In a recent article we shared with you the benefits of meditation for caregivers. In this piece we offer you tips on how to begin a meditation practice in your own home.
Meditation is becoming more mainstream as our lives seem to be more hectic with each passing day. How can we take a step back from what stresses us and find a way to relax and unwind? Meditation might just be the answer. Why? You don’t need any special equipment and if you can find a quiet spot in your house, out of doors or even in your car you can take time for yourself.
Here are some tips to help you “learn” how to meditate:
- Set aside at least 15 minutes and find a quiet space. If it’s a darkened area that might be best, but quiet and without distractions will do just fine.
- You can either sit cross legged on the floor or sit in a comfortable chair with your feet on the floor. Sit up straight and hold your shoulders back. If your body is well-balanced (good posture) it will help you get in balance with your body and your mind.
- Find a focal point in the room and gaze at it. You may have a special photo or a mandala or even an indoor water fountain that you find relaxing. If you’re outside, focus on a tree, or a stream in front of you or even the side of a building. Some people do close their eyes, but others find with their eyes closed, their mind drifts and they don’t fully get into meditation mode.
- Concentrate on your breathing and use it as your focal point. It will give your mind something to focus on rather than letting your mind wander or to allow it to bring in the stressors of your day. Focusing on your breathing will help anchor you to the moment. If you need something to focus on, count your breaths – don’t allow your thoughts to wander to daily routines.
- Silence is deemed best for meditation but if silence isn’t for you, choose some white noise or calming music.
- Look at your meditation time as a time of enjoyment and self-care. Don’t add it to your “to-do” list and think of it as a chore. It is a treat you’re giving yourself for your health.
- If you feel you would benefit from a meditation class, contact a local yoga studio and see if they offer classes for meditation.
While the complete science between the connection of mind and body health have not been fully explored, it has been shown that a healthy body benefits your mind and vice versa. And as caregivers, it is crucial that you take time to care for yourself.
Caring for an aging parent, ailing spouse or child can take its toll on the caregiver. While care-giving is a task undertaken with love it can cause a strain on the caregiver’s health and in some instances put a strain on the relationship between caregiver and the care recipient.
As a way to help relieve stress, caregivers need to take time for themselves, away from the duties of caring for a loved one. In many cases, it’s not easy to do because you may need to find someone to come and relieve you, or if your loved one it able to be left alone, you still may worry, “What if something happens while I am gone?” The answer to that worry is that you could find another family member or friend to come and stay with your loved one or you could equip the home with a home medical alert device; with this device, at the push of a button he or she can receive assistance in the event of an emergency while you were out. These devices provide peace of mind for all involved in the caregiving relationship.
Once you determine you’re in need of some “stress-busting” here are five steps you can take that will go a long way toward self care – something that far too many caregivers do without:
- Take time to meditate. For some the word “meditate” may conjure up images of having to sit crossed legged on the floor chanting and for others, it may be a more spiritual. You can fit in short bursts of meditation by going to a quiet, preferably darkened room, perhaps putting on soothing background music and simply relaxing. Concentrating on your breathing and relaxing your muscles is a great way to relieve some stress when you simply can’t get out of the house or away from the caregiving tasks you’re faced with.
- Spend one day a week making a week’s worth of meals. Make your freezer, casseroles and your oven your best friend. Setting aside one day a week to cook for the upcoming week is a great time saver, especially if you work outside of the home. When you batch cook you are already in cooking mode so things move along quickly. Look for all-in-one meals that freeze well and offer healthy proteins; supplement the meals with fruits or vegetables as a side dish. You’ll find that creating meals during busy weeknights to be far easier.
- Speaking of eating… caregivers often forget to eat or take care of themselves and may be more likely to grab a quick, sugary or high carbohydrate snack; this will give you a quick burst of energy but it will quickly wane. Keep cut veggies and fruits in the fridge. Portion out healthy, high fiber snacks and keep them handy for a quick pick me up. Try to avoid sugary snacks and drive-through restaurants as your go to foods.
- Volunteer. This may sound counter-intuitive to a caregiver, but find an organization that you love and volunteer your time – it could be a local animal shelter or teaching knitting at a senior center or offering guided tours at the local museum. When you volunteer in this capacity you are giving back to a charity or organization that you truly love and it will help you to interact with others and, frankly, get out of the house for a while. Volunteering is something that you are truly doing for you.
- Take time to just slow down. As a caregiver, especially if you work outside of the house, it’s almost natural to rush through everything. Rushing means you’re going to be distracted and honestly that could lead to either you or your loved one getting accidentally injured. Another way to slow down is to make certain you’re getting a good night’s sleep. How can you do that? Sleep in a cool, darkened room, don’t use your computer or smart phone in the bedroom, turn off the television (if you need noise to fall asleep, invest in a sleep machine), go to bed and get up at roughly the same time during the week and even on the weekend.
Remember, a well-cared-for caregiver is better able to care for his or her loved one.