I know this post is a little bit different than what we normally write about: it isn’t directly related to parenting. But, since we’ve been talking a lot lately about improving on and focusing on our own health and well-being as mothers, I thought having a conversation about mindfulness would be beneficial. 🙂
STRESS. It’s inevitable. Some of us handle it better than others, though. Like me for example: Coping with stress in healthy ways is something I have to consistently work on, because I tend to obsess over little things… Why can’t everything just be perfect? Is that too much to ask?! 😉 (If anything has helped me realize that I’m NOT in control of everything, it’s parenthood. This is a good thing. It’s good for me to accept that things can be imperfect and happy at the same time.)
Stress is a normal part of life, and a small dose of it can be healthy, as it may help motivate us and help us achieve our goals. However, too much stress, on-going stress, or chronic stress can be detrimental. Stress triggers the human fight-or-flight response; it causes our blood pressure to rise, our adrenaline to accelerate, among other physiological responses. These responses can be helpful, say if you’re… you know, in danger. The fight-or-flight response is a survival instinct! The adrenaline rush can even be exciting, like right before you’re about to give a performance in front of a crowd of people (Psychology Today).
But then there’s the kind of stress that doesn’t go away- the harmful kind. Chronic stress can really take a toll on a body. With stress, the key is to bring our bodies back down to its equilibrium. We can achieve this in lots of different ways; mindfulness is one of the techniques.
I first learned the term “mindfulness” in a class called Family Stress and Coping. The principle of mindfulness has a lot of value. Here are two definitions of “MINDFULNESS”:
“the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something.”
“a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.”
The concept of being focused on the “present moment” fascinates me. Why is it beneficial to focus, to hone in on our current thoughts and feelings?
Because it helps us relax. It can help us achieve a sense of equilibrium. Stress, and anxiety, can warp our perception on reality. Being aware of our present state of being can help us understand the differences between what is real and what is not.
Basics of Mindfulness
In the practice of mindfulness, you focus your mind on what it is that you’re doing. You pay attention to your body, what you’re feeling, your immediate surroundings. It doesn’t necessarily mean forgetting about everything else; it encourages you to be in tune with your present state of being.
There are many ways to practice mindfulness, including meditation. But there are also ways to incorporate mindfulness into your everyday life, while going about your day.
Mindful eating is the mindfulness technique we practiced in my Family Stress and Coping class. It’s actually quite simple, and it’s a good introduction to the principle of mindfulness. Here’s what you do:
-The next time you eat, examine your food for a few moments before eating it. Take in the color and the smell. Think about what it might taste like.
-With each bite you take, try to really enjoy the food. Think about what it tastes like, what it feels like in your mouth. Try to chew slowly. Again, try to enjoy the experience!
Mindful eating is one example of how you can use the concept of mindfulness in everyday life. You could also try mindful communication (actively focusing more on what others say in your conversations with them) or mindful exercising. Or, you can set aside time in your day to truly meditate (set aside all distractions, use calming music, relax your body, and strive to think about nothing).
Stress Reduction with Mindfulness
Mindfulness is a great way to reduce stress because it helps calm the mind and the body. For example, when I find myself feeling overly stressed or anxious, taking a few deep breaths immediately helps calm my body down. Actively trying to calm down one’s body and focusing in on the here and now can do wonders for one’s health. Practicing the art of mindfulness immediately in or after obviously stressful situations, as well during times of regular day-to-day stress can help a person become skilled at keeping stress at a minimum. Over time, a person who is able to keep their overall stress at bay and is skilled at reaching equilibrium can enjoy a more peaceful and content state of being.
Here are some other articles about mindfulness, if you want to learn about it further: