This post was contributed by Harry Cline of newcaregiver.org

How to Use Meditation and Yoga to De-Stress Caregivers and Seniors

Providing care for a senior loved one is such a noble expression of love. As time goes by, however, this arrangement can also be filled with stress. Seniors and their caregivers both need ways to decompress. Here are some ways you can use yoga and meditation to do just that.

Learn About Which Health Plans Cover Yoga Classes

Yoga classes provide opportunities for socializing, which is beneficial for seniors. However, the costs of attending classes regularly can add up. The good news is that some insurance providers can help with the costs. Certain Medicare Advantage plans from companies like UnitedHealthcare cover classes at participating fitness centers (including yoga), though basic Medicare does not. Go online to find out which plans provide coverage.

Dedicate a Space in Your Home to Your Practice

Ask any meditation guru or yogi what the hardest part of practice is, and they are likely to tell you it’s just showing up. Like any new habit, making yoga and meditation a routine part of your life will take some time and consistency. Since getting out to class may not always work for caregivers and seniors, the easiest way to inspire yourself to hit the mat every day is to bring the practice to you. Establishing a home gym, complete with a yoga mat and minimal distractions, is the perfect way to ensure you stick to your goals. You may even be able to find online yoga classes, which can guide and enhance your new practice.

In addition to providing you a relaxing space to melt stress away with yoga and meditation, a home gym is also a convenient way for seniors and caregivers to stay in shape. In as little as 15 minutes each day, seniors can get the exercise they need to stay healthy, happy and stress-free, and make their care a bit easier on you.

Leave Time in Your Schedule for Meditation and Yoga

Having a dedicated workout and relaxation space in your home can certainly make practicing more convenient, but you still need the time to commit to a daily practice. That can be tough for caregivers and seniors, given the demands of this high-stress arrangement. Some caregiving situations can be more stressful and time consuming than others, and that’s why you need tension-taming tools like yoga and meditation to prevent yourself from burning out.

For those with time constraints, the good news is that yoga and meditation can actually be practiced together. Blending these two stress-reducing self-care habits into a single daily session can provide even more benefits for caregivers and seniors, so don’t think you need to set aside separate times in your day to make these rituals work. It may be helpful to carve out some time at the beginning of the day for your combined practice. Allow yourself a 30-minute window in the morning to work out your body with yoga and relax your mind with meditation.

Support Your Healthy Habits with Healthier Foods

It may seem odd to mention diet when talking about meditation and yoga. What you put into your body, however, can have a major impact on how well your body (and your mind) can perform certain tasks. This includes meditation sessions and yoga poses. That’s why diet is key to a fulfilling practice.

One reason yoga and meditation are so soothing to the human spirit is  because they are based on a premise of minimizing negativity. This means reducing the harm you do to others as well as to yourself. Although it may be convenient for busy caregivers, consuming a diet of processed foods can be degrading to your overall health and well-being. In addition to making you more vulnerable to debilitating diseases, processed foods also impact your mood and energy levels, which can be counterproductive when another person is relying on you for their care. Not to mention that processed foods can lead to tooth decay, which, coupled with depression and stress can enhance poor oral hygiene.

As you begin establishing your yoga and meditation routines, make sure your food habits are supporting your success. Try to stick to unprocessed whole foods and go organic when you can to minimize health risks and be kinder to yourself. Many of these foods also have benefits for brain health, which can be helpful for seniors and their caregivers.

Burnout, depression and anxiety are all real threats to the senior-caregiver relationship. Prevent these issues from arising by committing to a regular yoga and meditation practice. It’s a simple method for bringing more mindfulness and positivity to your day.

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