Being mindful of yourself and the person receiving care is a very important aspect of caregiving. As a caregiver you need to be sure you’re taking care of yourself, while also making sure the person receiving care has what they need as well. These strategies aim to improve mindfulness for caregivers so you can continue showing up to shifts as your best self.
Using Mindfulness for Caregivers:
Mindfulness should be used by caregivers so that they can take a self-inventory of their mind and body. Mindfulness is defined as, “a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment while acknowledging ones thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.”
Caregiving can be a very stressful job, it’s a reality that we don’t want to sugarcoat. As a caregiver it can be easy to continually put your needs aside for the good of your client, but that isn’t a long term solution for your own mental health. It is important to be able to check in with yourself regularly (before, during and after caregiving shifts), to assess how you’re doing, and what things might need to change in order for you and the person receiving care to have a better caregiving experience.
When Should Caregivers Practice Mindfulness?
The reality is that you can practice mindfulness anywhere, anytime of day! If your caregiving shifts are generally a pleasant experience, you might not need to practice these techniques during your shifts too often. For some, you may find that your shifts are more stressful, and finding a second to pause and ground yourself can be very useful during difficult times.
When you find yourself anxious or stressed during a shift, see if you can get your client into a safe space for you to take a few minutes to reconnect with yourself. This would be a great time to gather yourself for a moment before getting back into the rhythm of your routine.
If it’s not possible to take a moment for yourself in the middle of a caregiving shift, make sure you take the time after the shift to recompose and center yourself before moving on with the rest of your day. If you don’t make it a point to check in and center yourself regularly, it will become very easy to experience caregiver burnout. Burnout is something we always want to avoid.
3 Ways to Practice Mindfulness for Caregivers:
Here are three great exercises to practice mindfulness and recenter yourself during or after a caregiving shift. These exercises can be done anywhere and involve zero equipment. If possible, these activities could be done together with both the caregiver and the client. If that is not a possibility, doing them in a quiet space on your own or in your car after your shift is a great option to try.
Take Deep Breaths:
This may seem simple but there is so much power in simply taking a deep breath. If you’re stressed out and your heart is racing, find a space where you can sit down and take five deep breaths. Breath in through your nose and out your mouth. Do this five times, or until you can feel your heart rate starting to slow down. Practicing deep breathing is proven to reduce stress, lower blood pressure, and increase energy.
5, 4, 3, 2, 1 Grounding:
If you’re in a moment of heightened anxiety and you feel like your thoughts are spinning all around you, this is a great way to slow down your breathing, and get your thoughts to stop racing too. This exercise looks to ground all your senses and bring yourself back to center.
To do this activity you’re going to look for 5 things you can see, then 4 things you can touch, then 3 things you can hear, then 2 things you can smell, and finally 1 thing you can taste. (Note: for taste it can be as simple as tasting the inside of your mouth and just acknowledging that sensation, you don’t have to actually eat anything to do this activity, though you can if you’d like!)
Once you’ve grounded yourself and are centered again, you can end the exercise there, or you could add the deep breaths onto it as well.
Affirmations are sentences that you can say out loud or to yourself that help to refocus your thinking and emotions. These affirmations can help you to feel empowered in your abilities as a caregiver and give you the strength you need to go about your shift. Here are several affirmations you can say to yourself whenever you might need them:
- I am a safe, loving, and compassionate caregiver
- There is value in the work I’m doing
- I deserve to rest and recharge my mind and body
- I find joy in caring for those who need my help
- Caregiving is a wonderful opportunity that I get to do
- There are so many positive benefits to caregiving
- I will not stress about things I can’t control
- I am grateful to spend time with someone I love
It is our hope that caregiving is a positive experience for all of our caregivers, but we understand that there are times when it might also be stressful as well. It is our hope that these exercises can be a benefit to you during those challenging moments.