Meditation. It’s everywhere - apps, newspapers, blogs, textbooks. We’ve all heard of it. But how exactly does it work? And in what ways can it benefit you, as a caregiver?
Clarifying common misconceptions
“A lot of people have this idea that meditation means sitting down and doing nothing,” says Madhav Goyal, a professor at Johns Hopkins University who has conducted extensive research on mindfulness and its effects. But he wants to make clear, “Meditation is an active training of the mind to increase awareness.”
Mindfulness, originating in Buddhist traditions, is the practice of hyper-awareness - of bodily sensations and the breath. It’s about complete focus, concentrating all physical and psychological awareness into the present moment. Today, it is the predominant technique used in meditation, and can help to alleviate the stressors of caregiving, bringing greater perspective and calm into even the most strenuous situations.
Mindfulness helps people to “find new ways to be in relationship to their pain” asserts Jon Kabat-Zinn, developer of the 8-week program Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (M.B.S.R). It helps create a conscious self-check mechanism to regulate the physical manifestation of fear and anxiety-driven mental frameworks. With meditation, find a proven and effective coping mechanism that can help halt fear, anxiety, and anger before it becomes physically and emotionally exhaustive.
Across the country, studies are continually producing results that pinpoint scientifically-backed physical and psychological benefits of regular meditation practice.
Studies performed by Yale University found that meditation significantly decreased mind-wandering and self-referential thoughts, activity within the brain commonly associated with rumination, a major risk-factor for depression. Meditation can help calm your mind, mediating destructive self-critique and minimizing the systematic “re-living” of painful past events or fretting anxiously about the future.
As a caregiver, it is common to wonder “what if.” Reflective, conjectural questions can be difficult to face, and have the potential to spiral, inciting a negative effect. Practicing mindfulness meditation can help to calm your mind, enabling the kind of “recharging” disconnect that will benefit both you and your loved one. It can help teach you to observe thoughts and emotions as they are, letting them both arise and disappear; this helps to reduce the stress and anxiety that results from overthinking and rumination.
Meditation can help to ensure you are providing the highest quality of care -- while not entirely forgetting yourself.
Should you try it?
You know better than anyone the challenges of caregiving. The stress and worry has the potential to strain relationships, disrupt sleep, and negatively impact physical health. Proven to help alleviate the underlying causes of these patterns, meditation is worth a try.
Don’t know how to start? Have a smartphone or tablet device? A number of apps are both FREE and EASY.
Headspace helps to make meditation a regular part of your daily routine, incorporating short guided sessions into your busy schedule. By 2016, the app had over 6 million downloads. Founded in 2010 by Andy Puddicombe, a British meditation teacher and trained Tibetan Buddhist monk, Headspace is used by companies such as Google, Apple, and Target as well as personalities such as Anderson Cooper and Richard Branson.
Calm, founded in 2012, works to promote mindfulness in many aspects of life, marketing guided meditations in addition to products and masterclasses. Whereas Headspace focuses on developing a habit, and sustaining the practice as a whole long-term, Calm offers a range of need-specific sessions, designed to target explicit problems and life-events.
Ginger.io, although not meditation-specific, is another resource for emotional support. Offering around-the-clock coaching, therapy, and psychiatry through your smartphone or tablet, licensed professionals bring help to you - anytime, anywhere. Don’t get stuck internalizing the day-to-day emotions of being a caregiver - Ginger.io helps to ensure someone is looking out for you.
All are popular and effective options to help manage day-to-day stressors, and develop positive coping mechanisms that are sustainable.