Parenting can be both exhilarating, exhausting and everything between. In families we have shared experiences of joy, love, laughter and pain. First steps, first words, first teeth, mood swings, disappointments, accomplishments, heartbreak, fitting in with peers (to name but a few). While we do our best, guiding our children to value themselves and others, to enjoy life, self-regulate and negotiate their way through challenges. The skills of Mindfulness teach us to stress less, remain steady and lead by example.
This page is about the everyday challenges we face as parents and those challenges we face when a child or young adult is faced with a mental health challenge. Sometimes we may find ourselves faced with a challenge we know little about and while we do our best to give support, feelings of helplessness, frustration, self-blame, inadequacy, fear, anger may surface and sometimes with nowhere to turn. These feelings are normal but in the long run may damage your health and won't help the overall situation.
Mindfulness, now so popular, helps us to meet whatever is going on with acceptance, inner- strength, compassion, patience, resilience and love. These qualities are far more beneficial, allowing us to remain steady and balanced and in a much strong position to make good decisions for the steps ahead.
Mindfulness and Stressless Parenting Mindfulness shows us how to self-care among the chaos and lead by example.
When stressful emotions begin to take over and we find 'panic mode' setting in, Mindfulness helps us educate ourselves to reduce the intensity of highly charged emotions, to rebalance and to lead with a healthy perspective.
Harvard brain scientist Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor says: " When a person has a reaction to something in their environment there’s a 90-second chemical process that happens in the body. Chemicals are flushed through your body which puts it on full alert. For those chemicals to totally flush out of the body, it takes less than 90 seconds. This means that for 90 seconds you can watch the process happening, you can feel it happening, and then you can watch it go away.”
“After that, if you continue to feel fear, anger, and so on, you need to look at the thoughts that you’re thinking that are re-stimulating the circuitry that is resulting in you having this physiological reaction, over and over again.”
For example: Ediths daughter Fran is 15. Fran came home from school, banged the front door and stormed up to her room. Edith asked Fran if she was alright, only to receive a surly grunt as Fran slammed her bedroom door. Edith felt tense, worried at her daughters mood and annoyed at her rudeness. The distress chemicals now flooding through her body, Edith reinforced her own distress by make up stories as to why Fran might be so cross, did someone in school upset her, was she being bullied, had she been caught doing something she shouldn't, she also started thinking about what the atmosphere of the house would be like for the rest of evening and then to top it all she was catastrophising about the term ahead! Exhausting and understandable.
So how could Mindfulness help. Had Edith stopped and noticed her own reaction to the situation, instead of her monkey mind going to every which scenario and reinforcing her stress, she could have acknowledged her reaction i.e. tension, worry and annoyance, noticed the impact of the distress chemicals flooding through her body..i.e. increased respiration, heart rate, tension in her shoulders, heat etc...increased body heat, and simply wait 90 seconds for the chemicals to unload and carry on with making the dinner. Thereby being in each moment. She could also decide not to restimulate the circuitry by going back to her thoughts about the situation and thereby stop putting herself back 'into panic mode. That's not to say she's not there for her daugher, of course she is, but now she is open to listening should her daugher choose to share in a way that is balanced and at ease, knowing that should the chemicals of panic mode rise again, she has a moment to moment method to self-care and self-calm
At first it almost seems robotic to some, but over times the skills of mindfulness allow us to approach our life and our relationships with ease, especially the relationship with ourselves.
Learning to look after ourselves is a powerful way to lead by example. Here are just a few self-care tips.
1) Learn to meditate. Just sit for 10 minutes. In fact focus on the following:
3 Times: Breathe in through your nose to a count of four, hold for a count of 5 and breathe out out to a count of seven. notice the sensation of the breath through your nostrils for five (it's not that hard, it doesn't take long and 10 minutes a day during will help)
3 Times as you breathe normally notice sensations around the nostrils as you breathe in and out
3 Times as you breathe normally notice movment in the shoulders and chest. Allow your shoulders to drop with each exhale
3 Times notice the rise and fall of your belly as you breathe
Be aware of your whole body breathing. If your mind wanders, that's ok, as soon as you notice return to your breathing
2) Take a walk in nature 3) Make a list of 10 things 'you' like to do. Do at least one in a day. 4) Notice when you are triggered most...e.g. after a long day, when you are tired. 5) Notice how you 'react' to your triggers i.e arguing, suffering in silence, tension in your body and practice 'responding' For example: Triggering event: my child is screaming/my partner is in bad form/I feel overwhelmed Reaction vs Response Reaction: My body goes tense, my shoulders are and jaw are tight, I feel the urge to shout. Response: Stop, Breathe in to a count of 4, hold for 5 out to a count of 7, allow your shoulders to drop with each exhale. Bring compassion to the situation and respond in a way that is self nourishing. Is this easy? Not at first. No. However with practice responding calmly will become easier and you will experience the benefits to you personally and to the situation. Like anything worthwhile it takes practice.
6) Be self-aware and self-compassionate. 7) Take time out from your phone. If you like you can tell certain people the times you are switching off. 8) Do your best to build in a healthy night time routine.
Stop looking at devices after 8pm. Ask yourself, 'Does my phone/laptop/Netflix own me or am I in control of them?'
Take a warm bath
Read a little
Do some of these Somatic Movements - designed to bring your body into rest and relaxation. (uploading movements soon)
9) Listen to music 10) Most importantly at the beginning and end of each day list 5 things you are grateful for.
Our programme Living Mindfully with Joy and our one to one coaching sessions bring Mindfulness into your everyday life so you get into the habit of looking for possibilities rather than problems.