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, sometimes we may become stressed and overwhelmed and forget to look after ourselves in the middle of it all. 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. When this happens we may find ourselves faced with a situation 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, balanced and anchored and in a much stronger 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 educated us in 'how to' reduce the intensity of highly charged and sometimes frayed emotions so that we can rebalance, self-care and then 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, slammed the front door, grunted and stormed up the stairs to her room. Within seconds, Edith went from relaxed to uptight and tense. Worried at her daughters mood and a bit annoyed at her rudeness, distress chemicals now started flooding throughout Ediths body. Edith then reinforced her distress by making up stories, "Why is Fran so cross? Did someone in school upset her? Is she being bullied?" . Edith was doing a great job flooding her body with even more distress chemicals as she was telling herself these stories. To further her distress she now found herself dreading the impending atmosphere in the house for the rest of evening and to top it all she began to catastrophise about the year ahead!
Edith allowed her mind to mange her, rather than the other way around. Exhausting.
So how could Mindfulness help Edith? Had Edith stopped, had she noticed her 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, she could have noticed the impact of the distress chemicals flooding through her body..i.e. increased respiration, heart rate, tension in her shoulders, increased body heat. Then, she could simply have connected to her breath or employed the many techniques of Mindfulness, waited for 90 seconds for the chemicals to unload and balance would be restored.
In other words she could decide not to restimulate the circuitry of stress by not going back to her thoughts about the situation and thereby stop putting herself back 'into panic mode. She could stop the circuitry of stress by being Mindful
That's not to say she's not there for her daughter, of course she is, but now instead of stressing herself out, she is open and prepared to listen should her daughter choose to share. She will approach the situation in calm manner. Being mindful Edith can now notice her reactions during her conversation with her daughter and respond in a way that is balanced and at ease. She knows that should the chemicals of panic mode rise again (and they most likely will) she has a moment to moment method to self-care and self-calm. She presents a balanced presence in her child's life which leaves the lines of communication open between them.
At first it almost seems impossible or robotic to some, but over times the skills of mindfulness can be cross mapped into all areas of our lives. This allows us to approach our life and our relationships with a fresh perspective and with ease and authenticity.
Our relationships become more loving and honest, especially the one with ourselves. As parents learning to look after ourselves is a powerful way to lead by example. 10 Tips to Self-care and Self-Calm
1) Learn to meditate. Sit for 10 minutes.
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 movement 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 and do at least one during your day. 4) Note when you are triggered most...e.g. after a long day, when you are tired, hungry, so you can be prepared. 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, my mind races and I feel the urge to shout/clam up/run. Response: My body tenses, I feel my shoulders and jaw begin to tighten. I notice and breathe until my body begins to soften as I reset myself to respond calmly and clearly. (Not easy at first, however with practice responding Mindfully allow you to experience the benefits to yourself, your loved ones and the situation at hand. It's a choice and 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.