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 wellbeing and health of an individual. For parents, it is very important to have some forms of stress-relieving mechanisms in place.
Mindfulness helps parents to be motivated, engrossed, and well-positioned to reduce stress by facilitating the capacity to devise solutions to problems. It allows you the chance to give the mind room to work, to be creative, and inventive. Concerning the emotional shortcomings that are associated with stress, meditation enables an individual to engage efforts of self-soothing on the platforms of truth and reality. By engaging in this process, one momentarily starts to reap the benefits. An individual discovers his or her inner powers, which in most cases remain undiscovered, unused, and disregarded. The person soon realizes that he or she can realize the achievement of much-needed peace, which comes from within and not the external environment or social settings of life.
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. Breath awareness actually harmonizes the cardiovascular systems in the body, while also calming the “alarm” centers in the more primitive parts of the brain, restoring full brain function. When we are stressed, we can’t think clearly or see any situation accurately.
- 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!
To help implement place sticky note reminders around the house, car, and work. Move them to different places after a week or so you are constantly reminded.
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 Mick Mouse voice, or a character with a throat 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? Many findings of the study demonstrated that the gratitude intervention increases your positive affect, 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. Send it or better yet, deliver and read it to the person if possible. 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, one thought about the gifts you’ve received each day.
- Count your blessings – Pick a time every week to sit down and write about your blessings. Reflect on what went right or what you are grateful for. Sometimes it helps to pick a number, such as three to five things that you will identify each week. As you write, be specific and think about the sensations you felt when something good happened to you.
- 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 to feelings and sensations in the body can lead to increased ability to function with pain, stress, and tension. The body has its own wisdom. It is where we feel our emotions and where tension and relaxation are felt. It is our antenna to the world. By paying close attention to it, we realize better what we want to cultivate and what we want to let go of.
Take a breath in and notice your:
- Lower torso
- Abdominal area
- Chest and upper back
- Shoulders and arms
- Neck, head and face
Do this a few times and notice the changes that are happening already. Use your breath to breakthrough and bring awareness where awareness needs to be. The more you do it the more your brain will build healthy habits and can even create new neuropathways.
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. Our article is also published in ParentingOC’s Magazine!