Mindfulness for Mums - Early Parenting
You may be reading this still pregnant, wondering (if this is your first baby) how you will think and feel as a new mother. If this is your second, third, fourth or fifth baby, you may still be questioning your abilities to cope with life as a mother to another child and how you will still find time for your other children. You may have just had your baby, and finding this blog because you are looking for ways to cope as a new mother. You may be looking for a way to simply live with greater ease as a new mother; learning and transforming one moment at a time.
You may have heard or experienced horror stories about lack of sleep bringing about fatigue like you've never felt before. Or babies cries being unbearable, or feeding becoming a big issue that leaves you sore and feeling at a loss to know what to do? You may be aware of the need to heal both mentally and physically after giving birth. This is true in some cases, and not for others. Indeed this continues into parenting. There will inevitably always be something to challenge you. But you CAN help yourself.... read on to find out how..
So what is Mindfulness for a start? And why are so many people turning to it for a more balanced and less anxious life?
"Mindfulness is a practice... it is a way of being rather than merely a way of being present and a good idea. It is thousands of years old and is about attention and awareness in the present moment... this practice has been shown to influence on one's health, wellbeing and happiness. It is about a gradual cultivation that unfolds and deepens over time. It's a gesture of kindness and self compassion really." Jon- Kabat- Zinn
Mindfulness practice does not take a long time. It is simply a method of mental training; It is about seeing the world, and your thoughts and feelings with greater clarity so that you can take wiser action to change the things that need to be changed or accept the things you can do nothing about.
Important to note! Being a Mindful Parent is not about being a Perfect Parent! You don't have to have any specific training or experience, but you do need motivation to practice.
Every parent and every baby is unique and not one method or parenting style suits all. Being a mindful parent involves little more than your baby being your teacher; learning from their cues and signals moment by moment. It's about creating ways to take time for your self care too, and giving yourself time to recognise and understand your stress triggers so that you can cope better when you feel anxious and worried. It's about using your breath to focus, your eyes to see and your ears to listen to what baby is telling you, even when they are crying incessantly and your instinct is to run or freeze. It pays dividends to just stop and accept that sometimes you don't know what it's about, you can't control it and you may not have the capacity or ability to fix it. So showing love and compassion in those moments (to yourself and your baby), is the most mindfully aware and practical thing to do!
Here are my Ten top tips to help you become a more Mindful Mamma!
Breathe and Focus - Take 3 deep breaths from your belly. Notice how your body feels when you do so.
Walking and being in nature, as often as you can but at least once a day, (even in the rain)!
Talking/language - what are you saying out loud and to yourself? Is it kind? If not, stop it. Reframe it - reverse it/flip it!
Environment - What can you see? See colours & textures. How does it make you feel?
Touch - Your babies skin, hugs, soft fabrics, animals, water.
Connect - to baby and your partner. Hugs, smiles, laughter, tenderness. Be in your bubble. It's about you and no-one else right now.
Detach/Disconnect - from the outside world or social media if it makes you compare or become anxious. Also family members who make you feel this way too!
Nourish - be kind to your body. Eat food that you intuitively want, not what you feel you have to. Be aware of what you are nourishing yourself with. Is it fuelling you or making you feel worse?
Acceptance - Find that "OKAY-NESS". (see more on this below).
Compromise - this does not mean giving up or giving in! It means finding your middle-ground and where you can accept life as it is. What good will it do to fight it? How will using your energy fighting it make you feel about yourself and others? What can you do to find compromise?
What is this "okay-ness"?
Becoming a mother often involves the letting go of the old you and welcoming the new you. You may not be able to do things the way you used to and that in itself can be frustrating. In these instances, be kind to yourself. The sooner you can accept that in your life, the easier it will be to enjoy actually being a mother. For many years, women have taken pride in the fact that they can multi-task, however it's now been proven that whilst this may be true, we can't actually give each task our full attention and best efforts. So being mindful of this helps us to slow down, and take one task at a time.
For example, be mindful of brushing your teeth, or washing the dishes, or chopping the vegetables. Be mindful of how your bedsheets feel, of the sound of your baby as they sleep. Be mindful of eating lunch even if you have to grab something as you're feeding baby. Be mindful of feeding baby; bottle or breast, you can still be mindful of that. Take part in the action. Giving each task a beginning and an end can also help, so that each task feels new and has a completion before you begin a new one. If your mind wanders off, (as it will), just bring it back to the task in hand. If you do this for yourself, consciously deciding to be present with each task, and motivated to be mindful, it will help to tame your mind and may begin to feel really rather pleasant! It may even help slow down that chattering worry monkey in your mind. You may also notice that by practising each task with intent, you are not concerned about what happened in the past, and what may or may not happen in the future. Even if you do not get to complete every task, all that matters is that you are going with the flow and trusting in your instincts and intuition. (More on those in another blog!).
Another point to note is that when a mind is tired and feeling overwhelmed, we often wish for the situation to be different, or to "be somewhere else". We dream of being back to our past selves, of days when life was simpler or places where we felt free-er and lighter of pressure. This is very normal. However, this is not doing us any favours is it? Sometimes, it may be useful to creatively visualise a safe, happy place. That is a commonly used tool to escape a moment of fear or pain. However, it's unrealistic to imagine we can apply this all the time. So, what's the best thing to do in these moments? When we recognise these thoughts, we can be accepting of them and return to the present task in hand. To struggle with that will often end up in a spiral of misery and self pity. Tension builds and we begin to resent our life situation. No-one wants that and yet, it happens all too often. So next time you find yourself in this vicious cycle, what do you need to do? Yes! Use your senses to focus, breathe, be in the moment, be present and accept that you may not be able to do anything about it for now. Give yourself time to recover. Then solutions may come to you more naturally.
Being aware is being mindful. You do not have to be sitting still and quietly like a buddha to be mindfully aware. Having time for your self care may seem like a long lost piece of your past or a long time away into the future, but it doesn't have to be this way. This time is with you wherever you go and whatever you do. What get's in the way of this is the desire to be somewhere else.
So what happens when those thoughts go to the "dark side"?
Most likely in times of ultimate stress, exhaustion and overwhelm, when we feel out of control. Those thoughts come at us like a cat on a mouse and generally shock the hell out of us. What do we do about THOSE thoughts? Believe me, we have all been there.
Firstly, as scary as they are, they are just thoughts. You have not acted on them. Yes, they may make you feel dreadful and guilty, but you are not a bad person for having them and as long as you don't actually act them out, so far what are they? JUST THOUGHTS. It is the energy we give them that causes the problems. So if we just recognise them for what they are, and perhaps say "this is just a thought", perhaps reframing it with a further affirmation, of "its my mind playing tricks on me because i'm tired, I am not my thoughts". Then, let it OUT. Talk to someone or write it down and rip it up. If they keep coming, go and see a therapist.
You will not be judged for having a thought.
So how do you become more of a Mindful Mamma?
Let go of expectation and apply all of the above top tips...
Learn to go with the flow.
Be more present in every task that you do.
Be accepting of situations you have no control over.
Be kind, loving, compassionate, truthful and do your best not to compare yourself with others.
I'm a mum of 4 boys, a pregnancy, birth and baby coach and co-creator of a Mindfulness for Mums online Pack. I've used Mindfulness over the past 12 years to help get through times of worry, anxiety and depression and have taught my sons a few techniques to help them too! I hope this has helped a little.
If you are not feeling yourself over a prolongued period of time and are unsettled by your thoughts and feelings. Please speak to someone and get advice from your care provider or a professional. It's better to speak out than not at all.