Five tools for mindfulness for caregivers (The Caregiver Space)

Today’s blog post from “The Caregiver Space” ( gives a short description of five tools for mindfulness for caregivers. The online apps are:

1- Curable: for chronic pain;

2- Universal Breathing: based on the ancient yogic discipline;

3- Journey: journaling;

4- WildMind: 200 guided meditation sessions based on ancient Buddhist practices;

5- Aura: set aside three minutes daily for guided meditation;

The post also make some interesting points about mindfulness being different from meditation, and mindfulness not being “selfish.”



5 Tools for Mindfulness for Caregivers
by Maricel Tabalba (Guest Author)
The Caregiver Space
Jan 31, 2018

Recent estimates show that 80 percent of caregivers in the US are not healthcare professionals. Given the both physically and emotionally taxing nature of the work, plus the fact that most caregivers aren’t professionally trained, it should come as no surprise that many caregivers suffer from anxiety. In fact, so many caregivers complain of anxiety symptoms that “caregiver stress” is now a medically recognized term.

The first thing every caregiver should understand is that it’s just as important to take care of themselves as it is to take care of their patients. One free, easy, and effective way caregivers can better cope with the stresses of work is to schedule a few moments of mindfulness practice every day.

Mindfulness: It’s Not Just Meditation
Before we even suggest how to practice mindfulness, we should clear up a common misconception about mindfulness. When people hear the word “mindfulness” they often assume it’s synonymous with meditation. But while meditation can certainly be considered a mindfulness practice, mindfulness encompasses a wide variety of exercises designed to help people better manage stress. Besides meditation, a few common mindfulness practices include journaling, music therapy, yoga, talk therapy, and Tai Chi. As long as the technique helps bring you into the present moment, it could be considered a form of mindfulness.

Daily mindfulness practice helps caregivers perform their duties without becoming overburdened with stress. Luckily, there are tons of convenient apps available to help caregivers find their inner Zen through their smartphone. Below, we’ll go over five excellent apps all caregivers can use to start their journey towards inner calm.

People who struggle with chronic pain conditions must download the Curable app. Created by a team of people who overcame their own challenges with with pain, Curable uses the latest research in mindbody healing to help users overcome conditions such as low back pain, migraine headaches, and irritable bowel syndrome.

After downloading Curable onto your Apple or Android product, you get access to an artificial intelligent “pain coach” named Clara. Users just have to type in their pain symptoms and Clara will put together a personalized mindfulness practice. Simply follow Clara’s lesson plans everyday and you may start to feel better within around a month.

Curable’s developers say 70 percent of users experience some relief from their pain symptoms within 30 days of first starting to use the app. Even if you do not suffer from chronic pain, caregivers can still benefit from Curable’s exercises and can practice a more mindful way of living.

Universal Breathing
For those who aren’t aware, pranayama is the ancient yogic discipline of controlling the breath to achieve a greater state mental clarity. Many yogis use pranayama exercises to help them enter deeper states of meditation and quickly silence mental chatter. Thanks to the Universal Breathing app, now you don’t need to travel to an ashram to learn basic pranayama exercises to help you through your day. People who use the Universal Breathing app have access to tons of information on pranayama technique, breathing courses, guided sessions, and a progress journal. Find out what exercises work best for you and read about pranayama theory on this fascinating app.

Today, the Universal Breathing app is available for free in the App Store, Google Play, and on the Nook.

If you’re not into guided meditations or breathing exercises, perhaps you’d prefer a mindfulness practice like journaling. Before you put down journaling as “not real mindfulness,” you should know that many scientific studies prove that journaling helps boost the immune system and relieves depression.

Probably the easiest way to get into the journaling habit in our digital age is to download the Journey app. The Journey app allows you to write and store your journal entries in the Cloud and add photos from your albums. You can even share moments with friends and family across multiple platforms. The Journey app is available on Apple, Android, and Microsoft products.

