Mindfulness: the secret weapon against stress
Dr. Elif Çelebi, an experienced psychotherapist at Thrive Wellbeing Centre, discusses how mindfulness can alleviate stress and anxious thoughts, helping mothers to find balance.
Being a mother is hard work! It’s one of the most demanding jobs on the planet and there are no days off, which may leave you (understandably!) feeling under pressure at times. Anxiety is a common experience that many people face in their daily lives, and mums are not exempt. Whether it’s due to work pressures, balancing parenthood with relationships, or simply the fact that mothers often put themselves last, anxiety and stress sometimes build up and become tough to manage.
These feelings can impact everyday life in various ways. They affect your concentration, decision-making abilities and productivity, as well as manifesting into physical symptoms like headaches, stomach aches and a general sense of tiredness. As a mother, it’s easy to overlook your needs in favour of your little ones, but easing your stress and burn-out isn’t selfish. In fact, it can really impact and improve how you are able to show up for everyone in your life – yourself, your partner and friends, and of course, your children!
WHAT IS MINDFULNESS
One effective way to manage anxiety or stress is by incorporating mindfulness habits and tools into your daily routine. Mindfulness involves focusing attention on the present moment and accepting thoughts and emotions without judgement. This practice has gained popularity lately as a way to cope with anxiety and promote mental wellbeing. Mindfulness can help us become more centred, calm and better equipped to handle stressful situations, by focusing on the current moment and cultivating awareness of our own thoughts and feelings.
Becoming in tune with the here and now, and also strengthening your understanding of how your body reacts to your thoughts, can help you switch from habitual overthinking, worrying and rumination – all of which may lead to general anxiety. Let’s take a deeper dive into how to use mindfulness to unwind anxiety.
ONE THING AT A TIME
Hurrying, or trying to multitask often results in us feeling more distress. Psychological research suggests that our brains cannot do many things at once without losing effectiveness in one or more of the tasks. Trying to juggle multiple jobs all at the same time may feel like a familiar trope of motherhood – and for good reason! However, it’s worth considering that perhaps you would get the same amount done, and feel much better mentally if you practise focusing all of your attention on one task at a time, reducing anxious thoughts and promoting a sense of groundedness.
DOING WHAT’S EFFECTIVE
Sometimes unsolved problems, avoidance and procrastination might be the underlying reason for stress. Solving problems appropriately will reduce your tension and help you cope with a situation better. Doing what’s effective means not wasting time on things that don’t matter overall, while seeing which actions helps you reach your goals and following through without avoidance, procrastination or perfectionism. This one takes practice but is definitely worth it!
Doing what you are doing non-judgmentally is a superpower! Our minds are largely conditioned to judge internally and externally in one form or another. Noticing your inner negative beliefs, interpretations and judgments, and questioning them or not believing them, can ultimately help you live a more judgement-free life. This looks like getting rid of ‘mum guilt’, the idea that you are not good enough, and ‘I should’ statements.
Taking a break to breathe and scan your body can make a world of difference to the build up of stress that is so common in the hectic life of parents! The habit of taking a few minutes every day to check in with your breathing and how your body carries tension in places like the shoulders, face, jaw or hands, will be of great value. It gives you a chance to regulate your breaths and consciously let go of tension, providing a mini ‘reset’ that stops stress from accumulating.
Intentionally scheduling time away from your phone is a powerful tool for maintaining your mental wellbeing. Habitual phone use and scrolling through social media can make it easier for you to get stuck in your head. On the other hand, not using your phone as the first and last thing in the day, and scheduling phone-free time can help you feel more rested and happier in yourself. Some good ideas for these breaks include going for a phone-free walk, cooking and reading.
NURTURE YOUR BODY
Mindfully taking care of your body consists of the following:
- Getting enough sleep
- Following good sleep hygiene tactics
- Eating nourishing food
- Getting enough exercise or movement
- Not eating too much or too little
- Any other behaviour that supports your sense of balance and calm
This might seem like common sense, or common knowledge, but when you practise these acts of self-care consistently, you will absolutely feel the difference in your stress levels and sense of health!
Mindfulness is a powerful, accessible tool that can greatly benefit busy mums who are looking for a way to manage stress and boost their overall wellbeing. These practices are perfect as they can be tailored to your needs, routines and specific lifestyle. By consistently using daily mindfulness tools, you will develop more resilience, enhance your focus and attain a more profound sense of peace and balance.
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