When you're a family caregiver, stress can feel like a part of daily life. Most caregivers know that exercising, eating right, and spending time with friends can help keep burnout at bay. But there's another form of self‑care that perhaps you haven't tried—one that research shows can literally train your brain to calmly react to stressful situations.
We're talking about meditation.
What is meditation?
Meditation has been practiced around the world for thousands of years. Maybe you associate it with a certain religion or culture. It does have spiritual origins, but meditation is now an umbrella term for many techniques intended to "restore your calm and inner peace," according to the Mayo Clinic.
Meditation could include one or more of these practices:
- Breathing exercises
- Visualization techniques
- Repeating mantras
- Sending kind thoughts to others
- Intentional awareness (often referred to as mindful meditation)
How meditation helps caregivers
In 2014, researchers at Vanderbilt University asked more than 100 mothers of children with disabilities to participate in a mindfulness‑based stress reduction program. The results were a significant improvement in the following ways:
- Reduced depression
- Less anxiety
- Better sleep
- Overall improved well‑being
More recently, psychologists have noted the importance of meditation as a mental health booster during times of crisis (like the COVID‑19 pandemic).
Mindful meditation for caregivers
Mindful meditation is a particularly helpful, soothing practice for caregivers. This practice involves slowing yourself down enough to pay close attention to your thinking and feelings, almost as if you're an outsider looking in.
As scientists continue discovering how closely our minds and physical bodies are linked, there is growing proof of how something as simple as mindful meditation can release tension and reduce stress.
If you're a caregiver who feels powerless and overwhelmed, mindful meditation allows you to tune into yourself and boost your own well‑being. In other words, you could enjoy a rare moment of relaxation while also improving your mental and emotional health.
Get started with meditation today
The best thing about meditation for caregivers is that it can take place in any quiet setting during a few precious stolen minutes. Meditate on a walk, in bed, or while waiting in your car in the parking lot. Meditation only needs to take 5 or 10 minutes, and it requires little preparation or training.
Mindful meditation includes three elements: breath, body, and thought. Checking in with all three can help reduce anxiety while calming negative emotions.
Even the act of breathing deeply can help you gain focus. In the following video, Dr. Kirti Carter, MD, MPH, will walk you through these three breath‑based relaxation techniques:
- Ultimate Nostril Breathing
- Bellows Breath
- Ocean Sound Breath
These techniques are a great introduction to meditation.
Checking in with your body can be as simple as intentionally isolating and relaxing each muscle group. The “body” and “thought” aspects of meditation can also be accomplished at the same time. If you’re new to meditation, a guided relaxation session can be helpful.
In Dr. Carter’s second video, “Sky Meditation: Guided Relaxation,” she walks you through a guided relaxation exercise designed to calm your mind and reduce tension.
The guided relaxation above should have given you a good starting place for centering your thoughts during meditation. But there are many ways to mediate with your mind.
One meditation method involves creating and repeating a mantra. You can think your mantra quietly, say it out loud, or even write it on notes throughout your home or office.
Premier Home Care Services recommends the following mantras:
- "I'm proud I can offer loving care that others may not be able to."
- "I'm not perfect, and that's okay."
- "I will enjoy the moments we can have together in peace."
- "The person I love is still with us."
- "I have the right to ask for help if it becomes too much."
Notice how each of these is positive while also maintaining a grounded perspective.
Meditation can be helpful for caregivers’ mental, emotional, and even physical health. So the next time you’re feeling stressed, stop, and take a deep breath. Try one of Dr. Carter’s breathing exercises. Then schedule in a few moments of meditation each day. By giving yourself care, you’ll be better equipped to care for the ones you love.