INFORMATION AND SUPPORT TO CARE FOR YOUR AGING PARENT

Mindfulness for Senior Caregivers

Mindfulness activities have become very popular over the last few years, for people in all walks of life. Anyone can see benefits from taking a few minutes to step back and reflect, clearing their mind of stress and anxieties. This especially applies to caregivers, who face many different sources of stress. Whether you’re a professional caregiver or simply help older family members from time to time, you’ll be happier and healthier from including mindfulness into your daily routine. 

Benefits of Mindfulness for Senior Caregivers

There are numerous benefits of mindfulness for senior caregivers. Not only will it ease stress and anxiety, it will also help you feel more present and relaxed while going through daily activities. Many people report that their quality of life is significantly improved by consistent mindfulness practices. Even if you don’t find a consistent routine for mindfulness activities, many people notice a positive difference to mood and stress levels at any level of activity. Some people report even greater benefits, such as decreased levels of chronic pain or depression. It’s possible to find even greater benefits from specific mindfulness activities which we’ll discuss below. 

Mindful Activities for Senior Caregivers

Mindful Walking

Benefits of Walking

While most people view walking as simply a low-intensity exercise or form of social activity, it can also act as a form of mindfulness. Low-intensity exercise has many different benefits, including increased energy levels and improved muscle endurance. It can naturally increase levels of mood-lifting chemicals such as dopamine and serotonin. Beyond the physical benefits, there’s also additional benefits that come from adding mindfulness practice to walking. 

The biggest of these comes in the immediate aftermath of your walk, such as reduced blood pressure and heart rate. It will also improve your sleep quality, helping you feel more awake on a daily basis. This is also a great example of how many of the biggest benefits build on one another. While mindful walking naturally decreases stress levels and reduces inflammation, those will also decrease as a result of improved sleep. The more consistent one is with a mindful routine, the more these healthy habits can build on each other. But how does one actually practice mindfulness while walking?

How to Practice Mindful Walking

The first step is letting go of distractions. While you may love listening to music or podcasts while walking, it’s an obstacle to completely clearing your mind of distractions. Set out for your walk with an open mind, not focusing too hard on anything. Take in your surroundings, the things you see, the things you hear. If you notice something, rest your attention on it for a moment, then let go when you feel pulled away. Walk at a slow and steady pace, feeling the ground underneath your feet with each step. Check in with your breathing, feeling it enter your body. Let it flow deep into your lungs, hold for a second, then release. Set your attention back on your feet, focusing on the feeling of the ground beneath your feet. Keep your attention focused on that sensation, not with a sharp intensity but rather by emptying your mind of distractions. If something pulls you away from the ground, simply let it pass and turn your attention back to the feeling of movement. Continue for the duration of your walk. 

After your walk, check in with your body and mind. How do you feel compared to the start of your walk? The walk can be as long or as short as you want, but 10-20 minutes is a good duration for noticeable positive impacts. The more often you incorporate walking and mindfulness into your daily schedule, the more significant these changes will become. 

Mindfulness Meditation

Benefits of Meditation for Mindfulness

Now we get to the most tried-and-tested form of mindfulness, the classic meditation. People have used it to achieve a sense of peace and happiness for generations, and it can now help you in your daily life. There are a few different ways you can start meditating. The best option comes down to whether you prefer a more flexible, open-ended form of meditation, or a guided meditation that provides some form of structure. You can definitely also tinker around and see what works best for you. We’ll start by going over the options for guided meditations. 

Guided Meditation

Guided meditation is the best option for most beginners. It gives you some form of structure, so that you have guides while learning to keep your mind free of distractions. It will also help you learn the techniques you’ll use in meditation. If you’d prefer not to spend money, YouTube is a great source for guided meditations. There’s many different pages that provide guided meditations, so you’ll want to try a few different ones and find the best option. Some people’s voice or style may not work well for you, so try different ones until you find one that does. 

If YouTube seems a bit too open-ended for you, try a service like Headspace. They have lots of different options for meditations, such as ones meant specifically for stressful or challenging times. There’s also courses that help people learn mindfulness skills, such as intentional gratitude or dealing with distractions. Most services like this cost about $10 per month, but you may be able to find promos that bring the cost down. 

Unstructured Meditation

Now let’s talk about unstructured meditation. You’ll start the same way as guided, finding a comfortable place to sit. Feel the weight of your body pressing into the surface beneath you, letting the muscles relax as you enter a restful state. Take a few deep breaths slowly in and out, pausing for a moment between inhale and exhale. Focus on your breath, feeling it travel through your body. In through the nose, out through the mouth. After a minute or so of this, slowly close your eyes as you exhale. Focus on the space around you, what can you hear? Think of a zone of awareness around you, visualize a bubble. Slowly shrink the bubble until the only thing you’re aware of is your own body. 

Examine how you feel, starting at the top of your head and slowly working your way down. What’s stressing you? What’s causing your mind to feel crowded? Is there any part of your body that has a lot of tension? As you examine each part of the body, release any tension you feel. Attempt to let each piece of the body relax. Not a sleepy form of relaxed, but a bright and open relaxation. Think of lying outside in the grass on a nice day, feeling the warmth of the sun washing over you. If you find yourself getting distracted, acknowledge that you’ve gotten pulled away and then attempt to return to focus. There will be a temptation to get annoyed or upset with yourself for getting distracted, but that’s actually just part of the process. You’ll slowly learn to let go of those feelings, similar to how you let go of distractions. 

The eventual goal is to get to the point that you can focus solely on your breath for extended periods. While you may find fleeting moments of this focus during the first few practices, true focus will come from repeated sessions of mindfulness. If you keep a consistent enough routine, you’ll quickly see the benefits of adding mindfulness to your daily life. 

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