I know, I know you’ve heard it all before, we all need to be practicing mindfulness if we want to be calm, zen mums. I see you eye rolling. You might have tried it and hated it, or think you haven’t got the time for yet another thing to ‘do’. But bear with me…..do you relate to any of these?
Often feel overwhelmed by responsibility and endless to-do lists?
Feel anxious sometimes, especially on busy days?
Feel guilty about something you’ve done or not done with your children?
Feel like you’re always ‘on’ and struggle to relax even when you’ve got space and time to (maybe you habitually reach for your phone or tv remote in quiet moments)?
Feel like you’ve got a million tabs open in your brain?
Feel scattered, exhausted and unfocused?
Yup, you guessed it. Mindfulness can help with all of this. I’m so passionate about helping mums integrate mindfulness into our days because (come close, I’m going to tell you a secret) we need it more than anyone else in the world.
Us mums are the ones with crazy schedules, a million things to do, little time for ourselves, constant challenges and opportunities for freak outs. Our minds are often wired and quite frankly, too many mums I meet feel like they are just surviving and getting through the days. I’m on a mission to change that. To help busy, overwhelmed, stressed mums find the joy in everyday life again. And practicing mindfulness is a massive piece of that puzzle.
But what actually is it? One definition I like is, Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us – (www.mindful.org)
But how on earth does it work? Can focussing on washing my hands really make me feel less overwhelmed at work? In short, yes.
It’s all about understanding our minds – the job of our minds is to THINK – to constantly think, think about the past, think about the future, think about everything that could go wrong and think about how we might handle that.
The problem with this is that if we’re in our uncontrolled thinking minds all the time (which most of us are) then we’re at the mercy of whatever it throws at us. We might be happily going about our day and see an image that reminds of us something from our past, before we know it we’re reliving that situation and reliving conversations with people in our head (I know you relate….). Suddenly we’re a million miles away from what we were doing and feeling a whole range of emotions simply because our mind was triggered by an innocent image.
So, what mindfulness does is by focussing on the here and now, gives us some ability to detach from our constant, whirring thoughts, so over time – we’ll be able to see our thoughts for what they are, random chatter in our heads and not always the truth. We’ll create some space between ourselves and our thoughts (yup, not the same thing.) And when we can create some space from or even challenge our thoughts, with more realistic and positive ones our lives change. Sounds like a big promise doesn’t?
So if mindfulness is so wonderful, then why aren’t we all practicing it and experiencing these amazing benefits?
I work with many busy, stressed mums and it mainly comes down to two things: time and willingness.
So here are my top 10 tips busting through those blocks so you can start to enjoy the benefits of feeling more calm, less anxious and guilty.
Get an app – it’s like a friend coaching you along, it will track your progress and send you reminders. My current favourite is calm, there’s a daily calm meditation that lasts for 10 mins (everyone can find 10 mins if you really want to, just cut your insta / facebook scroll time down by 10mins) and the sleep stories are amazing, think Stephen Fry reading you a magical tale about the lavender fields in Provence as you drift off. Other good ones are Quility (especially for mums) and Headspace.
Really read story time – unlike a sitting meditation, mindfulness can be done whilst you are doing anything, it’s just about being totally focussed on the task at hand. Reading the bedtime story is a great one. So many of us are reading the story on autopilot with our minds in our inbox, or planning dinner. Next time you read The Gruffalo, try totally focussing on the words, the images, the story. You might even get into it.
Washing hands with the children – this is a great one, because we can teach our children how to be mindful too. So next time you’re all washing your hands, focus on the feeling of the water, the temperature, the texture of the soap, what it smells like, the feeling of the towel. Ask your children to describe exactly what they feel / see / hear too – they might surprise you.
Breathe – it’s so simple but our breath really is our calming secret weapon. A few deep mindful breaths can work wonders. All the science is there to back this up. Next time you feel overwhelmed, anxious or stressed. Stop and take 3 deep breaths in for 6, hold for 6, out for 8. You’ll be amazed how different you feel, trust me.
Get curious in the shower – for us mums sometimes the shower is the only place we might not have a child hanging off our person, and it’s often when our thoughts go into overdrive, so it’s a good time to practice mindfulness. Focus on the feeling of the water on your skin, what the temperature feels like, how do you actually know if it’s hot or cold, what does that feel like? Get curious about it and when your mind wanders keep coming back to being in the shower. You could even say to yourself ‘I’m in the shower’ when your mind wants to take you to that challenging meeting you have in 5 hours time.
Listen to the birds – I love this one. So often when we open our eyes in the morning, our minds kick in straight away and we’re off rushing, stressing, planning before we’ve even had a cuppa. Tomorrow morning try this, it takes 5 seconds. Open your eyes then open your ears. See if you can hear 3 different types of bird song. Then get up.
Body scan – it’s amazing how many of us rush around through the day totally disconnected from our bodies, no wonder they sometimes fight to get our attention with aches, pain and illness. Try a 60 second body scan, start at the top of your head and mentally scan down your body looking for any areas of tightness or discomfort, when you find a spot (or 10) consciously relax it and send it love.
Get mindful in the car – mindfulness works really well with triggers throughout your day. Getting into my car is one for me, everytime I get in my car I take 2 mins before I start the engine (yes, even if I’m in a massive rush) to take a couple of deep breaths, to notice what’s around me and how I’m feeling. Then I start the engine. This is guaranteed* to make your journey calmer, less sweary at other drivers and you might even find yourself busting out a song (*ok, not totally guaranteed).
Challenge your thoughts – when you’ve been practicing mindfulness for a week or so, you might start to notice your thoughts more and be surprised at how negative / critical / crazy they are. Don’t worry that’s totally normal. See if you can spot a thought that doesn’t serve you and replace it with something positive such as ‘I’m doing the best I can’.
Track your progress – we tend to stick to habits that we can see making a difference in our lives, so start to jot down how you feel each day after you’ve practiced mindfulness. You’ll start to see how you feel better on the days you do it and be more likely to carry on.