Any parent will tell you that parenthood is wonderful but it’s far from smooth sailing. Raising children comes with highs (they make you laugh and their achievements leave you bursting with pride) and there are lows (tantrums, sibling rivalry and refusal to do homework, housework, eat veggies… the list goes on). A hectic schedule filled with work, school, sports, groceries and a myriad of appointments can leave you feeling completely overwhelmed. Exhausted by the end of the day, it’s like being on a treadmill that only stops when you’re asleep. Additional problems at work or with your partner, family or friends can combine with all of this to leave you in a heightened state of anxiety.
Put simply, parenting is stressful and when you’re caught up in it, it is easy to lose sight of what is really important. Unfortunately, parents are often too busy taking care of everyone else that they do not focus on their own needs. At this stage of life, your health and wellbeing is everything but often feels unattainable.
Take time to reflect on the way you live your life and the way you want to live it. Whether you vow to get fit or spend more time with the kids, whatever yours is – rather than set unrealistic expectations, try mindfulness.
Mindfulness is a powerful technique that helps you stay calm and in the moment. It helps you cope in both day-to-day life or deal with tough times. It also boosts your confidence and has great benefits for your physical and mental health.
There are many varying techniques for practicing mindfulness. While many individuals like to meditate I have always found this practice difficult. Instead, I have opted to focus on the following three simple steps, which if practiced daily will reap life changing benefits, reducing anxiety and stress and increasing your wellbeing.
Three steps to mindfulness:
1.Be self-aware: Being aware of how you’re feeling when stress or anxiety creeps in is the first step to managing stress. Try to notice ‘how and where’ it starts to rise in you. What stimuli has set these feelings off? Does it live in your chest or stomach? Do you start to sweat or feel anxious? Becoming more aware of your triggers and noticing how these feelings rise in you will better enable you to manage them in the moment.
2. The power of choice: When you start to practice self-awareness, you become conscious of all of your feelings. Anxiety, stress, anger, happiness and when they start to stir within. Certain feelings trigger certain responses (think ‘fight or flight’). The power of choice is a critical point here, because ‘in the moment’ it can feel like you don’t have a choice. That your response to these feelings is innate. Finding an ‘anchor’, a place to rest and be in the moment allows you the opportunity to choose how you want to respond to these feelings. It might be in your stance (try fixing your feet to the ground), breath (slow, deep breaths in and out through your nose) or bringing your hands together and interlocking your fingers (position them in front of your heart). Whatever your anchor, it should feel comfortable, natural and steady you to ‘own’ how you will react to your triggers.
3. Respond with compassion: Understanding that you have the power of choice and can decide how you want to respond to feelings is a massive and very empowering realisation. Responding from a loving place means being gentle, supportive and kind. Showing compassion and empathy when you would otherwise respond negatively is not an art or science, it’s a choice.
So give it a go. Next time feelings of anxiety start to swell, try being self-aware, secure your anchor and choose to respond with compassion. Not only will you create greater wellbeing and benefit personally, you will positively impact those around you.
The more you practice the easier it becomes to incorporate mindfulness into your daily life (remember, we are changing old life habits, so it will take practice and focus. Be patient with yourself).
Want to own your future in 2017 by being mindful and choosing to live your life well?
Pillars & Stone Retreats are inviting parents (with children) to be part of a two day focus group. The retreat provides respite, rejuvenation and life-strategy coaching. It is a unique opportunity to slow down, reflect and re-connect with yourself and your child and re-focus on your dreams and aspirations. Through mindfulness, a strength-based approach and values-based living techniques, we will guide and support you in taking steps toward living a balanced, rewarding life. To learn more about the retreat focus group please register your interest by emailing [email protected]
Elly Stone is a founding FlexCoach and is passionate about supporting women in business and helping families transition into parenthood. She specialises in life and business coaching, career management and transitions.