Author: Grant Mongin | Digital Marketing and SEO Specialist
Few things in our world today feel as though they as operating as they normally would. From the COVID-19 pandemic, to a particularly divisive political atmosphere and everything in between, anxiety and stress can sometimes feel like the only constants in our world, especially for elders and people who may live alone. While many of these events and how they affect us are outside our control, one thing we can control is our self-care practices. While self-care is a deeply individualized thing, there are some good practices we as family members/caretakers can encourage for our loved ones to help reduce anxiety and loneliness in our loved ones. While at Homewatch CareGivers of Crystal Lake do not believe in miracle remedies or quick fixes, we so believe there are healthy practices to help manage and work through these difficult emotions. The particular practice we will be exploring today is mindfulness meditation.
Mindfulness meditation at its core is a set of practices that involve following of the breath. It “isn’t about letting your thoughts wander. But it isn’t about trying to empty your mind, either. Instead, the practice involves paying close attention to the present moment — especially our own thoughts, emotions and sensations — whatever it is that’s happening.” The term “mindfulness meditation” may seem like an odd or foreign idea to you, but the practice is really quite simple. It involves paying close attention to your inner thoughts, feelings, and emotions and it is through giving space on these things that mindfulness meditation helps to decrease anxiety, and stress. Numerous scientific studies have shown the effectiveness of mindfulness meditation in lowering stress levels, decreasing anxiety and depression, and improving working memory and attention. All of these benefits can go a long way in helping your loved ones to navigate these difficult times, and though mindfulness is not a one-size-fits-all solution it might be worth investing a brief 5-10 minutes 3 times to see how this practice can affect positive change in your loved ones.
I got into mindfulness meditation a few years ago and though I don’t always practice it as often as I would like, I have felt a profound difference between times when I am meditating and times when I am not. Mindfulness meditation has given me a set of skills (which have been especially useful this year) to help me manage my emotions and cope with all the stress and uncertainty 2020 has brought. If you are interested in starting this practice with your loved one, it can sometimes be difficult to know where to begin, but there are an abundance of free resources to help anyone at least try our mindfulness meditation. My favorite is an app called Headspace which is highly customizable to your level, the amount of time you have, and what you are hoping to get out of a meditation practice. Another option is to go to YouTube and search for mindfulness meditation exercises. One of my favorites can be found here and is called a “body scan”, the idea behind which is to make you more aware of each part of your body and to slowly release tension or stress that may be felt there.
Like I said before, there are an abundance of different ways to help relieve stress and anxiety, and to promote wellbeing. But the most important thing is that your loved one does what is best for them. But if those self-care practices don’t already exist, and this seems like something they would be interested in, why not give it a try?
 Grossman, P., Niemann, L., Schmidt, S., & Walach, H. (2004). “Mindfulness-based stress reduction and health benefits. A meta-analysis.” Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 57, 35-43. Doi:10.1016/S0022-3999(03)00573-7 citied in Featherstone, Jared. “Mindfulness Meditation and Service Learning” in Re-envisioning Higher Education: Embodied Pathways to Wisdom and Social Transformation. pp. 300.
 Kabat-Zinn, J. (1990). Full catastrophe living: Using the wisdom of your body and mind to face stress, pain, and illness. Random House. citied in Featherstone, Jared. “Mindfulness Meditation and Service Learning” in Re-envisioning Higher Education: Embodied Pathways to Wisdom and Social Transformation. pp. 300
 Jha, A. (2012, March 16). Improve attention and working memory with mindfulness training. Conference presented at the Mindfilness: Foundation for Teaching and Learning, Bryn Mawr College. Retrieved from http://mindfuled.org/conferences/2012- conference-videos/ citied in Featherstone, Jared. “Mindfulness Meditation and Service Learning” in Re-envisioning Higher Education: Embodied Pathways to Wisdom and Social Transformation. pp. 300.