The past year may be on record as one of the most stressful times in your life. You and your family may have faced stressors that you did not know existed almost three years ago. When we take a moment to reflect after we make it through some stressful moments in our lives, sometimes we can see the silver lining of the challenges, mistakes, and successes — but sometimes we are too busy to even get to that part.
As mothers, we often are stuck operating mindlessly, on autopilot. But what if you implement something into your life that can help you reduce stress and start living with more intention? Mindfulness — when you make yourself aware by paying attention on purpose, in the present moment — is the perfect solution. Here are five tips for practicing mindfulness, as well as how to incorporate it with your children.
Be consciously present.
Pay attention to thoughts, feelings, and tensions, as well as those of others. Take time to notice tension in your body or an unclear mind, and take a moment and check in with your body and ask yourself what is going on. Maybe you did not sleep well, or you were distracted by a conversation you had earlier. The best thing to do is acknowledge the cause of the tension and give yourself some grace.
At home: Have daily one-on-one time with each child. Spending at least five minutes of interrupted time is such a special time and it is realistic for how crazy life can be. Prioritizing once-a-month mommy-daughter and mommy-son outings is so important to help foster the relationship and also helps with their own happiness and behaviors.
Practice self-regulation strategies.
Mindfulness can be as simple as taking three deep breaths, taking a five-minute walk, saying positive affirmations to yourself daily (Yes, the “I am” statements), and checking in within yourself to identify and remove triggers. As a Christ follower, I often pray and do devotional time.
At home: Have positive affirmations for your children and have them say them out loud while getting ready for school or on the way to school. Help them develop their own self-regulation techniques. Accept your child’s feelings, even the negative ones. Acknowledge a feeling without being overwhelmed by it, and respond with patience.
Maintain 5-minute writing in a gratitude journal, participate in the practice of writing thank you notes, and genuinely compliment someone on their outfit.
At home: Every night before bed, or maybe during dinner if that works better, have your kids tell you one thing about the day that they liked, one thing they didn’t like, and something they are grateful for. Have children write thank you notes to friends and relatives for gifts or how they made them feel.
Listen with your full attention.
Take time to actively listen by listening first to understand (turn off phone notifications and put down your phone), acknowledge what others are saying, or ask for clarification and then respond. The goal is to understand first before you share your own opinion.
At home: Listening with full attention helps you understand and respond to your child’s needs. Bring a notepad and pen into the conversation so when your mind is bursting with ideas you can make notes of your ideas instead of interrupting the person you are talking to while still actively listening.
Slow down and single task.
Focus on one task at a time. Being a multi-tasker isn’t always productive. Take time to really focus on one thing, get it done, and move on to the next task. Having lots of things started isn’t going to help you get them finished unless you have utilized calendar blocking or have a plan in place to get things done.
At home: Procrastination is the thief of time. Read a book to your child, or sit down and play a game with them, being fully present.
Having mindfulness and being a present mother for me means waking up before the kids and working out most days. Moving my body is essential for my mental health and the endorphins literally jump-start my day. On days I do not work out, then I use the peace and quiet to help center myself before the day gets loud as it is with kids. I’m way past the newborn stage, but I know firsthand that this is not realistic in all stages of motherhood. I encourage you to figure out and plan a time during the day when you can have at least 15 minutes alone; this could be during nap time or quiet time, while kids are at school, or when your spouse is home or even on your drive to work after you drop the kids to daycare or school. Creating good habits of putting my phone down like on the charger and really being present with my family. Good days are the ones where I forget to take a picture.
Practicing mindfulness has allowed me to be present and notice the magical moments that were right in front of me. I now have the ability to see situations more clearly, have increased creativity in my work, and have improved my own self-regulation which has given me the ability to deal with difficult situations while being able to help my young children with their own self-regulation.