A report on Mindfulness training for the carers of cancer patients. 9/11/2015
By Andrea Leuning.
This is a group based programme run by the Cancer Counselling Service, Ambulatory and Community Health Support (CACHS) ACT Health Directorate. Ph 62079977.
It was run on three consecutive Wednesdays from 10 am- 12noon at the Belconnen Community Health Centre. The organization is hoping to run this course, Mindful Carers, twice a year to compliment their Mindful Moments course for cancer patients.
Mindfulness is the process of consciously bringing focus and attention to the present moment with an open and curious attitude.
The two social workers running this course spend many hours counselling carers who find the constant “doing” in their lives; the planning of the various appointments; the caring for other family members; the worrying about both the future and the past; is detrimental to their good health and wellbeing. The practice of mindfulness, once learnt, can provide relief from this “doing” to just “being” (living in the present). It is calming. Snatching a few moments throughout the day (that my husband calls Melting-moments) is easily achieved most days.
The techniques learnt from this course make “mindfulness” different from meditation and relaxation(both of which I have used and still use to aid sleeping).
Firstly pay attention to how your sitting. All our exercises were done from our dignified position. Sitting squarely on a chair with feet planted on the floor, hands resting on our thighs, our backs straight and supported, neck and shoulders relaxed looking straight ahead, eyes closed or keep a soft gaze.
It is your thought pattern that you now become aware of. It can be by listening to the sounds you here, the colours you see, the textures you feel, focus on them and when any stray thoughts enter let them float by and return to your pattern. You can imagine your are sitting by a stream, watching the water flow, the eddies twist, the gurgling over rocks. When the unwanted thoughts enter your mind let them float by on a leaf, and return to the calmness you have created. Breathing patterns can also be examined in your mind and by just observing them you can you can anchor yourself in the present whilst seeing off distractions.
I see expanding this technique as a valuable tool. You can use any of your senses, enjoy your environment more, have more control of anger or fear, be grateful for your capacity to exercise and resist any irritation or impatience you experience. Mindfulness can be practised throughout your day. It does not have to be a chair I have found when I have just parked the car a great time to snatch a “Melting- moment”.
I have included a statement about the development of the practice of Mindfulness, along with references for further reading.
Mindful Carers – Mindfulness based group program for family carers – Cancer Counselling Service, Division of Cancer, Ambulatory and Community Health Support (CACHS) ACT Health Directorate.
Mindfulness is a practice that has its origin in ancient Buddhist meditative discipline which has now entered mainstream, contemporary society in a wide variety of contexts including: neuroscience, business, sport, education and health. Mindfulness practices are aimed at bringing about a new level of awareness for individuals, one that examines thoughts as passing mental events and encourages individuals to try and focus and pay attention on the present in an open non-judgemental way, rather than dwelling on the past or worrying about the future. Dr Jon Kabat-Zinn developed the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction Program (MBSR) program at the University of Massachusetts Medical Centre in the late 1970’s and since its inception, MBSR has evolved into a common form of complementary therapy that can assist with a variety of health problems. Many research studies provide evidence of the benefits of mindfulness practices, particularly when used as a therapeutic tool, not only for people with a range of serious and debilitating diseases, including cancer, but also for their family carers. Linda Carlson in the 1990’s developed an effective and carefully evaluated mindfulness based cancer recovery program using evidenced based psychosocial oncology interventions. The decision to develop the Mindful Carers group is based on this research evidence and the benefits observed and reported from clinical experience that can help cancer patients and their carers through one of the most difficult and challenging of times. The Mindful Carers group program uses a range of mindfulness based practices and skills together with discussion and sharing focused on a range of topics relevant to the caring role. The emphasis is on stress management and self care. The family carers program has also grown out of the four session mindfulness based course for cancer patients, called Mindful Moments, which has been designed, run and successfully evaluated by oncology social workers in the ACT community health setting over the last four years.
Birnie K, Garland S.N, & Carlson L.E. (2010) Psychological benefits for cancer patients and their partners participating in mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR). Psychooncology. 2010 Sep;19(9):1004-9
Carlson, L.E., Speca, M. Patel, K.D. & Goodey, E. (2003) Mindfulness-based stress reduction in relation to quality of life, mood, symptoms of stress and immune parameters in breast and prostate cancer outpatients. Psychosomatic Medicine, 65:571-581
Carlson, L.E., Speca, M. Patel, K.D. & Goodey, E. (2004) Mindfulness-based stress reduction in relation to mood, symptoms of stress and levels of cortisol, dehydroepiandrosterone sulphate(DHEAS) and melatonin in breast and prostate cancer outpatients. Psychoneuroendocrinology, May:29 (4):448-74
Wood, A W, Gonzalez, J and Barden, S M, 2015, Journal of Psychosocial Oncology, Vol 33, 1 pp 66-84
Carlson L, Speca, 2010 M Mindfulness Based Cancer Recovery New Harbinger Press
Kabat-Z J, 1990, Full Catastrophe Living Delta Trade Paperbacks, NY