A guide for parents to incorporate mindfulness and positive self-care into their busy lives
By Lisa Templeton, Ph.D.
For parents, there doesn’t seem to be enough time in the day. From the morning making breakfast, putting together lunches, getting ready and getting to work, then working all day; then back home, making dinner, cleaning up, checking homework, getting kids to bed, putting toys away - the day floats away. With all this going on daily, when can one possibly make time for themselves? Where does the time go? There seems to be more “things to do” in a day that there are hours for.
Many parents dream of slowing down, taking some time off and getting a vacation; somewhere tropical perhaps? Your inner voice might say, “Just another 8 weeks until my vacation and then I can finally slow down.” Yet, by the time you get to the vacation, it takes a week or more to finally recover from all the going, only to get back home and hit the ground running again.
Some try to take down time and then feel guilty about it thinking, “I am not spending enough time with my kids” or “I should be doing something with my family.” These particular thoughts are falsehoods and can function to keep us in a state of constant motion without ever experiencing the stillness of ourselves, our lives and our experience. When we give of ourselves too often, we can find that we have nothing left to give unless we replenish our spirits. We can’t be much help to others if we are not helping ourselves first.
We are not human doings; we are human beings. We all need time to slow down every day – to teach our brain how to slow down. This down time is not going to be given to us – we must take it and remember that we deserve it. When we intentionally try to slow down, we can start to experience ourselves, even in the midst of doing. We need to be present and in the moment, grateful for our surroundings, while staying kind and loving toward ourselves.
We can’t get caught up in “I’m supposed to…” at the expense of ourselves. Eleanor Brown stated, “Rest and self-care are so important. When you take time to replenish your spirit, it allows you to serve others from the overflow. You cannot serve from an empty vessel.” When you take time for yourself, you can fill yourself up and it gives you more to give to your children, your husband and other loved ones. We need to care for ourselves just as we care for our children. What a great model we can be to teach our children self-love, kindness, boundaries and balance.
Here are some suggestions to aid you in slowing down and increasing your self-care:
- Make a plan to slow down and meditate each day – take 5 minutes to focus on one stimulus, either inside or outside of yourself (i.e., your breath, the clock ticking) and continue working to stay there – moving back to your object of focus when you get distracted, and you will get distracted. Consider what the best time of day might be for you to do this. You may have to experiment to see what works best with your schedule. Start with just 5 minutes. Be sure to breathe deep.
- Let your loved ones know of your plan for self-care and ask that they respect that time you are taking for yourself.
- Take deep breaths often throughout the day to help ground yourself and slow down, even for a brief couple of minutes. You can take a quick sabbatical a few times a day to replenish yourself.
- Identify what makes you happy – do what you love! Take 15-30 minutes to partake in something you really enjoy every day. It doesn’t take up that much time to rejuvenate ourselves. Also, surround yourself with what you think is beautiful. Try to notice beautiful things throughout the day. If you can’t get to those happy, beautiful things - imagine them. Take 5 minutes to go to a beautiful place in your head and breathe easy and slow. If you notice judgment while doing this – thoughts such as, “I’m a terrible mom for taking time for myself” or “my mind is moving around too much” – gently shift yourself back and remind yourself that you are only replenishing yourself and modeling that behavior for them.
- Practice presence – feel your body, your senses, and notice what it feels like. The moment you realize that you are not present is when you are back! Shift yourself back to the moment as often as you can. This will take practice – the more you practice, the easier this becomes. When you find you are not in the present moment, gently bring yourself back without any judgment.
- Try being in the moment and breathing while doing general household tasks or other work – check in with yourself and be a friend to yourself. Notice what it feels like for you to unload the dishwasher or to play with your kids. They are so present and in the moment (especially when young) – draw from their experience and learn from them.
- Be grateful everyday for the blessings in your life. Review the things you are grateful for with an open heart.
- Communicate your needs to your spouse/family – if you need help, please ask for it. We are not meant to do everything on our own – ask for help in caring for yourself. Get a sitter if needed, ask friends to watch the kids for an hour. Taking some down time is not selfish. Set a boundary when needed – this can be done in a loving way – just identify what you need and share it with others.
Feel and experience your world and your senses more fully by opening up to the power of the present moment and the excitement of all life. We are free to choose in every moment. Fill yourself up – as only you can meet this need for yourself – no one else can. Be a friend to yourself and feel that self-love pour out to all those around you.