Today we share an article from one of our mindfulness and wellbeing practitioners Clare Hales (MSc). Mindfulness for mums has become increasingly popular especially during the covid19 pandemic where many parents have admitted that their mental health has been a struggle.
This article has been written to help mums feel more at peace and happy and peaceful in their surroundings. Family life is beautiful but it can also be incredibly stressful too and Clare shares some fantastic information about mindfulness, how it can help you remain happy and peaceful with easy and fun activities that can be done with children and without. This article is to help shares simple ways to help mums find calm amid the chaos.
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness simply put is our attention to the present moment, to notice what is going on in an actual moment and in doing so accepting our thoughts, feelings and sensations.
Mindfulness as a practice is also often misunderstood; some believe they have to be fully committed to meditation and it makes you feel calm and relaxed. Although that outcome is great, mindfulness is simply noticing things either in meditation or just moments. And, if you can build mindfulness meditations into your week, then that’s amazing and most certainly helpful!
Mindfulness and Meditation
Research has proven how meditation has a positive impact on our brain and how it functions. I try and meditate a few times a week, I also accept that some weeks I don’t and make more of an effort the week after. But if you can’t commit to meditations, or they’re just not for you, then that’s ok to… there are other ways fitting mindfulness techniques into your day-to-day routine that will have many benefits to your overall wellbeing. Imagine mindfulness as the umbrella (much like exercise) with a variety of activities underneath it (like the different types and different intensity of exercise).
What are the benefits of being a mindful mum?
There are many benefits of being a mindful mum, to help settle our busy minds, to take a moment of attention and come off our autopilot way of being. Did you know we have approximately 60,000 thoughts per day? That’s a lot of thoughts running through our minds every day! Some we are consciously aware of and some we are not and that’s when we are living on auto. I bet you’ve gone upstairs for something and by the time you’ve stood in your room, you can’t remember what you wanted? I use this example with the young people I work will and even children can relate to this, our thoughts have been hijacked again and our mindful intentions have gone!
We can also get so lost in our ‘over thinking’ mind constantly ‘ruminating’ over things that are in the past or in a ‘story telling’ or ‘worrying’ mode, constantly planning, trying to work out or worrying about the future. With all of this worrying (about things that are most probably not in our control) we waste so much time and energy and miss the simple things in life.
Now I’m a mum myself, and I understand and feel the worries that come with being a parent, a wife and having so many other works and home life responsibilities. Plus we’re living in pretty tough times at the moment, our lives have been turned upside down and we’re constantly hearing bad news. So, let’s just stop for a moment, pause and give our minds a rest. Let’s have a few moments to recharge and notice what is going on in a more mindful way for the sake of us and those around us. And remember it’s great to be a mindful mum for our families… it’s also ok to be mindful for ourselves as well. The benefits of us noticing our own thoughts, feelings and behaviours and just taking a few minutes of each day for ourselves will help us to deal with the day to day more effectively.
Can mindfulness help with stress and anxiety for mums?
Mindfulness has been proven to help with stress and anxiety for a number of reasons. It can help us to notice our thought, feeling and behaviour cycle, it can help us to accept what is in our control and what is out of our control. It can also help us to identify triggers in our lives and how we can respond in a good way instead of reacting in an unhelpful way. More importantly, understanding this, can help us create a self-care routine or build in helpful techniques into our lives.
When we are stressed or anxious, our brain’s alarm system (the fight-flight-freeze) can feel ready to go off at any minute and we can be living on our nerves pretty much a lot of the time. Mindfulness techniques can help us to use the whole of our brain, which then helps us to process information and helps us to take time and think about what we are doing and what is going on around us. Just being in the present moment can help our brains to work in different ways by firing up different parts of the brain and getting us into the rest-repair-digest state rather than how most of us are currently living in the fight-flight-freeze mode, constantly tired, worried and feeling stressed.
