As professional caregivers, we know the joy it can provide well. There is nothing quite like seeing your patient make progress, or feeling their appreciation for all that you do. Improving someone’s quality of life is one of the best things we can do on this earth. However, that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t come with its unique stressors. Sadly, it is very common for caregivers to give so much of themselves that they experience burnout. That is why it is essential for caregivers to practice self-care. One incredible tool for self-care is mindfulness.
What is Mindfulness?
The term “mindfulness” refers to the ability to be fully present in the moment, aware of ourselves and what is happening with a gentle curiosity and without judgment. This makes sense when you think about how most people move around the world on a daily basis. You might spend the morning thinking about what you are going to eat for lunch and the awkward comment you inadvertently made yesterday. After lunch, you might obsess about the meeting you are planning for two weeks from now, and when you drive home from work, you may look up and suddenly be in front of your house with no recollection of actually driving there. It’s common to move through life on autopilot without really taking time to sit back and really experience what is happening at any given moment. Mindfulness is taking back control over your attention out of autopilot and being intentional about witnessing how we feel, think, or behave in a nonjudgmental way.
Why Does Mindfulness Matter?
Mindfulness is a powerful tool for wellbeing. When you’re mindful, you can take in and accept things as they are, instead of wishing that they could be another way. It’s much easier to spend less time worrying when your focus is on staying present. In turn, this makes it easier to sleep, which is beneficial for overall health. In fact, being mindful makes it easier to attend to your health in general, because you are more in tune with your body and what it needs. Finally, mindfulness makes you more grateful for what you have and more appreciative of those who are around you.
Mindfulness Exercises for Caregivers
The S.T.O.P. Technique is a common and simple mindfulness strategy you may want to keep in your back pocket.
S: Stop what you are doing.
T: Take a breath. Focus on your air going in and out.
O: Observe your feelings, thoughts, and sensations. Notice your thoughts without judging or holding onto them. Notice how your body is positioned and how it feels. Pay attention to any sensation, such as hunger or thirst.
P: Proceed to do something that will reduce stress. For example, if you have noticed that you are hungry, take a minute to eat a snack or meal. If you are feeling overwhelmed, give a friend a call and talk it out. Find a solution that will help you feel better.
Send Positive Energy
This exercise can be beneficial for giving you a greater sense of well being and gratitude for people in your life. It’s simple: think of two people you know, and wish them happiness. Every hour for the next day, take ten seconds to pause and send positive energy their way. This is a simple act that shifts your attention from your latest worry to a simple way to feel positive and focus on someone other than yourself.
Find a Mantra
Mantras can be a helpful way to keep you grounded in the present moment. Often, it can feel like you are fighting your thoughts when you’re trying to be mindful. You might sit and meditate for a minute or two, but then you remember that you have to call back your sister and you start thinking about the time your sister stole your toy in second grade and now you’re mad at your sister all over again… the thoughts spiral. Instead of fighting against your thoughts, mantras employ your thoughts as a way to become more mindful.
To use this technique, you will first need to choose a mantra. This should be a phrase that has meaning for you and helps calm and ground you. Some examples include:
“I choose an attitude of gratitude.”
“I connect to the world around me.”
“I allow myself to be still.”
“I am present.”
Then, pause and take a moment to recite this mantra to yourself over and over again. This helps you stay present without having to fight away your thoughts.
This easy mindfulness technique is helpful for grounding you in the present moment and can be particularly helpful when you’re trying to fall asleep. To do a body scan, simple focus on your attention on each part of your body, from your toes to your head, making yourself aware of any sensations you feel without trying to change them. This helps you to observe your body in a more accepting way and respond to difficulties peacefully.
At Evergreen Home Healthcare, we are happy to connect you with the resources you need to experience the best quality of life as a caregiver. If you are interested in going into caregiving professionally, consider taking a look at our CNA jobs in Denver. Becoming a Certified Nursing Assistant is simpler than you might think, and is an incredibly rewarding experience, particularly for those who are already caring for their loved ones. Check out our Employment page for the many opportunities we offer on a regular basis!