A long time ago, I suffered from migraines (then I got a divorce and they disappeared, but that’s a totally different story).  When I was being treated for these migraines, one of the therapies they used was biofeedback accompanied by meditation.  I completely rebelled against it.  The meditation tape would say “You are on a beach.  Feel the sea breezes brushing over your skin; smell the sea air; listen to the seagulls as circle above.”  In my mind, I would be thinking “I am NOT on a beach.  I am in a doctor’s office.  All I can smell is rubbing alcohol!  I have 17 things to do before I go home to cook dinner and I don’t have time for these ridiculous  musings!

Some people are very good at “going to their happy place”.  I am not.  I am much too much a realist – it’s probably the nurse in me.

Since becoming a caregiver, I have had an opportunity to revisit meditation.  What I didn’t know back then is that there are different types of meditations.  Along with the visualization meditations there are some that simply concentrate on breathing; some that concentrate on just “being”;  and some that deal with a specific subject such as how to take anger and turn it into positive motivation.

Meditation is important for caregivers.  As caregivers, we are often filled with stress and negative feelings (not necessarily towards our care recipient, but perhaps towards physicians, hospitals, siblings, insurance companies, etc.)

We are also often overwhelmed and the thoughts in our heads are running around like a chipmunk gathering seeds for the winter.  We MUST slow down.  Meditation is a good way to do this and it doesn’t take much time.

Colin Allen, in Psychology Today, April, 2003, states that  Neuroscientists have found that meditators shift their brain activity to different areas of the cortex – brain waves in the stress-prone right frontal cortex move to the calmer left frontal cortex. This mental shift decreases the negative effects of stress, mild depression and anxiety.

Here are 4 of the daily benefits that meditation can give us:

1.  Reduced Stress

Meditation helps us to switch off the worries that can plague us throughout the day.  It quietens the mind and allows us to clear our heads of all that mumbo jumbo.

2.  Improved Health

Lowered blood pressure, less headaches, improvement in other stress-related ailments and even pain relief have all been proven to be part of the benefits of meditation.

3.  Detachment

As busy caregivers, it is easy to get distractions by small irritations such as having to wait in lines at the pharmacy or having to deal with things like adult diapers that have not been placed where they should have been placed.  The solution is not to avoid these small problems because they will inevitably reappear.  The solution is to develop a detachment in order to keep things in perspective.  Meditation helps with this by clearing the head of these irritating thoughts.  The purpose is not to develop an indifference but to see the situation for what it really is…a minor occurence.

4. Happiness and peace of mind

I remember a time when I was in college and in the middle of mid-terms.  I had just purchased a small condominium and had many boxes remaining to be unpacked after the move AND my best friend was getting married.  My mother asked me what I wanted for Christmas and I remember writing her a poem instead of a Christmas list.  I don’t recall the entire poem but the last line was “ALL I want is some peace of mind.”

Most of us are seeking happiness and peace of mind in one way or another.  It may be through a spiritual journey, or simply by trying to live a better life.  Meditation helps with increasing our happiness by taking us directly to the source of happiness, which can be found in simply “being”.  When you are simply being, there are no worries, past, present or future because they are all shut out.  This is not to say that they won’t return once our meditation is finished but for that few moments, we can be at peace and tap into the happiness that is available to us.  According to Tejvan Pettinger ” Meditation shows us that happiness is not dependent on outer circumstances, but on our inner attitude.”

The benefits of meditation are real but they will not occur with just one or two sessions.  It may take some time for you to relax and allow the meditations to work.   They should be practiced at least once every day for best results.

You can find some good meditation CDs at your local bookstore or on iTunes.  The iPhone has some meditation aps available, as well.  Two that I like are called “Simply Being” and “Meditation Oasis”.

Because of our belief in the goodness of meditation for caregivers, when we launch our new membership program in September (Team C.A.R.E. – Caregiving Activities Resources and Education), a monthly downloadable meditation will be included along with 6-8 other meditations to get you started.

I hope that you’ll give the practice of meditation a try and let me know how it works for you.


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