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Wellness For Caregivers: Mindfulness Tips

Megan Clapton, Ph.D.

AARP Mississippi talked with Megan Clapton, Ph.D., owner of Mindful Therapy in Ridgeland, about mindfulness and caregiving. Dr. Clapton says mindfulness can help caregivers as they try to balance work, family and caregiving.

What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness is paying complete attention. It is being fully present and aware of where we are and what we’re doing. When we practice mindfulness we want to be non-reactive or not overwhelmed by what’s going on around us. Often mindfulness focuses on our breath as an anchor we can use to return to a neutral state.

What are some benefits of mindfulness?

Mindful practices use our mind and body connection to be in the present. These practices can lower the negative effects of stress on the body and our minds. There is exciting medical research that shows the benefits of mindfulness, including lowering blood pressure, reducing inflammation, and coping with chronic pain. Mindfulness also encourages us to cultivate a compassionate relationship with our thoughts and emotions too.

How can mindfulness help caregivers deal with stress while balancing work and caring for a loved one?

Mindfulness is not about finding solutions to our problems, but rather learning how to cope with stress. Mindful practices can allow a person to prevent the negative effects of long-term stress and provide small breaks in the day to care for themselves.

A family caregiver is likely to have many months, if not years, where they are giving to their loved one. It’s important for caregivers to have specific self-care practices they can use often to prevent burn-out and compassion fatigue. Mindfulness meditations are easy to practice and can be used at anytime and anywhere.

What are some mindfulness tips that caregivers can do at home?

Spending as little as 5 to 10 minutes a day in mindful practice can provide significant results. There are many apps and guided meditations online if someone is curious about where to start. I practice a mindfulness tea mediation each morning. I simply sit with my tea outside and attend to each of my five senses one by one. I notice what I see, smell, feel, taste, and hear. It helps me start the day in a peaceful way so that I might meet whatever stressors come my way from a place of peace.

How can caregivers use mindfulness to help in their interactions with their loved one?

Mindfulness is about paying attention on purpose. Sitting with a loved one and just breathing together is practicing mindfulness. Caregivers can also play guided meditations or practice with their loved one. Even sitting outside and bird watching can be done in a mindful way. Caregivers can sit in silence, just watching what unfolds, paying attention to their senses.

What other information would you like to share about mindfulness?

Mindfulness is not related to any specific religion and requires no special tools or books to start. It’s as easy as sitting in a chair and just breathing.

If people are interested in a more in-depth study on mindfulness, they can begin a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction course or read Full Catastrophe Living by Dr. John Kabat-Zinn, father of modern mindfulness.

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