Being aware of the present moment, focusing our attention and also accepting things as they are can help us to reduce our stress and anxiety levels through improving our immune system, our breathing patterns and our general wellbeing and happiness. When we are aware of our mind, body and breath we can help our breathing to slow down and this, in turn, settles our central nervous system.
What are a number of different ways we can learn to be mindful and how can each one help in more detail?
There are a number of different ways we can learn to be mindful and id like to share some activities with you that are simple and effective to use:
A Mindful Moment
We tend to pride ourselves on multi-tasking, but can we stop and observe and have a mindful moment without trying to do 3 things at once? Make yourself a brew, boil the kettle (and here’s the tricky part) wait for the kettle to boil! Don’t go off doing something else. Stand there and notice everything about the kettle boiling, the sounds and what you can see. Notice how you are standing and how your feet are placed on the floor. Then mindfully make yourself a nice warm drink noticing all of your movements from getting the cup to pouring the water. Use your senses to smell the drink, listen to each noise and then try to be mindful of having your drink (not doing another 5 things and then drink it cold or even forget it’s there). I know this might be difficult with little ones around so try and pick the best time for you to have this mindful moment. This activity will help you to pause and notice how much you try and fit into every day if you’re not too caught up in your overthinking mind and learn how to switch yourself off from autopilot mode.
A Mindful Meditation
There are lots of scripts and videos online to follow a guided mediation. A good one to do on your own is the 3-part breathing space meditation; make yourself comfortable and close your eyes and then work through 3 stages. Part 1: notice your outer environment, each sound and distraction; label any sounds. Part 2: gather your attention to your breathing and notice yourself breathing in and out. Part 3: expand your attention and do a quick body scan, notice how you feel from the top of your head to the tips of your toes, working your way down and focusing on the face, neck, shoulders and so on.
A Breathing Technique
How we breathe tells our body and brain how we feel. Taking a few minutes each day to do some focused breathing is one of the most helpful things you can fit into your day. Firstly, notice how you breathe during the day and try and get into the habit of breathing in through your nose rather than in through your mouth. Then choose a time in the day to do some belly breathing: take a big deep breath in through the nose and feel your belly rise, then out through the mouth and feel your belly fall.
A Sensory Activity
Using our senses! We tell young children to do this so much, yet when we grow up we go into thinking mode rather than senses mode. Take some time to use your senses either in the inside or outside environment, really focus on what you see, hear, can touch, taste our smell. This sounds really simple, but it’s so effective to help your brain work and connect with the present moment.you
A Mindful Activity
A really effective activity for helping with stress and anxiety is to think about our ‘circle of control’. Draw a circle on a piece of paper and then write inside it everything that is in your control and outside the circle write down everything that is out of your control. Feedback from one of my mindfulness courses say that “The most significant thing I have learnt is the circle of control, this theory has helped me see a lot of things are out of our control and for that there is less pressure to worry about the future… live in the present moment.” Have a go, all you need is a pen and paper…hope it helps 😊
We chat to other mums who have found mindfulness useful during the recent pandemic and what they have done to help them feel more calmness in their day to day lives as mums;
Lizzie “I lost myself after having children and I found myself on my phone constantly just to find an escape but in reality, I was switching from being a busy mum to a mum comparing myself to others. I was desperate for peace but had no idea how i started following Izzy Judd and began to find activities that i enjoyed to keep me present and to stop me worrying about the future. I then found Izzy Judd has brought a book out and haven’t looked back since.”
Daisy “I was at a point of pure desperation, my partner works on the ships and I was home with my new baby, I was worrying about everything, I went to do CBT after suffering with depression and he started me with mindfulness and since then I now have an adult colouring book and I do a meditation a day.”
Clare Hales (MSc) is a mindfulness and wellbeing practitioner and special yoga teacher for child and adolescent mental health. Clare is an experienced special needs teacher and has just started a my PhD on mindfulness interventions for young people with autism. Visit Developing Matters website here.