For the 3.2 million Texas caregivers, balancing work, family, and caregiving duties can be challenging. It is even more taxing as we throw this pandemic in the mix. Dr. Alberto Almeida from Brownsville, Texas, and primary-care physician in family and sports medicine says, mindfulness can help caregivers better deal with their day to day duties. He joined our Prepare to Care Podcast to discuss mindfulness and caregivers.
Eddie Orum, AARP volunteer: What is mindfulness, and what are some benefits of mindfulness?
Dr. Alberto Almeida: “Mindfulness is a simple act of noticing our inner and outer feelings. It’s a little bit different than meditation, but there is such a thing as mindfulness meditation. For me, this the best form of medication. People usually think that this is something you have to be a master in, or it takes this great cognition or concentration, but by the end of our talk, everyone listening is going to know how to do mindfulness meditation and see how simple it really is.”
“The benefits of this are amazing. Right now, with the recent studies, we’re seeing how the brain works. We are able to find out what neurotransmitters are going on in the brain. So, this mindfulness meditation rewires how your brain actually works. Through meditation, you’re able to think more spontaneously, you’re faster, you’re quicker, you’re able to think more clearly, and many other improvements.”
Eddie Orum: How can mindfulness help caregivers deal with stress while balancing work and caring for a loved one?
Dr. Alberto Almeida: “It’s really important from a couple of different points of view. If you’re helping your body to have these hormones and neurotransmitters decrease depression and anxiety, it helps you feel at peace when you know that mediation does that already. When you teach yourself to do mindfulness meditation, it helps you to listen more carefully and be more aware of what is going on.”
“I am also a caregiver myself. I have a 30-year-old son who has severe autism, and sometimes things get stressful. You have to be able to adapt, to be able to get away, take three to five minutes to breathe deep, to be in the moment, and to be mindful of what is going on.”
“The most simple way to be mindful is to breathe. I teach my patients how to breathe correctly, and the simplest way to do so is to lay down, have a paper or book over your stomach and breathe in and out using your diaphragm.”
Eddie Orum: What are some mindfulness tips that caregivers can do at home?
Dr. Alberto Almeida: “What I like to do at the beginning of the day is to get some basic movements in with my body. I try to bring in everything, whether it’s Tai Chi, meditation, yoga, breathing, or flexibility. You’ll be surprised that it helps the whole body. Anyone can do this; you don’t have to be in great shape.”
Eddie Orum: How can caregivers use mindfulness to carry out everyday duties, especially during the holidays?
Dr. Alberto Almeida: “There are some tenants that have to do with mindfulness. One of them being gratitude. I recommend everyone and even myself to consider that gratitude and thankfulness also rewire the way your brain works, which also helps fight depression and anxiety. It’s a wonderful way to start the day with that. It won’t just make you a better caregiver; it will make you better holistically.”
Eddie Orum: What other information would you like to share about mindfulness?
Dr. Alberto Almeida: “Slow down and take a couple of minutes for yourself. Sometimes we get caught up in the world that we forget about our health. Everything that we need is within ourselves. Just slow down and listen to yourself and breathe.”