By Deborah Grover, Community of Mindful Parenting (Estimated reading time: 6 mins)
It is month four of physical distancing due to the pandemic and we’re slowly entering a Safe Start reopening here in Washington. We have made it this far. Take a deep breath. It is going to be OK.
Hello. My name is Deb and I am a mother of two teen girls. I find myself at home with them, along with my spouse and two cats, for what feels like week 84,036 of our stay-at-home order. As I write this blog post, it is 10:30 am and I am still in my pajamas. I am overdue for a shower. My kitchen is a mess and the laundry is piled high. I was able to throw a few pieces of cinnamon toast at my daughters (along with big glasses of milk) before online school started. Nobody is currently crying, and I just witnessed a hummingbird visiting the feeder outside my window. I call this a win, so I take a deep breath, put my hand on my heart and allow a little smile to form. I am OK. I am loved. I am safe in this moment.
How is it that I am so calm? Here are a few mindfulness practice tips from one crazed parent to another.
When I say practice, I mean: attune to yourself.
The definition of mindfulness, as shared by the famous Jon Kabat-Zinn, is to be in the present moment without judgement. In other words, noticing what is going on around us and within us and just letting it be.
Mindfulness practice can be many things to different people. It can be sitting in lotus position on a pillow for hours of meditation (this is definitely not happening for me right now!). It can be walking through the grass in our bare feet, grounding ourselves in nature (this is tempting to me, for sure). Mindfulness can be listening to the birds chirping outside our window or the sounds of the traffic racing by. For me, in this day and in this moment, it is taking a deep breath and recognizing that I am OK.
When we take the time to check in with ourselves, even for just two or three minutes, we give our bodies and mind the gift and opportunity to recognize what it is we need. Maybe it is to connect over the phone with a friend, maybe it is a rejuvenating 10-minute nap outside, or as simple as sharing a smile with someone else.
Take the moment to check in with yourself. Whatever you discover, just accept and nurture.
LIMIT THE FLOW OF INFORMATION AND DO WHAT IS BEST FOR YOU
We are experiencing history right now. Never in our lifetime – or our parents lifetime – has there ever been such a global event of solidarity as we are experiencing today. And everyone is talking about it. It is being discussed in the news, online, and in person, endlessly. It is alright to feel uncertain or unknowing.
Every day, we are inundated with emails, social media news, and articles filled with data and information. In the same breath, we are being fed advice with suggestions that this is a great time plant a garden or that houses around the world are going to be spotless once the threat of this virus passes because we have all been so productive in cleaning and organizing. I don’t know about you, but I have not touched a single closet. Yes, I may have pulled a few weeds from the flowerbed in week one, but they have since grown back (with a vengeance!). And I am, again, OK with this.
We are being inundated with devastating news and frightening predictions. The news can often be heartbreaking and unnerving. It is important to stay informed in order to stay safe, and after we gather enough information, it is entirely acceptable to press the mute button and turn it off for a bit. Hearing what others are doing to cope can be inspiring and it can also feel overwhelming and elicit feelings of false inadequacy.
The onslaught of all the incoming information can feel intense and exhaust our nervous system while we live in this state of constant anxiety. Check in with yourself. Notice if you are feeling anxious anticipation. If you are, consider giving yourself a break. The news will be there when you turn it back on.
Do what is best for you in the moment and accept that as enough.
ACCEPTANCE AND SELF COMPASSION
Human beings are resilient, and we will get through this. For now, we must be gentle and kind with, with one another, and ourselves and our feelings. It is OK to have all the feels. It is OK to feel uncertain and scared. Allow yourself these uncomfortable feelings and offer yourself some tenderness.
Imagine that your best friend is going through a really tough time. How would you talk to them? What could you do for them, in that moment? Really think about this. You might tell them, “It is going to be alright” or “I have your back and I am here for you.”. You might feel compassion, love, and grace for them.
Now turn the tables. Treat yourself with the same compassion and care. Speak to yourself with the same love, warmth, and gentleness. You deserve it. Studies show that offering ourselves self-compassion increases our optimism, happiness, and resilience. We always need more of these wonderful things in our lives.
For me, this self-compassion often looks like this: checking in with my body and allowing my jaw to relax and my shoulders to settle. It looks like taking in a deep, healing breath and acknowledging that if I do this for me, I will have capacity to do this for others.
Today, it is me in my pajamas, holding my hand over my heart and a smile on my face, overdue for a shower, and the scent of cinnamon toast in the air.
Some suggestions for actions parents and caregivers can take:
- Learn more about mindful parenting through articles such as Self-Compassion for Parents shared by organizations like Greater Good Science Center.
- Join an online community such as the Community of Mindful Parenting on Facebook for articles, info, and resources.
- Sign up for a mindful self-compassion class through Finding Calm or Listening Mothers