Mindfulness can help strengthen your resilience so you are more able to stay afloat during stormy times. If you are caring for someone living with dementia, it is essential that you take care of yourself too. There’s so much to learn about how to support your loved one’s wellbeing you can forget to look out for your own. Mindfulness practice can help you develop inner calm so you can weather the storm and respond more wisely to the ups and downs of caring. Below you can find links to mindfulness exercises for different purposes.
First, you may need some concrete examples of the value of mindfulness practice. Here I describe how I used mindfulness to help calm myself when things were difficult with mum. This post describes how I used breathing exercises and mindfulness practice to support mum when she was feeling anxious.
A regular daily practice
Regular practice helps you notice when you are being hijacked by difficult, recurring, unhelpful thoughts and emotions. Evidence shows that regular practice helps reduce anxiety, stress, low mood and insomnia. It opens up a space so you can respond more skilfully. Here’s some short and longer practices that you can use every day. I found it most helpful to do my regular practice in the morning, before my mum got up.
Ten minutes led by Mark Williams from the Oxford Mindfulness Centre
Twenty minutes led by Mark Williams from the Oxford Mindfulness Centre
Forty minutes led by Mark Williams from the Oxford Mindfulness Centre
Maintaining balance throughout the day
On top of your regular practice, it is hugely helpful to pause and do a short practice several times a day. This guided practice only takes 3-5 minutes. When you get the hang of it you can do it without the guidance, taking more or less time as required. It can help to ground and resource yourself so that you are able to be more present in the next moments of your day.
Three minute 3-step breathing space from Mark Williams, Finding Peace website
Four minute 3-step breathing space from Mark Williams, Oxford Mindfulness Centre
Five minute 3-step breathing space from Zindel Seagel, Oxford Mindfulness Centre
Practices for times of difficulty
Here is a longer breathing space for times of difficulty and a practice to help calm the mind.
For when you can’t sleep
When you can’t sleep it’s a good idea to do a mindfulness practice. If you are awake anyway it’s a good way to use the time for practice. And as long as your body and mind are calm you are getting the rest you need. If you simply aim to follow the guidance (and not get to sleep) you might find you start feeling weary, and fall asleep. Here’s a few specifically for helping with sleep. Try to let go of the worry that you are not falling asleep as that won’t help.
9-minute Mindfulness of Feet with Mark Williams, Oxford Mindfulness Centre
10-minute Body Scan with Mark Williams, from Oxford Mindfulness Centre
25-min Body Scan with Mark Williams, from Oxford Mindfulness Centre
Relaxing meditation for sleep from Tara Brach, www.tarabrach.com
For help reducing anxiety and getting to sleep from Tara Brach, www.tarabrach.com
Mindful self-compassion for carers
It’s important to have compassion for yourself, otherwise you can feel overwhelmed by the suffering of the person you are caring for. Here Kristin Neff explains why it is so important to be compassionate to yourself as a carer, and how it supports your compassion for your loved one.
Here is a guided mindful self-compassion practice from Dr Neff on YouTube. What’s great about this practice is that once practiced several times, you can use it during times of difficulty when you are with the person you are caring for.
The best way to get started with mindfulness is to do one of the recognised eight-week courses with a registered teacher either attending in person locally (post vaccine), online or using a book such as Finding Peace in a Frantic World or The Mindful Way Workbook. If doing such a course isn’t an option right now, hopefully the tracks on this page will help to get you started.