By Dr Elise Bialylew.
Motherhood is an exhilarating spiritual journey of epic proportions where each day we are faced with the privilege of witnessing our most creative project flourish. That’s on a good day. On a bad day, it’s an exhausting, frustrating ride where we are tested beyond our limits through sleep deprivation, stress, mastitis, relationship tension, and self-doubt.
Mindfulness has been a crucial part of my motherhood survival tool kit, not only in managing the emotional dips but also in enabling me to appreciate the daily magic. Although motherhood brings significant challenges to a regular mindfulness meditation practice, it can be integrated into daily life in a way that supports greater wisdom, presence and ease.
Here are four ways mindfulness can help you better manage the rollercoaster ride of motherhood.
Accepting what is out of your control
A friend once likened motherhood to backpacking around India: “As long as you accept that fact that most of the time nothing is going to go to plan, you’ll be right.” If you’re someone that fancies a plan or a schedule, new motherhood can be a rude shock. That’s where mindfulness, the practice of coming into the present moment and meeting it with acceptance and compassion, is a great support. When things aren’t going the way you’d like and you feel frustration or impatience, building mindfulness can bring you back into your body, and help you release the physical tension to regain your cool.
Developing greater self-compassion
A fundamental aspect of practicing mindfulness is to meet your moment-to-moment experience with kindness and compassion. When dealing with the many challenges that come with motherhood, self-compassion is a powerful antidote to any feelings of inadequacy that can arise. Rather than being bullied by your inner self critic, learn how to be your own best friend. The next time you feel like you’ve fallen short of how you’d like to be mothering, put your hand on your heart and silently whisper to yourself, “This is tough but I’m doing the best I can and, just like everyone else, I’m not perfect.”
Communicating more effectively in relationships
Having children puts stress on relationships and, under stress, communication can become seriously impaired. There are actually neurobiological reasons for this. The fight-or-flight response, driven by our amygdala, is a reflex response which is activated when we sense a threat in our environment. This response evolved to protect us from danger. However, this warning system has not changed for about 100,000 years and, nowadays, rather than the threat of physical predators, we face psychological stressors including arguments with our partners when we’re exhausted and still adjusting to the new reality of motherhood. When the stress response is triggered, our higher brain functioning regions — including the prefrontal cortex — go offline. A key to better communicating under pressure, is developing the capacity of this part of the brain, which supports us to stay cool under pressure and communicate with greater calm and wisdom.
Regular mindfulness meditation has been shown to increase the thickness of the prefrontal cortex, which is associated with higher level brain functions such as the capacity to calm ourselves in the heat of an emotion and communicate and problem solve with greater effectiveness.
The daily routine and challenges of motherhood can easily make you numb to the miracle that you actually created a human being! Mindfulness helps us slow down and absorb the miracle of creation in each moment. We can watch in full presence and awe at our little children learning new skills, like how to use a spoon … and suddenly the morning porridge ritual becomes a miraculous spectacle. Whether it’s being more present to the delight of a child playing with bubbles, or taking a moment to listen to the peaceful sound of their breath when sleeping, mindfulness can deepen our appreciation of the little miracles that are there in every moment, if only we remembered to pay attention.
“Acknowledging the good that you already have in your life is the foundation for all abundance.” — Eckhart Tolle
As we practice mindfulness in motherhood, we model a powerful skill to our children, supporting them to meet life with greater wisdom, self-compassion, and resilience.
Get Mindful in May
Regular mindfulness meditation, rather than duration is the key. Just 10 minutes a day, every day, is far more likely to improve your sense of wellbeing than 30 minutes once a week.
It can be hard to get started, or keep yourself on track. Mindful in May is a global mindfulness meditation challenge that teaches you how to meditate for 10 minutes a day, while raising funds to bring clean, safe water to developing nations; 1 in 10 people don’t have access to clean water.
Create more focus, clarity and calm in your life with a month of inspiring content to nourish your soul and introduce you to world leaders in wellbeing, along with daily motivation and coaching to support your new mindful habit. Dedicating your practice to positively impacting others is a win, win.
Get Mindful in May: Register at mindfulinmay.org now to commit to 10 mins of mindfulness a day and help bring clean water to the world.
About the author
Elise Bialylew is a doctor, coach, wellness innovator and founder of Mindful in May. She is passionate about using technology to create conscious communities that can make positive change in the world and has inspired thousands of people worldwide to meditate while raising money to build clean water projects in developing countries.