Caregiving is a busy job. I think this is something we can all agree upon. You might be sipping on your morning coffee or tea right now, but at the same time you’re probably also thinking about what you have to do for the person you’re caring for.
When you think about multiple things at the same time, you may start to feel anxious, stressed or overwhelmed. And your mind may even go into panic mode. “I have to do X. If I don’t do X, then Y will happen. Oh no!” When this becomes a normal occurrence, it’s time to take a step back and reflect on your thinking habits. Ask yourself, “Am I mindful, or is my mind full?”
When our mind is full, our attention tends to drift away from what is actually in front of us. We start to lose connection with the present moment, which in turn makes us miss out on what we’re doing and how we’re feeling. It’s almost like going on autopilot. Did you notice that your coffee was the perfect temperature this morning? Did you notice that your neighbour waved hello and smiled at you?
Mindfulness is the practice of focusing your attention on the present moment, and accepting it as is – without judgement. Being mindful can bring glimpses of satisfaction and happiness into what you do. Here are five mindfulness exercises that you can fit into your busy day:
Do this first thing in the morning. Maybe after you wash your face and brush your teeth. Instead of jumping into tasks right away, I challenge you to grab yourself your choice of morning beverage, a pen, and a paper. Sit down. Envision how you want your day to look. Carefully, plan the activities you need to do, but make sure to schedule mini breaks in between activities. Write it all down on a piece of paper or your notebook. Having a guideline or a tentative plan for your day should help you stay on task and worry less about forgetting to do something.
Nowadays, most of us resort to checking e-mails or social media outlets during our break from whatever it is we’re doing – caregiving, work, or class. I am guilty of this too. Instead of observing what is happening in the world through your cellphone or computer screen, I challenge you to go outside, or look outside if you can’t leave the person you’re caring for, and simply observe what you see. Don’t judge. Just quietly observe. This exercise will help you connect with the present moment.
No, don’t reach for your phone, the TV remote or the newspaper. Practice a little mindfulness meditation while you eat. Just eat. Focus your attention on your food – the taste, the texture, the way it makes you feel.
Perhaps, during one of your mini breaks today, or before you go to bed tonight, think about three things (or as many as you can!) you are thankful for. Also, think about why you’re thankful for these things. Don’t think too hard though. Just appreciate.
Have you ever felt “in the zone” during an activity? – whether it’s running, reading, doing homework, telling a story, or whatever. If you’re not sure what I mean, being “in the zone” is when you give whatever it is you’re doing your 100% attention and 100% effort. Today, I challenge you to get in the zone. Perhaps while you’re talking to a loved one, while you’re listening to music, or while you’re having a solo dance party. Give it your 100%. And most importantly, enjoy it.
When you’re done trying one of these mindfulness exercises, ask yourself again, “Am I mindful or is my mind full?”