Written by Active Minds on Tuesday the 24th of May 2016.
When you are a care-giver, it is easy to forget the emotional and mental impact caring can have on you. Caring for someone living with dementia can put you in a position that makes you vulnerable to stress and worry. The most important thing to remember is that your wellbeing is valuable and integral too. By not caring for yourself, you can gradually become worn down, anxious and lose sight of your care-giving role. Neglecting your self has the potential to make your role more difficult in the long-run. Prioritising your own self-care is an important step when caring for someone else.
Caring for someone can bring about feelings of reward and satisfaction, but you can also feel frustration and stress. How can mindfulness help you to deal with negative feelings, so that they do not impact your long-term health and wellbeing? Going to the gym, taking a walk or having some time to yourself are all things that can help to relax you, but mindfulness is an approach that you can do anywhere and at any time. It is a short-term method that can bring you some clarity and calm.
Mindfulness is an evidence based approach and it aims to help alleviate stress, worry and anxiety in particularly challenging times, but also gives you the tools to tackle day to day obstacles too. In short, mindfulness allows you the space to think and nurture your time. By concentrating on the present situation and being aware of how you think and feel in that moment, you can channel your energy into being content in the present. Mindfulness is basically a fancy name for being truly ‘in the moment’.
How can you get in the moment though and what does being present really involve? The good news is that you do not need expensive equipment, you do not need to be a yoga expert or listen to whale songs; you just need yourself and a determination to give mindfulness a go. There are certain tasks that we perform throughout the day that we do not really think about, we just do them without asking questions. Something like sitting and drinking a cup of tea or having a shower.
Now, next time you do one of these things, try to have a different experience. When you have a shower, notice the way the water feels on your body, listen to the sound of the water hitting your body and the floor. How does it feel when you use your shampoo and take in the scent of your shower gel. Look at the steam, coming off the water and think about your own breathing too. If you start to think about other things, try to avert your attention back to your experience in the shower. By concentrating on your body, how it feels and the sights, sounds and smells around you, you can calm your mind and this allows you to have space. We race through life, jumping from one thought to the other, especially when you are a carer. It is so important to take charge of your thoughts and this can help to reduce your stress in the long-term.
We are bombarded with situations that cause us to obsess over the future and always look forward, but taking the time to look around you is overlooked. Caring for someone living with dementia means that naturally you will ask questions about the future and think about the next stages of dementia and the impact this will have on care-giving. It is completely normal to think this way, but by imagining future scenarios too much, you can lose sight of the current situation. If thinking about the future causes you anxiety and you tend to start worrying when thinking ahead, mindfulness can be a way to bring some calmness into your life.
For more information on how Active Minds can help you and those living with dementia visit us.