“Your search resulted in 1,790,000 results”. What search? you wonder.
“mindfulness & caregiving”
Is there really something to this?
Can it really make a difference in the lives of caregivers?
Is it brainwashing or new age touchy feely nonsense?
One thing is for sure. It isn’t anyone else’s “get rich quick” scheme. Mindfulness doesn’t have to cost anything. As opposed to other strategies that range from inexpensive and affordable (like music therapy or aromatherapy) to outrageous and inaccessible for the average caregiver (like weekly spa visits or housekeepers), practicing mindfulness only involves you and yourself. Anytime. Anywhere.
I had the opportunity to participate in a Train the Trainer program developed at Vanderbilt University in October. The intended and ultimate audience for this program would be parents of children or adults with developmental and/or intellectual disabilities. I have always had a very open mind to alternative methods of healing and coping. But I wondered what this training would offer to make it something that caught the attention of the Developmental Disabilities Planning Council in the state. It offered, quite frankly, a lot.
After the two days of mindfulness training, I was certain of two things. One was that I was not yet qualified to lead the class. But I was even more certain of was that I wanted to become practiced enough so that I could share this technique with others. The week after I attended the MBSR (Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction) class, I took it on the road. I had the opportunity to travel and visit people that I didn’t often see, and to stay in places that were unlike the comfort of my small town. Any, and all, of that can spike anxiety for me.
The first thing I did was to commit to listening to mindfulness tracks twice a day. I listened once in the morning and once at night for 5 minutes each. I added breathing, well I was breathing anyway, but I paid attention to my breath when I felt myself getting nudged into conversations or situations that increased my anxiety. What I really liked was that no one really had to know. I didn’t have to sit down, cross legged on the floor and close my eyes and chant “om”. I simply took the opportunity to notice. Notice that generally when I am faced with a conversation that derails me, I can feel my muscles contract, my lips purse, my blood pressure increase. And I was able to bypass that reaction. As a result, I had more fun and more enjoyable conversations than I may have otherwise.
What the study at Vanderbilt showed were the following outcomes “…reductions in stress, depression, and anxiety, and improved sleep and life satisfaction, with large effects in depression and anxiety.”[i]
To read more about MBSR and how it may help reduce stress in caregiving, you can sift through the 1,790,000 results on google, or you can start here, where I did, with the program at Vanderbilt University https://healthandwellness.vanderbilt.edu/news/2017/03/mindfulness/. This link is to an employee and wellness component of Vanderbilt, but I like it because it has a few videos to walk you through mindfulness right away.
In the near future this model will be offered throughout NYS through the ProActive Caring Initiative and The Center on Aging and Policy. NYSCRC will keep you up to date on this and other caregiver programs to assist in making life a little easier for those in the caregiving role.
[i] Reducing Distress in Mothers of Children With Autism and Other Disabilities: A Randomized Trial
Elisabeth M. Dykens, Marisa H. Fisher, Julie Lounds Taylor, Warren Lambert, Nancy Miodrag.. Pediatrics. July 2014.