Being a parent isn’t easy. Whether you have one child or many, an infant, school-aged child, or a moody teenager, life can be stressful. There are simply never enough hours in the day.
Someone always needs your attention—for homework help, for rides to ball games and dance lessons, for feeding and clothing, or for bedtime stories and goodnight kisses.
It’s a tough job and although you probably wouldn’t trade it for anything, the constant balancing act between children, work, and your own needs can take its toll.
Parenting is both the most rewarding and most stressful job imaginable, and while we as parents have our children’s welfare firmly at the forefront of our minds, we often don’t consider our own well-being in the same light.
You may think, at the end of the day when the children are all in bed, that there’s no time left for you—you the person, not the parent. The idea of doing something for yourself may make you throw up your hands and laugh, or weep in frustration.
But don’t despair. There’s a simple technique that can cut your stress levels and help you regain your sanity. It will increase your patience, decrease your frustration, and even help you sleep better.
It’s called mindfulness meditation and it only takes ten minutes a day.
Meditation might not be what you think.
When you hear the word “meditate,” you may picture an ancient yogi sitting in lotus position and possibly chanting “Om.” You may think meditation means emptying your mind and stilling your thoughts. You may get fidgety at the mere thought of having to sit still. You may think you have to meditate for hours every day.
None of these things are true. There are many schools of meditation, and while some of them do ask you to sit still, mindfulness meditation is not one of them. So what is mindfulness? It’s the act of being really, truly, thoroughly present in the given moment.
If that sounds a bit esoteric, consider this: Most of us spend a good part of our time on autopilot. Our bodies may be present, but our mind (or at least a large part of our mind) is somewhere else.
For example, when you vacuum the carpet, your mind is probably not really on the job at hand. Sure, you may notice a toy lying on the carpet and pick it up, but for the most part, your mind and your body are doing two different things. Your body is running the vacuum while your mind is far afield.
You may be planning dinner. You may be worrying about whether you’ll get that promotion at work next week, or looking even farther into the future. You may be reliving something that happened in the past. But whatever your mind is doing, it’s a pretty sure bet that it’s not focusing fully on the here and now.
Mindfulness simply means being fully present. This is what mindfulness asks you to do—focus completely on the here and now.
If you’re vacuuming the carpet, don’t just shift into autopilot. Be present. Use all your senses and really experience the task.
Feel the texture of the handle gripped in your hand, and the vibrations running through it. Hear the whine of the motor, and notice the variations in sound when you change directions—when you push it forward and pull it back or when you turn a corner.
Smell the subtle difference in the air while the machine is running. See, really see the texture and pattern of your carpet, the tiny dust motes hanging in the air.
If you notice your mind wandering, if you find yourself worrying about the future (even a few minutes in the future) or dwelling in the past, simply bring your attention back to the task at hand and the input of your five senses.
This is the essence of mindfulness and it can have a profound effect on your life. Using mindfulness, you can turn nearly any everyday chore into a moment of meditation, and once you’re in the habit you can also use it as a tool in stressful situations.
Can you practice it while sitting quietly in one spot? Of course you can, if you so desire. All that’s required is that you keep yourself firmly grounded in the present moment and fully, completely aware of your body and your environment.
It takes practice, but practice makes perfect. And just ten minutes of mindfulness meditation each day can reduce your stress exponentially—even if you’re a busy mom.