How Mindfulness Can Help Caregivers Reduce Stress

By Guest Writer - February 13, 2023

Mindfulness has received a great deal of recent attention as a means of reducing stress and enhancing our well-being. But often the first question is: “What is mindfulness?”

Most people don’t realize that we all have moments of mindfulness throughout our normal day. These moments often occur when we are completely present with some simple, concrete experience or activity. The simplicity of mindfulness is easily overlooked and easy to undervalue.

While you’re exercising, you may have a moment where you are aware of just being present with the exercise or “being in the zone.” Or while you’re eating, you just let yourself be present with the taste, smells and textures. Or while walking in nature, in a forest or on a beach, you have a moment of just being exactly where you are with no other thoughts. This is being present. Being in the moment. Being mindful.

Caregivers have a significant responsibility in caring for their loved one and can experience high levels of stress during this process. Using mindfulness as a tool to manage distress and uncertainty may be beneficial. Mindfulness facilitates the ability to shift attention to experiences purposefully and with a sense of acceptance. Mindfulness helps one notice thoughts, emotions and sensations as they arise without necessarily acting on them in that moment. Instead, one is encouraged to observe what arises before responding. Mindfulness encourages a pause — stopping for a moment before acting.

Importantly, mindfulness may be most beneficial for those who experience high levels of stress, as it can aid in emotion regulation, reduce stress reactivity and improve physical relaxation. As such, mindfulness may be particularly useful for caregivers.

How do you start practicing mindfulness? You may choose to download an app that provides guided mindfulness meditations or even join a class that provides formal instruction on mindfulness. You can also practice mindfulness in your daily life — take a pause right now and just look around you. What do you see? Are there sounds present? What do you notice happening in your own mind and body?

By simply training ourselves to look at these moments more closely, we can often enhance our health and well-being without investing a huge amount of time. We already have these moments, but we can choose to look at them mindfully.

This story was featured in PARTNERS, the newsletter of Moffitt’s Patient and Family Advisory Program. Guest writer Marc McDowell is a licensed clinical social worker, and guest writer Christine Vinci, Ph.D., is in the Department of Health Outcomes and Behavior at Moffitt Cancer Center.


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