For busy caregivers, stress can build up over time and affect our daily lives. Caregiving tasks, family responsibilities, chores and more can take up so much time that many of us forget to take care of ourselves. To practice self-care and cope with the stress involved with caring for someone with memory loss, caregivers need to take a step back, reassess, and learn how to be mindful of their own limits and needs.
Mindfulness is a popular buzzword in today’s culture, often associated with thoughts of meditation or holistic health. And while meditation is certainly one way to practice mindfulness, its applications go far beyond sitting cross-legged or focusing on your body’s energy. In fact, mindfulness is not so much what we do as how we live.
Jimmie Fay Griffin, Executive Director of Clarity Pointe™ Tallahassee, a memory care assisted living community in Tallahassee, Florida, says, “A caregiver who practices mindfulness has learned strategies for caring for themselves and others. They’ve learned how to clear their mind of the worries, stressors and to-do lists and focus on what’s in front of them. A mindful caregiver brings a sense of calm and purpose to daily tasks, and ultimately takes better care of themselves and their loved one.”
This may sound like a caregiver who “has it all together,” but in truth, no one ever does. However, there are practical ways to transform from a frantic, stress-filled caregiver to one who takes life as it comes with a sense of peace and assurance.
Benefits of Mindfulness
In addition to reducing caregiver stress, mindfulness offers some surprising benefits that can significantly increase your quality of life. How often have you gone through the motions of your day, only to realize later on that you weren’t truly present? For many of us, this mindlessness is a default setting, especially when we’re trying hard to cope with stress and keep our lives from tumbling out of control. According to the Sarasota Mindfulness Institute, learning to be present in what we are doing can help us cope in many ways, such as:
- Understanding your emotions, learning why you feel certain ways
- Gaining control of how you feel, not letting your mood get the best of you
- Retraining your mind to think more positively
- Coping with anxiety caused by your responsibilities
Additional benefits include:
- Learning to calm down and reduce negative thinking
- Increasing your understanding and compassion for others
- Boosting your immunity
- Raising your self-esteem
- Enhancing your relationships with those around you
10 Strategies for Becoming More Mindful
So how do we practice true mindfulness in our daily lives and reap the benefits it offers? Experts such as The Alzheimer’s Association® and the writers at CaregiverStress.com have a few ideas. Some of these strategies are designed to help you practice intentional mindfulness, while others describe mindsets you can adopt to foster a state of mindfulness as you go throughout your day.
- Focused Breathing – Focusing on your breathing allows you to clear your mind of other thoughts. Stop for a few minutes, close your eyes and just breathe deeply. Pay attention to how your lungs expand and deflate as you inhale and exhale. This exercise allows you to refresh your mind from troubling thoughts.
- Check In With Your Body – Take a moment to connect with your physical self. How are you feeling physically? Do you feel aches or pain? Are there parts of your body where you could relieve tension? We seldom take the chance to slow down and pay attention to our bodies, but when we do, the mind connects with our whole self and we can feel fully present.
- Release Tension – If you do notice tension in your body, be mindful in releasing it. You can do this as you breathe, concentrating on your muscles as you breathe in, and focusing on relaxing those areas as you breathe out.
- Meditated Walking – If movement helps to calm you, try meditating while you walk. Go around the block or simply move between one end of the room and the other. An easy activity such as walking can help you connect with your body and provide a calming rhythm of motion.
- Foster a Sense of Calm – While this may take time, practice being intentionally calm both inside and out. Try to calm your thoughts and actions as you go throughout your day. Refrain from becoming hurried, frazzled or frustrated over circumstances beyond your control. Eventually, calmness will become a state of being for you and influence those around you.
- Practice Being Over Doing – We are so often oriented by what we need to do – the tasks we must complete or the actions we need to take. However, this mindset can frustrate both ourselves and the person we are caring for, as our own stress often triggers dementia behaviors. Instead, be content with simply being present with your loved one. You’ll find the tasks get done anyway.
- Respond Instead of React – Hasty reactions may not reflect rational thought or compassionate words. In heated situations, our reactions might make matters worse. When we react, we give control to the situation. But when we respond, we take control over the situation. Practicing mindfulness can teach you how to pause and think before speaking, giving us the chance to improve interactions with others.
- Pay Attention to Them – While much of mindfulness has to do with your own mind and ways of thinking, a good mindfulness practice for caregivers involves being aware of the one you’re caring for. Check in with your loved one frequently and pay attention to their body language, tone of voice and attitude to get a sense of their mental and physical state.
- Attune to the Environment – Be mindful of your environment, which is also your loved one’s environment. Pay attention to sensory details such as light, temperature and noise and change things as need be to make your environment more peaceful.
- Stay Present – So often, our stress is caused by worrying about what’s ahead or dwelling on unfortunate circumstances from the past. Practice staying in the present moment, clearing your mind of the past and future stressors that are ultimately beyond your control. Be content to just be.
Become a Mindful Caregiver
By practicing these elements of mindfulness, you can learn how to adapt your thinking and bring a much calmer, positive approach to your caregiving. In time, these mindfulness strategies can help you reduce the stress you encounter by helping you cope in healthy ways.
If you would like to learn more about taking care of yourself while you care for a loved one with dementia, reach out to Griffin and the team at Clarity Pointe™ Tallahassee.
Clarity Pointe™ … Our Difference is Clear
Clarity Pointe™’s Specialized Memory Care “Living” Neighborhoods are truly changing lives for those with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias – and for those who love them. At Clarity Pointe, our mission is to ensure our residents lead connected and rewarding lives.
Opening in January 2018, Clarity Pointe Tallahassee is unlike other providers that offer a secure memory care wing in a skilled nursing or assisted living center. Clarity Pointe Tallahassee will offer four free-standing, purpose-built memory care communities that are solely and entirely dedicated to memory care assisted living. Our communities blend luxurious surroundings with specialized care that is individualized to each resident and delivered by a compassionate, expert team of professionals.
We stay current on the latest trends and advancements in Alzheimer’s care and implement them into our residents’ care plans. Always moving forward, we combine the latest in evidence-based programming with luxurious, residential living and compassionate respectful care.
For each of our residents, we offer a life that is engaging, fulfilling, inspiring and meaningful.