As a parent, I needed to find a way to nurture myself while caring for others. Psst… I’ll let you in on my secret.
“Start living right here, in each present moment. When we stop dwelling on the past or worrying about the future, we’re open to rich sources of information we’ve been missing out on—information that can keep us out of the downward spiral and poised for a richer life.”
As an art therapist, I know how important self-care is, intellectually. But, I’m also the mom of a bunch of wonderful children, and running our household keeps me super busy.
Self-care for me? An elusive thought, perhaps.
Which brings me to my real life dilemma… how often do I practice what I preach?
Because, yes, I value and teach self-care. But – as a busy mom – I can’t seem to find enough time in the day!
So, how do I take care of my emotional needs, when there isn’t time to take a break or indulge in a fun hobby?
I know, like my friend Alex used to chide me, Mommies are people, too.
I’d thought about this a lot. And then, I figured out an amazing way to nurture myself while taking care of others.
Is it foolproof, this technique? Hardly not. But it really helped me and I hope it will help you, too.
No matter how busy we are, or who we are caring for, we each deserve to take care of ourselves.
So, here’s what I did. I used mindfulness.
Yes, I created the intention, a mental focus, to get maximum nurture out of what I’m already doing.
How did I do this? By practicing mindfulness techniques.
I’ll elaborate on what that even means.
Practicing mindfulness means living with awareness of the present moment. Amazing research has shown that engaging in mindfulness can improve health, reduce stress and increase happiness.
So, even while you’re busy, you can usually pause for a minute to be mindful of your breath. Being mindful means that you focus 100% of your awareness on your breath.
(Warning: Don’t do this while operating a car or any other dangerous machinery.)
Notice the rhythm. Feel the sensation of warmth. Be with your breath, befriend it.
Or, on the movements of your body. Which means that while I’m washing dishes, I can tune in to the feeling of my hands methodically sponging dish soap.
I often choose on of my five senses to focus on. Sight. Hearing. Touch. Smell. Taste.
Heighten your awareness, even as you engage in a routine activity.
Your whole perspective can change.
In that moment, you’re newly in touch with life’s blessings.
If that sounds bizarre, remember that you are enhancing your brain function as you slow down your thoughts and focus your awareness. You are actually improving your mental health by being mindful.
It’s got to be real, though. You can’t just intend to be mindful and then tune out. Being mindful is about tuning in, focusing, staying present.
Anyone can do this, and I’ll show you how with a very simple mindfulness exercise that I’ve used thousands of times.
It literally takes a few seconds, and it works.
I learned this mindfulness technique from Dr. Dina Wyshogrod, founder of the Israel Center for Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction. It has helped me focus on what is going on inside me when I feel overwhelmed, anxious, or anytime really. This exercise uses the acronym STOP:
S-Stop what you are doing
T-Take a breath
O-Observe your thoughts, feelings, and sensations (for a couple of minutes)
P-Proceed (continue with what you were doing previously)
When you proceed, you are armed with awareness, with all the information that you picked up while you were observing yourself.
You were practicing mindfulness.
Doing this mindfulness technique has made a huge difference in my life – by helping me connect to my body, my thoughts, and emotions.
Once I’m connected, I usually make better decisions for myself.
And as a busy mom, I can do this while bathing the little kids, making lunches, or supervising math homework.
In these situations, being mindful reminds me how important my job as a mom is.
Being mindful fuels me with energy. It gives me information about my emotional state, and reminds me that I am in charge of my reality.
That helps me care for me.
Which is just what the therapist ordered… an infusion of self-care.
Don’t trust me on this one, try it out for yourself. I’m a big believer in modifying things to fit, so take what works for you and tweak the rest.
Bottom line… take care of you!
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