Cancer & Caregiving

Harness Mindfulness to Ease Mesothelioma Caregiver Stress

Written By:
Jul 31, 2018
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Written By: Lorraine Kember,
July 31, 2018
Inner peace and balance

Caregiving for a loved one with a life-limiting illness such as mesothelioma is a harrowing experience that can come with a great deal of stress.

Left untreated, stress can have a negative effect on mental and physical health.

While feelings of stress are perfectly normal when dealing with situations beyond your control, it is best to find ways to deal with stress rather than to dwell on it.

Now, more than ever, you and your loved one need to find moments of joy in each precious day you share together.

Stress can cause several conditions including:

  • Feelings of helplessness

  • Inability to sleep (insomnia)

  • Headaches

  • Feelings of exhaustion

  • Inability to focus

  • Feelings of anger

  • Lack of motivation

  • Inability to cope

Experiencing one or all these conditions may cause a person to believe there is no longer any enjoyment to be found in their life.

Fortunately, there are several simple things you can do to ease stress. One is mindful meditation.

Mindful Meditation Good for Caregiver and Patient

Mindful meditation is the practice of completely focusing the mind on the present without giving any thought to what has happened in the past or what may or may not happen in the future.

Clearing the mind in this way reduces brain chatter and allows us to be in the moment and more in-tune with our body’s needs.

In times of stress, we often react to situations without thinking. Mindful meditation teaches us to detach our thoughts for long enough to think the situation through, removing the need to react impulsively.

The ability to do this immediately calms the nerves and enables us to better deal with the situation at hand.

Mindful mediation has proven to be a powerful tool when used in the management of stress for caregivers. The same can be said for those dealing with a terminal diagnosis.

Science has proven mindfulness can reshape the relationship with mental and physical pain.

A study of mindfulness carried out by a team of Harvard researchers found those who practiced mindful meditation daily — for a period of eight weeks — reported a sense of increased peace and clarity compared to those who did not meditate.

The researchers also found evidence to prove mindful meditation physically affected the brain.

MRIs taken of those who participated in the eight-week study showed an increase in the grey matter of the brain associated with focus and attention and a decrease in the grey matter associated with stress and anxiety.

How to Practice Mindful Meditation

Mindful meditation is a wonderful tool to help put some space between ourselves, our reactions and conditioned responses.

The best thing is — it is free and available to us whenever we choose. The only thing we need to do is learn how to tap into it.

There are many ways to practice mindful meditation. Here are a few easy exercises for you to try.

Mindful Breathing Method

Seated in a comfortable position, breath slowly in and out for one minute, focusing entirely on your breath. Breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth, let your breath flow effortlessly.

One breath cycle should last for approximately six seconds. Try not to think about anything other than your breathing. When thoughts do come to mind, let them go.

Mindful Observation Method

Turn your full attention to a natural object in your immediate environment: A flower, a tree, an insect or a cloud.

Look at the object as though you are seeing it for the very first time. Notice how it is formed, its color, its texture. Concentrate on nothing but the object for as long as you can.

This simple but powerful exercise helps you find a new appreciation of the simple elements of your environment in a more meaningful way.

Mindful Awareness Method

Cast your mind to something you do time and time again throughout the day without even thinking about it.

For example, opening a door.

The next time you open a door, be mindful of your hand on the doorknob. Stop for a moment and think about where you are, how you feel at that moment and where the door is leading you.

Mindful awareness doesn’t have to be in the physical form. It can also be helpful when dealing with negative thoughts.

For example, each time a negative thought enters your mind, take a moment to register the thought is unhelpful and let it go.

Mindful Appreciation Method

Make a note of five things in your day that usually go unappreciated. These can be people or objects — the decision is up to you.

The aim of this exercise is to appreciate and give thanks to the seemingly insignificant things that support our lives but are often taken for granted.

For instance, the electricity that allows you to boil water, cook a meal and turn a light on. The beautiful, clear water that flows through your taps, always available to drink or wash your clothes.

The friendly assistant at your local shopping center, the presence of friends and family in your life, or the gift of your five senses — sight, hearing, touch, smell and taste.

Think about the benefits these things bring to your life and of how your day-to-day existence would be without them. Becoming truly mindful of these things helps you appreciate the positive impact they bring to your life.

Practice Makes Perfect

As you become used to the art of mindfulness, you will become aware of many opportunities to practice it.

Reducing your stress through the regular practice of mindful meditation will have a positive impact on your mental and physical health.

This will give you the strength needed to cope with difficult situations as they arise.

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