Inside: Learning how to meditate when you really don’t have time is possible with a few simple techniques.
For some reason that escapes me now, I thought I would continue my twice-daily meditation practice when my daughter was born. Yes I fully give you permission to smirk knowingly at this stage.
Believe it or not, I tried. But every time I thought I might have a few minutes to myself (hah), a wail would erupt. That would be the end of the session – before it even started.
On top of the sleepless nights, constant feeding and endless nappy changing, losing my meditation practice meant I started to feel like I was losing my mind. And it wasn’t just due to baby brain – which is very real by the way.
Fed up with feeling frazzled and strung out, I knew I needed to find a new way to get through this time.
How to Be A Calmer Mother
Meditate? Are you kidding me? I’ve got kids, a job and a household to run. I’m lucky if I get to lock the bathroom door behind me for a few private minutes! If this is you, then read on.
There are many ways to relieve stress and anxiety. However, meditation is proven to be one of the best practices for this. In fact meditation will be of even greater benefit to you now than if you had taken it up in your carefree, pre-child days. A study published in the Archives of Women’s Mental Health found that new moms who practiced mindfulness (a form of meditation), were less stressed, less anxious and, importantly, more compassionate towards themselves.
Meditation and mindfulness will:
- Leave you feeling calmer and more peaceful
- Relieve depression
- Give you more energy at a time you really need it
- Improve your memory and concentration
- Help with sleep problems (yours that is)
First let’s clear up a common myth. Meditation does not have to mean half hour plus sessions of sitting still in a lotus position twice a day. If you’re a busy mom with young kids, it can be almost impossible to find chunks of time to block the outside world out.
But don’t worry; there are other ways to meditate. These three simple techniques are simple and easy to fit into your day no matter how crazy it gets.
- Mindfulness Meditation
As mentioned before, mindfulness is a form of meditation. It’s a practice that brings us into the present moment without the usual judgement and thinking our minds have. It has the benefits of meditation but does not require shuffling the kids off to a minder so you can have some peace.
One way to practice mindfulness is to focus on sensations.
When you’re engrossed in feeling something you will find your habitual thinking recedes into the background. It’s so subtle people won’t even be aware that you’re doing it. For example, when you’re eating, bring your attention to the smell and taste of the food. Notice how it feels in your mouth and the movement of your jaw as you chew the food. The food will taste better and you’ll probably eat more slowly – which incidentally is good for your health.
When you’re sitting in the car at the traffic lights, note how your body feels sitting on the seat. Is the surrounding air warm or cool? What does the car smell like? Of course this one is usually easier when you’re on your own in the car and not trying to keep the kids entertained.
You will find many opportunities throughout the day to focus on sensations while you carry out your normal everyday activities.
Focusing on an object is another easy way to practice mindfulness.
For example, if you have a flower in your home or garden, look at it more closely than you normally would. Take in the sight of each petal and each leaf, the different shapes, the different colors. Try not to have any thoughts about the flower. You are just witnessing it as it sits in front of you. That flower is alive and with you right in that moment.
- Moving Meditation
This is another simple technique you can fit into your day that is very similar to mindfulness. Rather than focusing on your breath, you focus on the sensation of walking. This is something you can do while pushing the pram or going about your day with baby strapped to you in a carrier.
- Note how your feet feel in the shoes you’re wearing. Are they comfortable? Are they warm or cold?
- Place your attention on each foot as you place it on the ground.
- Notice the feeling as each heel hits the ground and you roll forward onto the ball of your foot. What sounds are your shoes making as you walk?
- Try to walk more slowly than usual so you can keep focusing.
You can also try this simple exercise with other activities such as peeling vegetables, brushing your teeth, or cleaning the kitchen sink. If you do this whenever you think of it you will feel calmer and more grounded. When you’re a busy mom, you can’t underestimate the benefits of this.
- Simple Breathing Meditation
It really doesn’t matter where or when but most of us can find just a few moments somewhere in our day to stop and breathe. When a convenient moment arises, try the following:
- Stop what you’re doing.
- Close your eyes if you wish or gaze into the distance without focusing on anything in particular
- Take a deep breath and imagine drawing it down through your body to the base of your spine.
- Pause for a moment then release the breath, tracking it all the way up through your body and imagine it leaving through the top of your head.
- Pause then start another deep breath.
- Repeat 3– 5 times.
The process is simple but just doing this once or twice a day will have positive effects on your mood and emotions.
You may find you can fit it in more than a couple of times a day. After a while it becomes a habit to do it just before launching into the next activity.
How Can I Calm My Active Mind?
If you are always “on” (and isn’t that just the case for most moms?) and think you’ll never be able to calm all those thoughts – fear not.
Whichever of the above techniques you choose, thoughts will come and go. The aim is not to try to block these thoughts out but to observe and allow them to pass without following the train they will lead you on.
Trust me, I know how easy it is to get caught up with thoughts. I’ve returned to sitting meditation and am still amazed at how easily thoughts can creep in and carry me away. I can go from “hey this mornings meditation is going pretty well” to “ngaah forgot to buy broccoli” in seemingly less than 10 seconds. Neither thought is remotely useful but the key to meditation is to not be concerned or beat yourself up when this happens.
Simply notice thoughts and allow them to fade gently away as you return to whichever exercise you’re doing (before your mind tells you about all the other things you’ve forgotten to buy).
Living in the Moment Can Make You Happier
As adults, we think incessantly about all kinds of things. We have regrets about the past and concerns about the future. Our minds love to jump from thought to thought, taking us off in many directions. This is why it’s sometimes referred to as the “monkey mind”.
Most of the time we’re completely controlled by these thoughts, many of which aren’t helpful or even accurate.
Throw in lack of sleep and post pregnancy hormones and it isn’t surprising the baby blues are so common.
Our frantic minds mean we often miss things right in front of us. We miss the beauty of the trees we walk past. We don’t fully register the smile from the woman who served us in the local coffee shop. We can even miss the way our baby gazes up at us filled with nothing but love.
We weren’t always like this. If you look at a baby or young child you will see how fully present they are. They aren’t thinking about what they should have done at breakfast or worrying about what will happen next.
But as we grow up we forget how to be in the moment.
You can start to change this if you practice one or more of these simple meditation techniques. By stopping and allowing for stillness you get to experience more of life. You can be more present when you’re with others. And you get to enjoy your kids so much more.
I used all three of the above techniques. As a result I felt calmer and able to enjoy my baby so much more. In fact I believe they even helped me beat the dreaded baby brain.
So give yourself the gift of rest from your mind. Try just one of the above techniques for just a few minutes every day for the next month. The benefits may be subtle at first but, over time, they will add up and have a profound impact on your health – and sanity.
What are your thoughts on these suggestions? Do you have any tips for staying calm as a new mom? Please leave a comment below.
Hi I’m Silvia, I’m a qualified nutritionist, kinesiologist and health writer. I’m a mom to an amazing little girl and blog on ABalancedMama about health, wellness and bringing balance into our lives as moms. If you could do with some help in that area right now, download my free guide to living a naturally balanced life.