“How is your day?” “It’s good. Just really busy.” “Busy” is the norm in working to support other people. There are many times when we come to work and we start to create a “task list.” We may create this task list in our heads or there may be one on paper for us. We are busy thinking about all the things that we need to do for the day. We are busy starting to get those things done. We move into “autopilot.” Many of us move around our day distracted. At times, it is difficult to be in the present moment. Mindfulness is the opposite of autopilot. Mindfulness is deliberately bringing our attention to the present moment. Rather than thinking about the past or imagining the future, mindfulness is about being in the present moment with purpose and without judgment.
Here are two mindfulness activities you can try and you could support others in trying:
Try this breathing exercise
Find a place where you can sit comfortably for a few moments. You may choose to close your eyes. Focus on your breathing as it enters your body and as you exhale. Notice your breathing in the present moment. When your mind wonders back to your “task list” or to something else, come back to the present moment. Know that it is ok for your mind to wander (no judgments). Take note and allow your mind to come back to the present moment and breathe. Try this for a few minutes … maybe even work up to doing this for five minutes.
Try this exercise with your five senses and ground yourself in the present
Take a moment and notice what is around you. What are five things you can see? Are there things you have not noticed before? Maybe the way the light is reflecting? Take a moment and notice what you feel. What are four things you feel? Maybe your feet on the ground or the wind blowing through your hair? Take a moment and notice what you hear. What are three things you hear? Are there background noises you have filtered out like birds chippering or the air conditioning running? Take a moment and notice what you can smell. What are two things you can smell? Maybe it’s the coffee brewing or the flowers blooming? Take a moment and notice what you can taste. What is one thing you can taste? Maybe it’s the piece of gum in your mouth or maybe it’s the Chap Stick on your lips? Feel free to try this exercise when you are out for a walk, doing the dishes, or cooking dinner.
These are just two examples of mindfulness. Find one that works for you or the person you are supporting and practice it daily. There are many benefits to the practice of mindfulness for caregivers such as reduced stress or burnout, increased emotional wellbeing, enhanced mindful caregiving, increased responses with compassion, better reciprocal relationships and less incidents of challenging behavior.