Caring for the carers

24 November 2021 | Becs Mansfield

At beanddo we are privileged to work with a number of voluntary groups and charity organisations that provide vital support to those who are caring for others.

Organisations like The Gaddum Centre, Manchester Carers Forum, Seashell Trust and Together Dementia Support have all invited beanddo to help in their vital work. 

Currently in the UK there are thought to be almost seven million carers (that is one in ten people). This figure is rising too. Out of the UK’s carers, 42% of carers are men and 58% are women. The economic value of the contribution made by carers in the UK is £119 billion per year.

As a carer it is extremely important to look after one’s well being as stress, anxiety and tension can drain your energy levels and affect health. It’s vital to have a practical and easy way to apply a self care regime as 80% of carers report that caring for someone living with a long-term condition has a negative health impact. It’s here we have been working to try and make a difference by helping carers develop personnel Modern Meditation based skills for positive mental wellbeing.  

How does Modern Meditation help?

The beanddo Modern Meditation techniques, (Meditation originally developed out of the yogic Vedic tradition [3500 – 5000 bce] as a practice) are a contemporary 21st century version of timeless wisdom practice. They are practical, medically and scientifically verified, simple to learn and easy to apply in daily life no matter where you are and what you are doing.  In short Modern Meditation helps build a personal space where one can connect to a deeper sense of being – to be a human being rather than always a human doing, which most of us are, particularly the UK’s carers. 

The techniques involve a simple shift of perspective – a different way of perceiving and processing the world. So instead of reacting to the world from the outside – in (from our being doing mode) we change to acting in the world from inside – out (our being more). This simple shift of attention, nurtured by simple Modern Meditation techniques has shown to have huge psychological and physiological benefits. 

When we learn to reconnect more to our being the practice will enhance and upgrade a sense of Self. The result is resilience and insight, empowering the practitioner to feel free, centred, relaxed and energised.

The other thing that happens is one will rediscover an innate sense of happiness – because guess what?  You are happy. I know it’s hard to believe but it’s true. At its heart, Modern Meditation helps you reconnect back to being yourSelf again. If you are a carer it’s very likely you haven’t done that for some time!  Modern Meditation can help you make happy work® in your life. 

You can’t pour from an empty cup 

Carers just can’t just drop their role and they wouldn’t want to. However, avoiding burnout, prioritising a sense of SELF care is essential. The good thing is that Modern Meditation will help not only cultivate and protect essential human skills as a compassionate carer, meeting expectations, demands and obligations, but also as a caregiver to yourself. It’s a win-win situation.  Taking space for yourself will keep you grounded, relaxed and connected – so that you have the capacity to help others.  

Whether one is experiencing symptoms of burnout or overwhelm, it’s possible to make small changes, like having a daily meditation practice to improve resilience. Often it’s not time that is the enemy, it’s the carer’s to-do list. So having an effective and powerful practice that can be ‘slotted’ into the caring day, little and often is key.  

And the best thing is you don’t need to go anywhere or do anything! All you need is a quiet space and a chair or a cushion to sit on. No need to sit cross legged or learn a mantra. 

The science – so how does this stuff work?

Our mind is constantly pulled by distraction, focussing on survival and looking for trouble, either thinking about past events or thinking about something that may or may not happen. As a result our mind is always active and our nervous system can’t tell the difference between what is happening in our heads and what is happening in the real world. As a result we can become overwhelmed, stressed and anxious.

Our sympathetic nervous system that activates the fight / fight reaction is the reason for our stress and anxiety. We’ve made incredible advances since the dawn of our existence, from hunting and gathering, however our brain has not evolved away from its primary responsibility of keeping us alive and safe. Hence our attention is directed towards both real and perceived threats. When we bring our attention to the present moment through Modern Meditation we can activate the parasympathetic nervous system, our rest and digest state.  The stress generated from the practical and emotional pressure when prioritising someone else often leads to overwhelm. When we can’t immediately change our circumstances – we can however change the way we respond.

A myth about meditation is we are trying to stop thoughts or feelings. But that’s not it. We open ourselves up to thoughts and feelings happening in the mind and body. Meditation gives you the space to notice what thoughts are happening in the mind, and what feelings are happening in the body. But we change our relationship to our thoughts and feelings. 

We can’t control our outer world but we can control our inner world. And when we change the way we see and think about things, we change how the world appears and impacts us.

And finally sleep and sleep quality… 

There is nothing worse than being tired and not being able to sleep. By using meditation to reduce symptoms of stress, anxiety, and depression, we can have an easier time falling and staying asleep.

A guided meditation, or a body scanning meditation, can get you off to sleep before you know it. Sometimes you’ll fall asleep before the end of the meditation. The emphasis here is on bringing your attention to the present moment. When your attention is on a guided meditation, or on your body – your attention is not ruminating over thoughts making you feel overwhelmed, anxious or stressed. Your body and mind will relax. 

Meditation can help reduce cortisol, which is the hormone associated with stress. By relaxing your body and brain, it’s easier to quiet the distracting thoughts that keep your mind buzzing. When we learn to calm the mind, we can activate the parasympathetic system – the body’s rest and digest state

Here are some useful tips and exercises for you to try:

Breathe!

The quickest way to activate the parasympathetic nervous system – your rest and digest state – is by conscious breathing. This means being highly focused and aware of your body breathing. Don’t force the breath. Take a deep inhale into your belly. Notice your belly rise. And then slowly exhale and notice the belly fall. Just place your attention on how it feels to inhale fully and release the breath fully. 

Here is our special beanddo breathing exercise here below. Just follow the line and the instructions as you breathe. You will notice that the exhale is longer than the inhale – that’s important as the parasympathetic system activates here. You can do it anywhere and at anytime and you will find that those feelings of overwhelm, panic and stress will become manageable. 

Click on the image to download your own beanddo breathing meditation

Conscious, controlled and rhythmic breathing is thought to be the only direct thing we can do to interfere with your automatic and mostly unconscious activation of your mind body’s fight-flight response. 

Be present 

Do one thing at a time. When you are with your care partner, be with them fully. Focus on wherever you are and whatever you’re doing. At beanddo we talk about connecting our BEING and DOING. We can fully bring our attention to the present moment, rather than being distracted by our thoughts. 

Connect to nature

Nature helps us to connect to what is real. Rather than be stuck in our heads worrying. When we think of nature we may be critical of our surroundings. But go for a walk wherever you are and notice nature. Bring your attention to any trees, plants, flowers, puddles, birds, the sky… There will always be nature for you to connect to.

Meditation & journaling

Set the intention to have a daily meditation practice. They say the best way to form a new habit is to attach it to something you already do – so when you turn the kettle on in the morning? They say it takes 21 days to form a habit so try dedicating the time to meditation for 21 days.

And journal – take the time to reflect on how you feel from introducing this new positive habit. You can ask yourself each day “how do I feel physically?” and “how do I feel emotionally” and pay attention to any change. Maybe you notice your responding differently to your situation? Maybe you notice a little more ease around your caregiving? 

If it all seems too much, start by trying to check in with yourself as often as you can.  At beanddo we have a special one page ‘Check-in’ reminder to be and do YOU every day. 

Click on the form below to download your own version.

Find out more about upgrading the way you think, feel and act in the world:

Learn more about the beanddo Modern Meditation techniques here that will help you strengthen your attention skills

Join Modern Meditation Coach Becs for her special online  course to help you create positive habits.

Join Mick, Becs and the rest the  beanddo family every Monday morning for a live online Modern Meditation session.