Written by Meg Metzger
When a woman becomes a mother, her own priorities naturally take a back seat. She blossoms into an entirely different person, taking on the most important role in humanity: creating life. No big deal, right?
This role comes with an array of emotions, pressure, expectations, and responsibility. It’s both rewarding and frustrating, magical and maddening, beautiful and downright disgusting. Sprinkle in our career, our home, our pets, and all the other people who rely on us every day, and we are presented with a recipe weird enough for us to lose our minds. And often we do.
We often turn to therapy, books, or mom groups, seeking external solutions to fix our short fuse and calm our anxious minds. These resources can be incredibly supportive by themselves, but they are immensely more effective when coupled with an internal practice. That’s where mindfulness comes in.
The Power Within
Mindfulness helps us gain self-awareness, which allows us to observe our behavior and respond from a place of calm presence, rather than from a place of imbalance. It helps create a space between trigger and reaction. So next time your two-year-old throws a tantrum when not allowed to watch Moana for the 36th time, you can respond with compassion rather than reacting from frustration.
You may be surprised to hear that you already harness everything within you to achieve this balance, sometimes we just have to do a little digging. Below is a step-by-step guide on how to begin.
Right now, take a minute to breathe deeply. Close your eyes if you can. Pay attention to the rise and fall of your abdomen as you count three seconds for each inhale, and four seconds for each exhale. If you are a human, you will get distracted by multiple pesky thoughts entering your brain. That’s okay, just keep breathing. After a minute (or two if the kiddos are sleeping), open your eyes and notice how you feel after properly oxygenating your blood.
Since breathing is automatic, we often forget it’s happening. When we are stressed, our sympathetic nervous system is triggered and our bodies go into a fight or flight response, causing our breathing to become rapid and shallow. Set a reminder on your phone to breathe, like really breathe, throughout your day. The best part is, you can practice this conscious breathing while doing the dishes, changing a diaper, driving or breastfeeding.
Once you’ve got the breathing part down, you can start developing a mindfulness meditation practice. I know what you’re thinking, “I barely have time to wash my hair!” But hear me out.
Simply put, mindfulness is the practice of paying attention. Mostly, paying attention to yourself in the present moment, noting little details about your thoughts, actions, and surroundings. The more we focus on the present moment, the mentally stronger we become, and the easier it is to relax in the midst of chaos.
So, the next time you are driving, eating, or showering, try doing so fully present and aware of your surroundings. Say to yourself, “I am showering.” Remind yourself that is all you have to do in that moment. Feel the warm water splash on your skin and take in the smell of your favorite body wash. Breathe. Enjoy.
When thoughts arise, like your never-ending to-do list, gently bring yourself back to the now. You will repeat this focus distraction return process many, many times. It will almost feel like you’re doing something wrong, but there is no wrong way to meditate. And the more you practice, the easier it becomes.
Lighten the Load
Part of developing this mindful awareness is understanding where our faults lie, in a non-judgmental manner, so that we can make the necessary changes to better our lives. One of the biggest reasons we are anxious and overwhelmed is because mothers do too much. Part of this is due to societal pressure, but the other hard truth is we do it to our-selves.
Whether it’s wanting full control, or thinking others are incapable of “doing it right,” or feeling like it’s a burden on loved ones to ask for help, we tell ourselves it’s easier if we do it all. But is it?
I know it may drive you crazy when your partner folds the towels wrong, but here is permission to let that go. If you are feeling stretched thin, with no time to think straight, let alone breathe, you deserve help. You know what they say, “it takes a village,” and it truly does!
Try, Try Again
While mindfulness seems like a simple concept, it can be pretty difficult at times. Paying full attention to anything these days can feel nearly impossible when our focus is constantly being pulled in 100 different directions at all times. Remember, focus-distraction-return-repeat.
Set reminders on your phone to check in with yourself and breathe. If you would like a little more guidance, download a meditation app such as Aura, which offers guided meditations specifically for moms and children.
Tending to yourself is one of the greatest gifts you can give to your family. Mindfulness, like motherhood, is a lifelong practice. So, offer yourself grace and compassion as you navigate the ups and downs. You’re doing great, mama.