These times are challenging, there is no doubt. Focusing on one’s mind in the moment can bring great insight, as it allows one to think clearly about the subject matter at hand. Mindful parenting is simply an ongoing intention to pay attention to thoughts, feelings and emotions in the present moment and taking a pause to re-orientate without the negative attachment.
Research has shown that mindfulness goes a long way to help people deal with the aspects of their lives, even under stressful times. Such outcomes of mindfulness remain invaluable to people experiencing stress and handling crises. Parents are not an exception and often find themselves going through moments of stress. Stress simply refers to the manifestation of pressure and tension in the mental or emotional spheres of an individual. It is normal for people to go through stress due to the challenges and experiences of life. During such times, you need to seek means to relieve the stress. Research has shown that high levels of stress result in adverse effects on the well-being and health of an individual. For parents, it is very important to have some forms of stress-relieving mechanisms in place.
How to Mindfully Manage Your Stress
Focus on your breathing. In this simple, powerful technique, take long slow deep breaths (also known as abdominal or belly breathing). As you breathe, you gently disengage your mind from distracting thoughts and sensations. Breath focus can be especially helpful for people with eating disorders, as it allows one to focus on their bodies in a more positive way. However, this technique may not be appropriate for those with health problems that make breathing difficult, such as respiratory ailments or heart failure. Apply the STOP technique.
S – Stop. Whenever you notice stress or imbalance, simply pause in awareness.
T – Take a breath. Simply bring your awareness into the breathing body, just letting the sensations of the breath move into the forefront. Notice how your mind begins to settle a bit, bringing more clarity.
O – Observe. Just notice how your breath begins to naturally bring balance to the systems of the body. Let this be felt. Look around. What is really happening, in the moment?
P – Proceed. Having shifted to a more mindfully responsive mode, take an action that is more skillful, appropriate and best attuned to your situation. Proceed with a smile!
Use a Mickey Mouse voice. Have you ever come up against a challenging thought, or looped your thoughts with no success to the problem? The inner voice in your head is not being helpful. Change the voice to a Mickey Mouse voice, or a character with a throaty voice such as from “The Godfather.” A funny voice reframes the inner voice, giving you space for other resources to work with when dealing with a situation.
Cultivate gratitude. What are you grateful for? Gratitude increases your positive emotions, subjective happiness and life satisfaction while reducing negative emotions and depression symptoms. Harvard Medical School suggests the following to cultivate gratitude on a regular basis:
Write a thank-you note. You can make yourself happier and nurture your relationships with others by writing a thank-you note expressing your enjoyment and appreciation of that person’s impact on your life. Make a habit of sending at least one gratitude letter a month. Once in a while, write one to yourself.
Thank someone mentally. No time to write? It may help just to think about someone who has done something nice for you and mentally thank the individual.
Keep a gratitude journal. Make it a habit to write down or share with a loved one a thought about the gifts you’ve received each day.
Pray. People who are religious can use prayer to cultivate gratitude.
Body scans. The body scan allows us to investigate the moment to moment experiences of the body. Increased awareness of feelings and sensations in the body can lead to increased ability to function with pain, stress and tension.
Take a breath in and notice your:
Chest and upper back
Shoulders and arms
Neck, head and face
Rather than choosing just one technique, experts recommend sampling several to see which one works best for you. Try to practice for at least 20 minutes a day, even just a few minutes can help. The longer and the more often you practice these relaxation techniques, the greater the benefits and the more you can reduce stress.
Anthony Cupo is a trained mindfulness facilitator (TMF) from the UCLA Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior. He is a co-owner of Stepping Forward Counseling Center, LLC and has been meditating for over 30 years.
Photo Credit: Tim Goedhart