WildMind Buddhist Meditation
WildMind’s Bodhi app has more than 200 guided meditation sessions based on ancient Buddhist practices. Although most of these meditations are indebted to Buddhist teachings, you don’t have to know anything about Buddhist traditions to get a great deal out of this app. The two main practices encouraged in these meditation sessions include basic breath meditation and loving-kindness meditation (also known as metta practice). Most of these meditation sessions last between 15 to 20 minutes. WildMind’s app also includes instructions on practicing walking meditation and tips to improve your meditation posture.

Aura is an award-winning mindfulness app tailored for people who live fast-paced lifestyles. All the Aura app asks is that you set aside three minutes every day for a guided meditation. That’s it. If you feel like it, you could add a few of Aura’s “micro-meditations” throughout your day, each of which lasts around 30 seconds. There are also relaxing forest soundscapes on Aura’s app to help you get through particularly stressful days.

All of your meditations are tailored to your specific needs by AI technology and Aura keeps tabs on your mood so you can see whether or not certain meditations are working for you. Aura is available on Android and iOS devices.

Mindfulness Practice: Every Caregiver’s First Priority
Caregivers have a habit of neglecting their own wellbeing for their patients’ sakes. Some caregivers even believe taking a few minutes out of the day to practice mindfulness is “selfish.” Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, taking a few minutes to practice mindfulness everyday will improve the quality of care you can give to your patient. It should be mandatory that all caregivers practice some form of mindfulness today, especially with all of these great apps literally at our fingertips.

Maricel Tabalba is a freelance writer working with Curable Health, who is interested in writing about natural and holistic remedies, smart gadgets, emerging tech trends, and environmentally friendly advice. She earned her Bachelor of Arts in English with a minor in Communication from the University of Illinois at Chicago.

“Caregivers, You Are Loved!” from Chaplain J.E. Hulsey

This was posted to an FTD online support group yesterday. It has been posted many places on Facebook but I haven’t been able to find a good link to share. Here’s a message to caregivers from a chaplain.


A share from Chaplain J. E. Hulsey‎ ….
Caregivers, You Are Loved!

To the caregiver hiding in their bathroom, needing peace for just one minute, as the tears roll down their cheeks.

To the caregiver who is so tired they feel likes they can’t function anymore and would do anything to lay down and get the rest they need…

To the caregiver sitting in their car, alone, stuffing food in their face because they don’t want anyone else to see or know they eats that stuff…

To the caregiver crying on the couch after they yelled at their loved one for something little and is now feeling guilty and like they are crap…

To the caregiver that is trying desperately to put those old jeans on because all they really want is to look in the mirror and feel good about themselves…

To the caregiver that doesn’t want to leave the house because life is just too much to handle right now…

To the caregiver that is calling out for pizza again because dinner just didn’t happen the way they wanted it to…

To the caregiver that feels alone, whether in a room by themselves or standing in a crowd…

You are enough.

You are important.

You are worthy.

This is a phase of life for us. This is a really really hard, challenging, crazy phase of life.

In the end it will all be worth it. But for now it’s hard. And it’s hard for so many of us in many different ways. We don’t always talk about it, but it’s hard and it’s not just you. Know you are not alone. Know your are loved.

You are enough.

You are doing your best.

Those loving eyes that look up at you – they think you are perfect. They think you are more than enough.

Those feeble hands that reach out to hold you – they think you are the strongest. They think you can conquer the world.

Those mouths eating the food you gave them – they think that you are the best because their bellies are full.

Those forgetful loving hearts that reach out to touch yours – they don’t want anything more. They just want you to be there for them.

Because you are enough. You are more than enough, caregiver.

You. Are. Amazing.

Thank you for giving, for caring and for loving!


In Donna Thomson’s blog “The Caregivers’ Living Room,” she posts about caregivers experiencing constant trauma and drama, such that they have become numb.  Donna says: “Hyper-vigilance in order to avoid dangerous and life-threatening consequences of an illness or disability can lead to ‘shutting down’ one’s emotions.”

A trauma response therapist recommends two strategies so that “burnt out caregivers [can] get their feelings back… The first is called ‘interoception’ – it simply means being aware of your body in a purposeful way, the same as in yoga, mindfulness meditation or Tai Chi. The idea is to become more acutely aware of how the sensations in our bodies influence the thoughts in our heads. The second strategy … is reaching out for support – to a medical professional, family, friends, or online.”

