Parenting in 2021 really is very ‘unique’. Never before did we imagine being locked down with our children 24/7, for weeks or months on end. We are living through history. One day, we will tell our children that they were babies in the “Covid” era. We hope when we say to our children (or grandchildren!) about these days that Covid-19 is a very, very distant memory.
However, it is not just Covid-19 that presents itself as a ‘challenge’ or a worry for parents. The nature of the world we live in creates many unique challenges. Generally speaking, we are busy people. There are many varied tasks associated with work, running a household, and parenting. We are constantly overwhelmed with messages or content via social media in the digital age. At times, it feels like we cannot catch a break.
A few days ago, I was engaged in what felt like the millionth activity for my three children during the lockdown. I was doing this whilst managing a growing workload and a phone that did not stop beeping. My head was spinning. As I was jumping from one task to another, this most beautiful metaphor came across my screen:
“Whatever the weather, or whatever happens on the surface of the mountain – the mountain stands firm, strong, grounded and permanent. We can be like that mountain, observing thoughts, feelings, sensations and knowing inner stillness.”
And, just like that, it pulled me from the chaos.
Yes, I want more sleep!
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It reminded me that despite what we endure as human beings, we too can find that inner stillness. It is just a matter of learning how.
In my opinion, it is mindfulness that helps us get there. Mindfulness is present-moment awareness. It is when we are aware and accepting of how we are feeling or what we are thinking. It is about being fully engaged in the present moment. It is the opposite of doing a million things at once or being distracted. We are more likely to find that ‘inner stillness’. Here are a few key tips to help you get there:
- Be open and aware: start by observing your thoughts. Be aware of what you are thinking or perhaps worrying about. To use a metaphor here – imagine your thoughts as cars zooming along the motorway. Imagine watching your thoughts zoom along – one by one. But the trick is not to hop on board! To do this, do not judge your thoughts, engage with them, or even try and distract yourself. Just simply notice them but let them go by.
- Open up and notice how you feel: often, when we feel stressed, worried, or upset, we do our best to distract ourselves from how we feel. We might throw ourselves into activities in an attempt to get rid of an uncomfortable feeling, we might eat away our stress, or we may even avoid doing certain things or certain people. However, when we engage in these distraction or avoidance activities, sometimes it can make us feel worse. Does anyone else have major regrets when they finish a tub of ice cream?! The trick here is learning to be more open and accepting about your feelings. To do this, you need to pay attention to how you feel – and name it. For example, “I feel stressed”. Then you want to notice where you are feeling it – for example, “I have butterflies in my stomach”. When we can more mindfully pay attention to how we feel, we are less likely to distract ourselves and more likely to…
- Validate & reassure yourself: for a moment – consider how you would respond to a friend or a loved one if they were going through a tough time. What would you say to soothe them? Then say that to yourself. Validate how you feel and reassure yourself. For example, “this moment feels tough, but I will get through this”
- Centre yourself: use your breath to calm yourself down, and centre yourself to the ‘here and now’. Sometimes just a few deep breaths can make a world of difference. HINT: breath in through your nose and out through your mouth.
- Engage: once you have opened up, accepted, and centred yourself, engage in the here and now. Pay attention to what you are doing or who you are with. Using your five senses can help. Pay attention to what you see or hear. If you’re with your baby, engage and be mindful. Enjoy these little moments!
Following these five steps will certainly help foster that inner stillness and help you to engage more in the here-and-now! Of course, there are other things you can do alongside this that can help. For example, put your phone away! Those messages can wait. Limit your social media time to an hour a day. If there is too much on your plate, acknowledge that – and ask for help. If you have worries about your baby’s sleep, feeding, or health, talk to someone you trust to give you sensible advice and help – this is much better than spending hours worrying! Always remember, you do not have to do it all!
Finding inner stillness and peace is achievable; it is important for our health and wellbeing that we find it. Just remind yourself, we can be like that mountain – “…observing thoughts, feelings, sensations and knowing inner stillness”.