Guest post by Samantha from Evidence-Based Mommy
When you’re a parent, it’s easy to feel like you’re running from one crisis to the next. The oldest is running late for soccer practice, the toddler is hanging on your leg screaming because he’s hungry, and you only just got home from work yourself!
Can mindfulness help you? Heck, how do we employ mindfulness?
Benefits of Mindfulness
Mindfulness has several benefits. Let’s list just a few of them here!
Mindfulness lowers your stress level
If you are able to remain present regardless of what’s going on in your life, your stress level will decrease tremendously! After all, our biggest stressors are often not what’s happening at the very moment, but what we think is going to happen in the future.
I’m never going to get this kid to sleep tonight!
If he doesn’t learn to obey now, he’s going to be a maniac when he’s a teenager!
Crap, we’re going to be late for dance practice and the other parents will see what a hot mess I am.
But if we stay in the moment, we don’t have to worry about the future. Things suddenly get a lot more manageable!
Mindfulness helps you appreciate your children
When we’re running from one task to the next, it’s hard to really notice your children and their gifts.
And trust me, I get it. I’m trying to get dinner ready, and all the while my daughter is trying to show me the twelfth new dance move in a row. It can be really frustrating!
But if you plan in some time where you can really stop and see your children, you will have so much more gratitude for them. It will make all the work you do with and for them so much more worth it.
Mindfulness allows you respond effectively to your child
Let’s imagine your preschooler just walloped the baby. I know my first instinct is to be absolutely enraged! I’m likely to project into the future, worried my older child is going to turn out to be violent, or that the two are going to have a bad relationship when they’re older.
My natural inclination (and probably yours too) is to lash out at the offending child, to make sure they absolutely know just how angry I am and how wrong they are. The problem is, this reaction is likely to produce shame in your child, leading him to become sullen and perhaps jealous of his little sibling. Your knee-jerk reaction actually makes the situation worse!
But if you can take a step back, you can realize that your child needs instruction in how to express their feelings more effectively. “Oh my goodness, Brother knocked over your tower and you’re so MAD! And we don’t hit! Use words to tell him to stop, or get Mommy to help.”
With time and practice, this method will produce better results with less resentment from your little one.
Mindfulness helps you be more productive
How often are you performing one task while thinking about all the other things you also have to do? It’s mentally exhausting! Plus, everything feels so urgent. How do you pick what to do first?
If you’re focused on just the one thing you’re doing, you can actually get it done (and feel much less stress in the process). And then, once that task is done, you can either move on to the next task, or simply enjoy the free time you have with your family or to yourself (Hallelujah!).
So how do you actually incorporate mindfulness into your life?
Maybe you’re thinking, Sure, that’s great. I’ll just magically turn my brain off and everything will become better.
But there really are actionable steps you can take to practice mindfulness (yes, it is a practice!) so you can become more present! Let’s cover a few here:
Stop and take a breath
Whatever is going on, you almost certainly have time to stop, close your eyes, and breathe for a moment. Take a deep inhale into your belly, then give a slow exhale. Do this for several breaths.
If you are especially overwhelmed with your kids, you can even tell them, “I’m going to go take a time out for a moment,” and then go to another room (If you have very small children this may not work. But I’ve totally closed my eyes and taken a few breaths like this with a baby hanging on my leg!)
After you get yourself back in the present moment, then go back out and be ready to face whatever is going on.
Feel yourself be grounded
It sounds silly, but seriously, notice the feeling of your feet on the floor (or the ground). Focus on that sensation while you’re taking those deep breaths. I have found that grounding myself like this can even help me when I’m feeling severe anxiety!
Focus on the present
Like we talked about above, avoid projecting into the future (you’re probably wrong about what it holds anyways!). If you do feel your mind wandering into rumination, just stop and matter-of-factly tell yourself that you will deal with that problem later. No self-judgement, just directing yourself to return to the matter at hand.
Have a favorite mantra or two to help
If you haven’t practiced mindfulness before, the idea of a mantra may sound silly. But it can really work!
My personal favorite that I learned from a book about yoga is “There is nothing wrong in this moment.” This is almost always true! The toddler may be throwing a tantrum, the middle schooler may be sullen, and you may have received bad news at work, but really and truly, everything is physically okay. The toddler is going to feel better soon. The older child is not hurting you. Even if you just lost your job, you are likely in this moment in a safe, comfortable room.
Will you have to deal with each situation in the above scenario? Absolutely. But remember that you are doing so from a safe place. This realization will help you work less from a place of ineffective urgency and more from an attitude of responsiveness.
I hope these ideas have helped you! Try out these tips and remember to share them with others. Happy parenting!
Dr. Samantha Radford is the Mommy behind Evidence-Based Mommy. She is passionate about empowering parents by offering them the tools and knowledge they need to be at their best for their children. Samantha is an Exposure Scientist at a local university who focuses on children’s health. She enjoys three children of her own and has been trying to bring back the banana clip since about 1998.