Read more.

Today I was speaking with another caregiver. We were talking about trauma.

My friend’s Mom has been progressively losing skills due to a degenerative disease. It wasn’t just the disappearing abilities that hurt my friend, it was the numbness she felt herself. Here’s how she described what happened yesterday. “Mom’s been using a power wheelchair to get to the dining room where she lives in assisted living. But recently, she’s become unsafe driving it – she’s running into walls and people. So yesterday, I took it away. I did it mechanically, I just felt numb. This was a BIG deal and I didn’t feel anything. But I went home and I realized that I should be hurting for Mom. I hate this. I hate being numb. I LOVE my Mom.”

I’ve experienced numbness in my caregiving life and I’m betting that most other long-term carers of loved ones with chronic disease or disability have experienced it too. I decided to ask my niece Christina Opolko about this symptom of stress and exhaustion. Christina is a licensed drama therapist and is highly trained in trauma response therapy.  Here’s what she said:

“I think as traumatic moments and major traumas accumulate, they become something called complex trauma. Over time, when the body goes into overwhelm, some people train themselves to override their feelings (sometimes called ‘functional freeze’) in order to keep functioning. This is a symptom of complex trauma. Over time, this can lead to loss of identity, inability to claim space beyond the caregiving role, and a near constant anxiety regarding self and other, without a clear root cause….the cause has been cumulative.

So I think the cause of feeling numb is complex trauma, overriding one’s emotions and, I would add, forced accommodation. In trauma, if you are forced to accommodate constantly to someone’s needs, there is a needs imbalance, and over time, it too can feel like trauma. The body cannot distinguish trauma from shutting your needs down to serve another under stressful circumstances. The two feel the same. The neurophysiological response is the same in both extreme stress and in suppressing your needs in order to attend another.”

I might add one more cause: hyper-vigilance over a long period of time. Hyper-vigilance in order to avoid dangerous and life-threatening consequences of an illness or disability can lead to ‘shutting down’ one’s emotions, in my experience. Being on high alert for the sake of someone’s life and limb is a good reason to use whatever coping mechanisms are at hand, even emotional numbing.

So, how can burnt out caregivers get their feelings back? Christina advises two strategies to begin. The first is called ‘interoception’ – it simply means being aware of your body in a purposeful way, the same as in yoga, mindfulness meditation or Tai Chi. The idea is to become more acutely aware of how the sensations in our bodies influence the thoughts in our heads. The second strategy that Christina is reaching out for support – to a medical professional, family, friends, or online. Seeking support may seem like a trite or even useless suggestion to caregivers whose emotional range has flatlined. “What’s the point of talking to anyone?” could well be a symptom of being overwhelmed by a sense of futility.

Is emotional numbing a good coping mechanism? Maybe sometimes, it can be. But mostly (in my experience), it is better to cry, much better. And my worry that if I started to cry, I would never stop was unfounded. I cried, yes, but then I stopped and I carried on. We all do. I reclaimed my feelings by asking myself, “What do I feel right now? Where are my muscles tight? Where are they relaxed? How does this orange taste in my mouth? Which muscles move when I swallow?” And I reached out to my family, my friends and my fellow caregivers. For me, nature was and is a great healer, too. Being in my garden, walking in the woods, even standing at the window looking at the rain all heal my heart and soul making me MORE emotional, ready to sense my body and especially the bodies and emotions of those I love.

SHARE program available to some caregivers in the Bay Area

This blog post will be of interest to those living in the San Francisco Bay Area, who are caring for those age 60 or older without dementia.

Northern California-based Family Caregiver Alliance ( is
organizing a free educational program called SHARE.

Within Brain Support Network, three types of caregivers are eligible —
* PSP caregivers not dealing with dementia
* CBD caregivers not dealing with dementia
* all MSA caregivers

The care receiver (person with a neurological diagnosis) must:
–  Be over age 60
–  Be living at home in the San Francisco Bay Area
–  Have intact cognitive abilities – NO dementia
–  Not be in the terminal stage of their disease

The caregiver will receive:
–  6 in-person home visits
–  Learn effective communication skills
–  Learn to reduce stress
–  Learn to promote health
–  Learn about long-term care management (make the most out of today
while planning for tomorrow)

If this is of interest, contact Michelle Venegas (415-434-3388, x323,

[email protected]) at Family Caregiver Alliance.

