Mindfulness Practices: When Things Are Not Going As Planned

“The days are long, but the years are short.” -Gretchen Rubin

As a new parent, it really comes in handy to have a couple go-to practices to help ground you in the present moment.

I can attest, having a toddler challenges me daily and there are times I have to simply place my hand on my heart, focus on my breath and then I strive to proceed with responding versus reacting. To be honest, at times I feel pure joy, while other times I feel challenged, defeated and utterly exhausted. Being a parent is such a blessing but it’s hard, and that’s okay. It’s okay to cry, it’s okay to talk honestly about how you feel and it’s okay to not always have it together.

Funny story that wasn’t funny at the time: Jane was 3 months old; I was a new mom and on one of our first outings to a mommy & me yoga class. I was excited and “thought” I packed well. Definitely didn’t go the way I pictured in my head. The parking lot was pretty full, and we had to park far away. I set up our stroller –  gosh that was not easy but Jane was comfy with her blanket and stuffed bunbun. