stress.
Reasons to look at meditation
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—or 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 thoughts, and assists in recovery from the intense emotional swings that often accompany the role of a caregiver. Meditation can help you avoid and/or cope with caregiver burnout–an all too common phenomenon.
Mindful Meditation techniques
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.
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.
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.
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.
Mindful meditation provides a way to deal with negative emotions. The RAIN method is a good tool. RAIN stands for Recognize (your feelings), Allow (or Accept your present situation rather than living in denial), Investigate (your emotions and what you are feeling in your body), and Non-identification (assert that you are not defined by the emotion or experience you are currently having; it is a temporary situation that will pass and has nothing to do with your identity).
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.