Mindfulness Exercises to Help with Depression & Stress

Posted: 9/24/2021 5:31 PM by Interim HealthCare

Stress and depression are common conditions for the elderly, however they often go misdiagnosed or undertreated.


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that as much as 80 percent of the elderly population in the United States have a chronic health condition such as heart failure, which can significantly increase their chances of developing a depressive disorder.


Along with the health difficulties heart failure can bring, seniors are likely to experience loneliness and losses in their social networks as they continue to age. This can contribute to the formation of clinical depression and symptoms such as:

  • loss of interest in things the person once enjoyed
  • changes in appetite or sleep
  • sadness
  • anxiety
  • fatigue
  • hypersensitivity 
  • feelings of hopelessness

After receiving a diagnosis of heart failure, your loved one may be feeling a mix of emotions, from sadness and depression, to fear, anxiety and stress.


If you think your senior loved one may be struggling to cope, be on the lookout for stress indicators such as:

  • irritable, aggressive or impatient behavior
  • anxious, nervous or frightened feelings
  • no interest in life
  • lack of a sense of humour
  • over-worrying about health

What Is Mindfulness?


Mindfulness exercises are ways of paying attention to the present moment using techniques like meditation, breathing, and yoga. Mindfulness training was designed to help people engage with their thoughts, feelings, and body sensations so that instead of being overwhelmed by them, they’re better able to manage them.


How Can Mindfulness Help Heart Failure Patients?


Mindful meditation has many potential physical and psychological benefits for older adults, and can actually change the brain to improve focus, creativity, and cognitive function. Mindfulness meditation in particular has been found to reduce depression and pain, enhancing calmness and improving sleep.


Has a recent diagnosis of heart failure left your loved one feeling apathetic? The practice of mindfulness can activate the “feel-good” prefrontal cortex, helping them to manage their moods and keep moving forward with their heart failure journey. 


Two Mindfulness Exercises for Depression and Stress


We understand that as a family caregiver, it’s only natural to feel the weight of what your loved one is dealing with, so it’s in everyone's best interest to take good care of the spirit and the mind. Below are two simple mindfulness practices and grounding techniques that your family can incorporate into daily life:


Mindful Breathing


Anxiety and stress caused by unpleasant thoughts can cause short, labored breaths. Practicing mindful breathing will slow the breath, steady the heart rate and, in turn, reduce feelings of stress.


Before you begin, find a quiet place to sit or stand:

  • Inhale slowly through the nose for four seconds. Pause at the top of your breath and hold for one second.
  • Exhale slowly through the nose for four seconds. Pause at the end of your exhale for one second before repeating.
  • Continue breathing this way until you can notice a change in the way your body and mind feels.

Grounding Statements


When heart failure puts your senior loved one in an episode of depression, they can find themselves bogged down with negative thoughts and fears about their disease. Reading a grounding statement can help them be mindful of the calming influences around them. While repeating a grounding statement aloud, will allow for the body to calm itself and send the signal that there is no actual threat present.


If you’re helping a loved one write a grounding statement, remember to touch on the following points:

  • Remind them they are loved and safe in the present moment.
  • Encourage them to ask questions and combat their fear with knowledge.
  • End with some words of affirmation.

E.g. “I am surrounded by my family who love me and will keep me safe. It’s okay to ask questions about my disease. I am determined to fight heart failure and live a happy, fulfilled life.”


We Are Committed to Helping Your Loved One Cope


Our Heart Failure Caregivers Guide can provide you and your loved one with a deeper understanding of their disease and the care protocols they must follow to successfully manage it. Adhering to our HomeLife Enrichment® (HLE) standard of care, the guide gives a holistic view of heart failure in order to thoughtfully engage your loved one’s mind, body, spirit and family.