Mindfulness for Mums | Slowing down for a calmer life
“Mindfulness for mums” are buzzwords that we’re hearing a lot in the counselling and psychology fields. It seems to be recommended as the answer to every mental health problem – but what is it, and can it ACTUALLY help mums?
Mindfulness for Mums – A Living Practice
Endlessly racing thoughts? Feeling like you’re on the verge of a panic at all times? Maybe this is for you.
Mindfulness is a form of meditation in which we are ‘training our attention’ to focus on specific things and let other things go. Through this practice, we can learn to focus on the things that are the most useful and helpful in our lives. This will allow us to live more consciously and fully.
A lot of mothering (and parenting) is often done in ‘automatic pilot mode’. We are multi-tasking the day away as we drill through the endless ‘to do’ list – never happy or comfortable to sit in the moment and just ‘be’. Mothers are particularly susceptible to depression and anxiety – you are NOT alone. Living more mindfully can help us get on top of negative or worrisome thought patterns (often known as catastrophising) – it’s a way of managing those pesky “what if” scenarios.
Ever laid awake at night with a racing mind, trying to remmeber what the kids need in their bags for the next day? And the day after that? And everything you have to get ready for the weekend? And those projects you’ve been neglecting? And your health and fitness? And your relationships?
Ever driving here and there and been unaware of how you’ve actually ended up at your destination as you’ve been SO distracted by your busy mind? If you’re missing turns or not knowing where you’re driving then you’ve definitely got a busy, fire-fighting mind – and a dangerous problem.
What is ‘mindfulness for mums’?
Mindfulness describes the above scenario as a ‘reactive state’, where the flight or flight centre of the brain is activated. This provokes a stress reaction in your body so your thinking is all future-focused. The present moment does not feature in your life. This describes why we often feel like we’re missing out on ‘just being there’.
Living more mindfully means you react slower. You breathe. You come back to the present and are gentle with yourself. It can sometimes feel like you’re on the outside looking in and observing yourself – capturing precious moments instead of racing past everything. Instead of reacting from an emotional and flustered place, you stay curious and question why you’re reacting the way that you are.
How does this process happen?
This isn’t an automatic way of living or being that just HAPPENS. It takes a while, but it can become your default state if you work at it. You’ll find that you’re gentler with yourself and with others.
The practice of mindfulness strengthens the parts of the brain that drive high emotion, so you react less automatically or impulsively. You’ll slow down and feel a lot more in control rather than at the mercy of your emotions. This practice also strengthens the pre-frontal cortex, which is the thinking part of your brain that is able to weigh in and calm your big emotions while considering possible consequences.
Some tips for the practice of mindfulness
- Breathe from your belly, not your throat. Stressful breathing is fast and high up in our bodies which leads to tension and pain. A good pattern is to inhale for a count of 4, hold for 3 and exhale for 5.
- Be aware that you are ruminating in negative thoughts. Instead of thinking about the past or projecting into the future, draw yourself consciously back to the present with a mindful activity. Even washing the dishes can be mindful – feel the water, notice the bubbles, smell the detergent. Be PRESENT.
- It’s hard to not be triggered into an emotional and stressful response by certain situations or people. Acknolwedge that stress and let it go. Be curious, gentle and accepting of yourself. If you are involve in a stressful situation, be kind to yourself afterwards and take a break to calm down. Focus on your breathing.
- A change of scenery is often helpful. Look outwards and tone down that negative internal dialogue. Observe the colour of the sky, notice the sounds and the temperature around you and really tune in. Nature has a very calming effect on our bodies.
A simple mindfulness meditation
- Sit comfortably, back firmly against a chair.
- Place your feet on the floor.
- Close your eyes, keep your jaw soft, drop your chin slightly.
- Feel your breath (4, 3, 5) and notice your stomach rise and fall.
- If your thougths wander, notice this and return to a focus on your breath.
- Once calm, lift your chin and open your eyes, Bring your awareness back to your surrounding.
- Notice how you feel, your stress levels and your energy levels.
Thanks to Karen Holmes, Specialist Counsellor in Women’s Issues, Robina, Gold Coast. Karen is a member of the Australian Counselling Association.