Mindfulness as Self-Care for Parents and Caregivers
Stress among parents and others who care for people with disabilities is persistent and linked to lower quality of life, unhealthy family functioning and negative psychological consequences. Caregivers can easily burn out or experience compassion fatigue – the secondhand experience of trauma resulting in tension, anxiety, hopelessness and exhaustion.
Low energy, fatigue, reduced ability to feel empathy or sympathy, increased irritability, hypersensitivity to emotional information and problems with personal relationships may all be signs that stress is adversely affecting you. Self-care for parents and caregivers is critical.
One approach that helps reduce stress is mindfulness. Mindfulness is the non-judgmental cultivation of attention and awareness to the present moment. Contrary to popular belief, it is not simply about having a clear mind. Rather mindfulness emphasizes turning the habit of automatically analyzing, elaborating and having strong opinions about what we are experiencing into simply observing and acknowledging what we think, feel, and sense.
You can develop your mindfulness skills with these 10 simple daily strategies:
- One minute of mindfulness – For just one minute focus on your breath.
- Use your senses – Reconnect with your senses. Be aware of what you see, feel, smell, taste and hear.
- One thing at a time – Slow down and focus on one thing at a time.
- Self-observe – Simply put, observe your thoughts rather than participate in them.
- Nothing time – Allow yourself time to sit still and enjoy the moment.
- Appreciate red lights and stop signs – Red lights, stop signs, long lines and the like all force us to slow down. Seize the opportunity to be idle.
- Transform chores – Ordinary household chores and responsibilities are great opportunities to be mindful by being fully engaged in the task rather than rushing through it or multi-tasking.
- Meditate – Take even just a few moments a day to sit or walk in a mindful state, to practice the art of observing your breath, thoughts, feelings, sensations and the surrounding environment without trying to change anything.
- Exercise – In addition to its many fitness benefits, exercise provides an opportunity to focus on one task.
- Avoid zoning out – Notice when you tend to zone out (e.g., driving, emailing or texting, web surfing, etc.) and practice bringing more awareness to that activity.
Mindfulness is a way of life, not a destination. Remember to practice mindfulness daily, and your mental and physical health will soon reap the benefits.
To learn more about Good Shepherd's Rehabilitation Neuropsychology Services, call 610-776-3214 or contact us online.