“9 Ways to Make Caregiving Easier” (AARP Family Caregiving)

This blog post from AARP Family Caregiving shares nine ways to make caregiving easier:

* Don’t suffer in silence.
* Do stay organized.
* Don’t feel guilty if you don’t live nearby.
* Do join a support group.
* Don’t forego sleep.
* Do find time for yourself.
* Don’t neglect your family.
* Do learn your options.
* Don’t overlook the benefits.

Read the full blog post below.


9 Ways to Make Caregiving Easier
Updated Jan 08, 2018
Care Connection, part of AARP Family Caregiving

* Don’t suffer in silence. If you feel you’re taking on more than you can manage, let your siblings and other family members know. No one can read your mind and others may not realize that you’re overwhelmed or even know how much you’re doing. Tell them — calmly, without accusation or blame. Spell out what they can do: grocery shopping, driving to medical appointments, covering your carpool day, or even treating you to dinner and a movie.

* Do stay organized. Create a master contact list (names, phone numbers, emails) of nearby friends, neighbors, doctors, faith leaders, housing managers or apartment front-desk staff, and the local pharmacist, who can be reached in the event of an emergency. Give this to all family members and post a copy where everyone in the house can see it.

* Don’t feel guilty if you don’t live nearby. Regret weighs heavily on long-distance caregivers, who often shift their schedules, miss work, spend huge amounts of money and time on travel, plus hours talking to doctors and financial experts. This is not your fault. Hire a geriatric care manager you trust to help coordinate local care services; you can find someone through the National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers. Additionally, there are several services that can help alert you if your parent isn’t active during the day. Your local post office may have a free Carrier Alert program, where letter carriers will notify you or a designated agency when mail hasn’t been picked up. Many local agencies telephone isolated people daily to check on their well being. New technology can alert you if your parent hasn’t been moving around the house.

* Do join a support group. Online or in your community. Every caregiver needs a talking buddy to listen while she vents. Even better are those who have been there, done that. Support groups can give you guidance, tips and solace. So can friends and co-workers who have been down this road. So if you need help, or someone to hug, ask.

* Don’t forego sleep. No one — not even you — can function when sleep deprived. Sleep loss cripples your ability to concentrate, solve problems and remember. Try to get eight hours a night. Nap when the person you’re caring for does. Ask someone to come over for a few hours or take Mom to a respite care program at a center for an afternoon. She may enjoy it. And you’ll be much better.

* Do find time for yourself. Join a book club or other activity that brings you joy. Even if you’ve only read the prologue, keeping up with the activities and relationships that stimulate your mind and soul is essential. And remember to exercise. It not only keeps the body in shape, it keeps the brain sharp, too. If you can’t get to the gym, buy a DVD of a yoga or exercise class. Ask a friend to pinch hit for you while you walk or jog for 30 minutes. Find ways to make it happen.

* Don’t neglect your family. Yes, your aging parent needs you, but so does your spouse. Consider hiring a night caregiver a few times a month so you can go for dinner and a movie or better yet, an overnight vacation. Explain the situation to your children so they understand your schedule and try to find special time to be with them and your friends.

* Do learn your options. If your caregiving responsibilities become too much to handle with your job, consider adjusting your work schedule if possible. Employees covered under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act may be able to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave per year to care for relatives. Check with HR about options for leave or flextime, job-sharing or telecommute policies that could make your life easier.

* Don’t overlook the benefits. Though caregiving has myriad challenges, it also offers many rewards: Most caregivers agree that the experience strengthened their relationship with a parent. It often brings both caregiver and parent to a new level of understanding in their relationship even if it was a strained connection over the years. You know you’re doing the right thing and you have the opportunity to give back to a parent who gave so much to you. Take a few moments each day to reflect on the positive aspects of being a caregiver.