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Thriving through Caregiver Compassion Fatigue: Mindfulness Basics

Lesson four Mindfulness basics. In this episode, you'll learn the basics of mindfulness and how to apply it to compassion fatigue. So one of the things that are incredibly helpful in battling compassion fatigue, and also something that's incredibly helpful in combating compassion fatigue, but also something that is really useful.

On a day-to-day basis it is called mindfulness. So mindfulness is an awareness of ourselves, our environment, our bodily sensations or thoughts and our feelings, but also being nonjudgmental and accepting that the present moment is what is happening. So it doesn't mean that you like what is going on, but that you are acknowledging that this is happening. So it's kind of like being in the moment and acknowledging that the moment is existing. So this helps us to feel a little bit better because we don't have to bring in that suffering part of pain and suffering, which is where kind of the thoughts and the judgment come in. So I first wanted to talk about four really great mindfulness strategies.

So the first one is fully experiencing your food. And granted, I understand because I go through it every single night that this may be really challenging, especially if you have young children or fair or noisy or aggressive or throw food, or if you're just really rushed through a mealtime. But anytime that you're able to see how you're able to just really be present and aware of your food.

So what does it smell like? What does it taste like, what does it feel like in your mouth and even what does it look like on the plate? All of that can help a person be in the moment and more aware of everything that's going on around them, instead of just the things that are upsetting or challenging and also more than just the future, like the worries and concerns.

So this one is really nice because. Not only is eating pleasurable, but you can bring in more pleasure with the eating experience without overdoing it. Another one is being mindful of how your body feels. There are a couple of ways to do this. The first one is just a quick body scan where you're sitting or lying, and you're just noticing what your body feels like.

So how does your rear end feel in the chair? How do your legs feel in the chair? How does your chest feel as you're breathing in and out? So just noticing what's going on the other way you can do this body scan is to look and see where your trouble spots areas you're just noticing your body and release those areas of tension in different parts of your body.

So you can imagine this by. Trying to mentally replace the tension with warmth or lightness or relaxation, or even feeling like your body is melting, like metal, anything like that can be really helpful. Another one and I briefly alluded to it before being aware of your breath. So not just being aware that you are breathing, but how long does it take to breathe?

What does it feel like? What does the air feel like going in your nose and out or in your throat? How does your chest feel as your lungs inflate and deflate? If you want to take this to the next level, you can work on slowed, deep breathing. So you want to think about deep breathing. So breathing and inflating your abdomen and your chest, like a balloon starting with the bottom, like your belly, and then inflating up.

But even more important is taking twice as long to breathe out as you do to breathe in, slow it down. Try not to force it. Don't hold your breath. Be gentle, but slow it down. Another one you can do is just focus on one thing, pick something quick, like this too shall pass, or I can do this or I am enough or hang in there.

Just a short saying, or a mantra, something that you can really focus your mind on and just repeat, which will help. There are a lot of other ones you can do. Those are the quickest ones, but there are plenty of other ones you can do. So you can go on a mental vacation. So you can pick your favorite memory, favorite place or the most relaxing place you can think of and put yourself there with all of your senses.

What do you see? Hear touch, taste, smell all of them. You can just watch your thoughts and emotions. So one that I used to do when I was in graduate school would be to imagine myself, sitting next to a river. And putting my thoughts on a leaf and then sending them down the river and just watching the thoughts go down the river on the leaf.

Some people do that with clouds. Some people do that with waves in the ocean, but just watching your thoughts and emotions, not judging them, not trying to change them, just observing. You can bring this to other aspects of your life too. You can be more mindful in conversations with friends, family, coworkers.

So think about it like this, instead of thinking of, Oh my goodness. I can't believe I said that or what do I need to say next? What do I want to make sure of? I won't forget. Just be in the moment and notice. What's going on and what you're saying, what they're saying and what you feel like you can be mindful of your experience with your favorite TV shows or your favorite movie.

Just throw yourself in there. You can be mindful of nature or the world passing by or other people as you pass them. By when you're driving. Are there ways to mindfully do the dishes? And I know that sounds ridiculous because not many of us like dishes. Some do, not myself, but to really feel like, what does the soap feel like?

The slipperiness? What do the bubbles feel like? How does the plate change in its texture when it's clean versus dirty? What does dish soap smell like? All of those kinds of things. It can really make the moment more comfortable. Other ways of being in the moment are progressive muscle relaxation. So going back to that body scan that I talked about, instead of just relaxing those tense spots, pick a spot like your feet or your head tense, a specific part, like your toes or your forehead for three seconds, then relax.

Then tense, then relax and go through this with every muscle of your body. At least once the last one I want to talk about is creative visualization. So much, like I mentioned, with a mental vacation or with letting your thoughts go down on the leaves, think of some sort of wonderful, beautiful place. So I used to listen to this CD that would really help me. And I would picture myself going down the elevator with all these cushions and pillows and just feeling lighter and lighter as I went down and then it would get out and I would be at the beach and I would be able to feel the sunlight on my body and feel the sand under my feet.

And then it would instruct me to get into the water and feel what my body felt like while going through the water. Picturing myself in a healthy body and what my body would feel like as I was swimming, you know, those kinds of things, or really any sort of visualization, that's really relaxing. So a lot of people like to do things like mountain or garden scenes or the ocean, but it can be really anything that's relaxing to you.

That's going to bring you into the moment, but out of the really stressful experience. Next week, we will talk about other ways to improve our experience and reduce symptoms of compassion fatigue. Thank you for listening to this course on Listenable. I hope you enjoyed it.

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Written by

Jessica Temple