Being a caregiver can be very stressful in all aspects of one’s life. Caregivers are tasked with many different roles in order to provide the necessary care for their loved one. Whether it is housekeeping, nursing or many of the other important responsibilities of a caregiver, they are always put in a stressful state of mind.

As a caregiver, it is important to find time for self care while you are caring for someone else. Several programs, which complement each other, have made it easy to manage stress and remain actively involved with the person who needs care. Among those programs are Tai Chi, mindfulness and yoga.

Social Worker Paul Donovan practices mindfulness meditation, being aware of your present moment in a non- judgemental state of mind, and yoga for therapeutic benefit.

“These practices can help reduce stress, help burnout and reduce compassion fatigue,” he said.

The specific meditation that Donovan practices and teaches has been researched and studied by Shands, and had very positive results. The program is called EnCare, and it is not only for caregivers, but for patients as well. If a caregiver is less stressed, it puts the patient at less risk, said Donovan. These meditation methods allow both the caregiver and the patient to relieve their stress and make for a safer environment for all.

Combining that with Tai Chi will go a long way to relieve stress. Tai Chi makes you feel more peaceful, calm and relaxed, as well as improving balance and flexibility – all essential tools for a caregiver. Additionally, Tai Chi can make one more alert and mindful. The series of slow physical movements can leave you feeling like all your muscles have been exercised.

Tai chi is an ancient Chinese tradition that, today, is practiced as a graceful form of exercise practiced for its physical, mental, emotional and even spiritual benefits. It is used to prevent various health issues as well as to heal them when they occur. Its movements are gentle, usually slow, but extremely powerful. Its power comes from focusing the mind, body and breath in each movement. Tai Chi does not involve watching a newscast or listening to your Walkman while working out on an exercise machine – full focus is given to the movements or patterns that are being performed. In practicing Tai Chi, a major focus is on relaxation – the more relaxed and calm you are the greater the benefits.

A Tai Chi for Seniors class and a Gentle Motions class are offered at the Crown Pointe Senior Healthcare Center on Thursdays. Contact Paul Gebhart for more information on which class would be best suited for you (352-379-6124).

As for yoga, a sequence of body stretches and poses with controlled breathing which promotes health, balance and general wellness, it is available in two forms at the Senior Recreation Center. There’s more traditional yoga geared to seniors, as well as chair yoga for those who need to sit. Like traditional yoga, chair yoga is designed for increased flexibility, decreased pain, relaxation and enhancing a sense of well-being. For more information contact the Senior Recreation Center at (352) 265-9040.

It is extremely important for caregivers to manage their stress in healthy ways and learn how to deal with the difficult circumstances. These programs and others are great ways to learn how to cope with the tough situations that caregivers often face.

Caucasian senior woman sitting in yoga position on floor meditating.

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