Meditation for Caregivers
What, Why, and How to Get Started
November is National Family Caregivers Month
Meditation is an invaluable tool in the mental health toolbox. It’s been proven to effect significant mental, physical, and emotional results when practiced, and is simple, free, and easy to do any time, anywhere. And yet, for many people, the idea of meditation still feels… weird. It may seem too out-there, alternative, or new age, or maybe it’s intimidating or foreign, conjuring images of monks or yogis in a state of peaceful bliss that seems about a million miles away, literally and figuratively, from your day-to-day life. Perhaps it just feels impossible to find five minutes in which you can really, truly, calm your brain.
All of these feelings and concerns are valid. But if you’re a caregiver, they are also worth reexamining, because meditation is a wonderful way to reduce stress, stay centered, and find balance in what can be a very challenging occupation.
What is meditation?
Merriam-Webster defines meditation as “the act or process of spending time in quiet thought.” Yep, that’s it. Some practitioners might add the concept of “being present” or “mindfulness” to that definition. This refers to the attempt to clear your mind of its usual chatter and focus on being in the current moment. But there are no specific techniques required, nor a mandated length of time, posture, or location. Meditation is simply sitting quietly with your thoughts, when, where, and for how long it’s comfortable for you.
The studies on meditation are vast, but some have specifically proven the benefits for both family caregivers and the seniors they take care of. A UCLA study focused just on caregivers found that meditation improved cognitive function, and decreased cellular aging caused by stress by increasing enzyme function. 65% of participants in the study who practiced meditation showed at least a 50% improvement on a depression scale, and 52% showed at least a 50% improvement in mental health and cognitive functioning. Both of these numbers were significantly higher than a separate group that listened to relaxation CDs instead of meditating.
Another study in the UK has demonstrated the benefits of caregivers and patients meditating together. After participating in a program that included meditation, breathing, and non-strenuous activities like yoga and tai chi, everyone involved – both caregivers and their loved ones – reported feeling more positive, social, supported, and connected, as well as experiencing reduced pain.
How does one meditate?
The website UnfrazzledCare has a great nine step list for first time meditators, or anyone who needs a refresher in mindfulness. This exercise is designed to take five minutes or less and be performed anywhere that you can sit comfortably – in your car, at the kitchen table, waiting at the pharmacy, or wherever you need to find a little internal peace and quiet.
If you’re a caregiver, managing stress is a critical component to staying happy and healthy. Consider adding meditation to your routine, and start seeing the benefits of a calmer, more centered mind.
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