Mindfulness Practice – Helping Caregivers Survive and Thrive
- by Christine Nicholson, MSW, RSW, SCA Seniors' Consultant
When we become caregivers for a spouse or loved one, we often enter into this role with a deep sense of connection to our purpose with it. We are aware that this role comes with challenges and we are determined to make the necessary sacrifices to make it a success. When challenges overwhelm we may not know where to turn to find suitable or adequate services or supports; we may experience the pain of witnessing our loved one suffer loss of functioning from the progression of illness. Chronic stress arises when we feel lonely and isolated, lose touch with our friends or experience new strains in our other relationships. We can also fall behind on managing our own personal priorities or lose touch with other personal goals.
Developing a practice of Mindfulness can help to combat the harmful effects of stress and allow us to stay connected to our purpose. This method of relaxation and self-awareness has around for decades and has proven to be effective for managing chronic stresses in life. The ultimate goal is a balanced life, and the resilience to hold up under pressure and meet challenges head-on.
The good news about the benefits of Mindfulness practice is catching on and caregivers can benefit too. There is now a proliferation of high calibre free resources for learning and practicing Mindfulness such as guided meditations that are easily accessible at your local library or online. Other resources can be obtained by purchasing a subscription at a minimal cost.
“Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally” (Jon Kabat Zinn - an innovator and researcher in the use of Mindfulness training in the treatment of chronic health conditions). Many of us are reluctant to commit to this as we may feel our mind wanders too easily. However, a wandering mind is not a hindrance, in fact, it is part of the process. When we slow down and choose a particular point of focus, such as our breath, our senses, or our emotions, we can observe that our mind has wandered and then simply bring it back to our chosen focus. In this way, self-compassion is woven into the practice too.
Mindfulness practice emphasizes:
- Being in the moment
- Focusing on the here and now
- Developing a non-judgemental attitude
- Detaching from unhelpful thoughts
- Forgiving oneself when making a mistake
- Accepting things the way they are
- And finally, learning with a beginner’s mind
A regular habit of just 10 minutes a day can lead to a greater capacity to put aside our worries, and be present with our loved ones.
Suggested free resources:
UCLA Mindful app;
‘Headspace’ (Netflix subscription)
Christine Nicholson is a Registered Social Worker who has been a practicing counselor for over 21 years. She works with individuals, couples and families in both private practice and in a primary health care clinic setting.
She has expertise in the area of adjustment to life transitions, grief, and loss, chronic conditions, mood management, interpersonal relationship conflict resolution. She has extensive training and experience in Cognitive Behavioural and Solution Focussed therapies.