4 Mindfulness Exercises to Relieve Caregivers' Stress
As rewarding and fulfilling as caregiving can be, it's also hard on caregivers. The stress and emotional repercussions associated with caregiving can wear you down. According to statistics from the Family Caregiver Alliance, between 40 percent and 70 percent of family caregivers experience symptoms of depression and countless numbers of caregivers experience a decline in their physical health.
That's why it's so important for caregivers to have many different stress-busting techniques to use. Mindfulness is an up-and-coming stress buster that has growing scientific backing. Research shows that mindfulness helps you become more aware of your thoughts to better manage your stress response. It also can help you avoid immediate reactions in different situations, giving you a moment to pause and come up with better solutions. Additionally, mindfulness makes you more aware of your own needs as well as the emotions of others, making you a better caregiver of your loved ones and yourself.
Incorporating mindfulness exercises into your life can help you think differently about the stress that you're experiencing, allowing you to transform some of your caregiving stress into positivity that helps energize you and nourish the bond with your loved one. To help you make this a part of your daily routine, we've rounded up four helpful mindfulness exercises to try.
Breath awareness can help you get a handle on your stress and become more calm and focused in as little as a few minutes. Sit in a comfortable spot and begin breathing deeply. Breathe in through your nose, feeling your stomach expand as you fill your lungs. Breathe out through your mouth, noting your stomach lowering as you expel your breath fully. Focus fully on your breath and the present moment. Or, try closing your eyes and imagining you're breathing in peace and calmness and breathing out your stress, anxiety and frustration. Repeat for a few breaths or as long as needed to feel calm.
Sometimes we're too antsy to sit or lie down. But that doesn't mean you can't slip in a little mindfulness practice. Take a walk by yourself, with a friend or with your loved one. As you keep pace, observe the sensations you feel while you walk. Pay attention to how your shoulders and arms feel. Are your hips swinging? How do your feet feel each time you take a step? Breathe deeply as you walk, immersing yourself in the moment to help shake off any stress you're feeling.
This mindfulness exercise builds upon simple breathing to help you focus more on the present and relax any tension you're holding in your muscles. Start by taking five to 10 deep inhales through your nose and exhales through your mouth. Then, scan your body and your surroundings using each of your five senses. What do you smell, taste, hear? What's touching your skin? What do you see around you?
Take it a step further with progressive muscle relaxation. Lie comfortably and take five deep, relaxing breaths. Starting on the sixth, breathe in and tense your feet muscles. As you breathe out, release that tension. Repeat, tensing and releasing your calf muscles, thighs, hips, belly, chest, shoulders, arms, fingers, neck, and face. Once you're finishing progressively working up your body, you should feel noticeably more relaxed and present in the moment.
Loving kindness mindfulness exercises give you a boost in the compassion department, which can not only help with your overall stress but also the way you look at and deal with the challenges you face with the care recipient. Take a comfortable seat and a few deep breaths. Start by checking in with yourself, noting how you feel emotionally and physically. Then, think about your loved one and imagine him or her sitting with you. Breathe in and out deeply, repeating an intention to your loved one such as, "May you be happy and healthy in body and mind. May you be safe and protected. May you be free from harm." Then, repeat your intention, saying it to yourself instead and then again to someone you're struggling with.
Kimberly-Clark Canada makes no warranties or representations regarding the completeness or accuracy of the information. This information should be used only as a guide and should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional medical or other health professional advice.