by Freelance writer Jennifer Landis
You know the prehistoric squirrel in shorts before the “Ice Age” movies? Yeah, that’s me — Scrat, the saber-tooth squirrel, is my spirit animal as a mama when life gets the best of me.
I’m constantly scrambling to collect my nuts for winter, but there’s always one that gets away and drives me batty. In contrast, there’s never a single task I’m trying to get done as a mother. It’s a roller coaster ride of everything invading my brain at once — finishing the professional work stuff, feeding and watering the kids, hubby and hopefully myself and cleaning the entire house in 20 minutes when I realize I forgot company is on the way. Oops.
How I Made Mindfulness Necessary
One day the water bill didn’t get paid, though I’ve automated everything I can, and I went home and let my own waterworks rain after a particularly bad day. Something had to give soon — and not my sanity, though moms are the exception to the rule. To be a mom, insanity comes with the territory.
My tiny human placed a sweet little hand on my cheek, which made the tears worsen for a solid minute until I took a deep breath and hugged my baby. This little one exudes love and compassion daily, and she’s a constant reminder for me to be more mindful about how I lead my life. From that point on, I became determined to make mindfulness into a routine, like everything else in my life, even in the chaos.
So, here’s how, as a busy mom, I learned to practice mindfulness — and it’s how you can, too.
Mindfulness isn’t being a Zen-like guru 24/7, but it does require nonjudgment from moment to moment. Release judgment from your thoughts and emotions. Practicing observation of yourself with compassion is the best place to start.
The hamster on the anxiety wheel — or Scrat, in my case — gets agitated and fueled by the constant negative self-talk people engage in on a daily basis to the point you don’t think you can help it. But you can.
Make mindfulness necessary in your life, just like anything else — hugs, water, brushing your teeth, eating and breathing. Make it a thing you absolutely have to do to live a happy life. Think of it as washing the dishes, but more relaxing, bearable and sometimes, fun.
At first, you will treat mindfulness like a chore, but look again — and with fresh eyes this time. Significant events in life give you perspective, and suddenly, all the little “chores” in life that were difficult to do become the easiest things on Earth — and maybe even enjoyable — to do. You don’t have to wait for big life events to shake up how you see the daily life. In fact, it shouldn’t be that way at all.
Go back to dishwashing, which research says can lower stress levels. One study on washing dishes and mindfulness found participants reduced nervousness by 27 percent and increased inspiration by 25 percent. Be completely aware as you wash the dishes. Consider every breath, thought and action mindfully. It sounds silly, but it works. I mindfully wash dishes and deal with my hubby’s snores — and refrain from judging myself for the urge to put my cold toes on his shin.
Instead of humming “ommmm” as you meal prep, you chant “nom-nom.” Eating mindfully helps you make smart choices and involves becoming more informed about what you eat, how it was produced and where it was sourced. Look closely at your values and habits around food — especially how eating certain foods make your mind and body feel.
If you have a food sensitivity, your body quickly lets you know. Humans often confuse hunger and thirst, so we tend to overstuff ourselves. When you hungry, try water first to see if that nourishes you.
4. Remember to Breath
Breathing is the most natural process of your mind and body, and it makes sense to use your breath to get in touch with yourself and relax. Concentrating on the rate of your breathing gives you something to refocus your attention to rather than traffic or a screaming toddler who’s angry the walls can’t be a canvas for their brilliant creations — breathe, little Scrat, breathe!
When you feel overwhelmed, focus on breathing mindfully. Bring your attention to your breath as the air moves in and out. Relax your muscles as much as possible, focusing on breathing with your immediate attention. Just breathe.
When you don’t dwell, you feel well. Focus on each moment of your life with mindfulness — which isn’t about keeping calm and carrying on, though that’s a good goal to have. Practicing mindfulness, especially as a mom, is more about remembering nonjudgment in the moment. Not judging yourself during tough days or weeks or months is exceptionally hard and important. Life passes by so quickly. Mindfulness helps you focus on every moment, especially the important ones.