Stress Relief for Caregivers: How to Start Meditating

Posted March 23, 2014

Most of us have at least this one thing in common as so-called caretakers: we’re busy.

At the same time, most of us want to be able to feel like we are able to live in the moment each day. Practicing mindfulness through meditation is one way to do that. Before thinking I don’t have time to do that, think about these things meditation can do:

  • improve emotional intelligence;
  • foster social connectedness;
  • reduce stress and anxiety.

Stevie Wonder, Jack Dorsey, Brad Feld, Russell Simmons and Ellen DeGeneres are just a few people who meditate.

So why do these successful people actively commit to meditation?

Ellen DeGeneres’ response: “Because it feels good.”

She continues, saying that meditation is similar to “when you have to shut your computer down, just sometimes when it goes crazy, you just shut it down and when you turn it on, it’s okay again.”

Since helping someone else to care for their health is one of the most stressful roles we can adopt, what are the steps to follow when it comes to starting to practice meditation ourselves?

How to Get to “Mental Calm”

There are no set rules for meditating, but here’s a guide on how you can begin.

1. Make a commitment.

The same way we would commit to any other new practice, we have to commit to meditation. Are you going to do it in the morning and night? If so, as I would suggest, put it in your calendar and treat it like an appointment or work obligation. Aim for intentional meditation for 5-10 minutes to start with, or even less.

You might be surprised just how uncomfortable it is to start. Just like if you were starting a new training regimen at the gym, you want to ease into the new practice of meditation.

2. Focus on your breathing.

A good way to start, for most, is to sit or lie when you meditate. Take note of how and “where” you inhale, and then the same for when you exhale. The rhythm of your breathing might start fast, but just make sure that you are taking deep breaths, and then rhythm can follow.

How you focus your thoughts at this point depends on the kind of meditation you want. For me, as soon as my mind wanders, I bring it back to awareness of my breathing. Again, this is where the discomfort might start to creep in for beginners.

Recall that being mindful is about focusing your attention, generally speaking, and this takes work. If you are having trouble focusing on your breath at first, think of other ways you can focus your mind. An example: try focusing on the color white.

3. Don’t give up when you feel discomfort or frustration.

Meditation doesn’t come easy…Think of all the noise and clutter we have in our world, and the stress we’re often under as we help other people deal with their health each day. It’s not a surprise we have to train our brains to focus.

4. Reflect and re-commit.

Once you start to meditate, aim to reflect on the session you just had. Did you start to feel a bit frustrated with your inability for meditation to come easily? Or is it the nature of your thoughts—they were more negative than you thought they would be?

We may give meditation a try, but the reality is that many of us will also stop doing it over time. I like to think about meditation, after I meditate. This act serves as one more way I’m committing myself to the practice.

Go ahead and see what works for you. Just know that we see benefits including an increase in our patience, our intentionality, and even in gratitude when we stick it out.

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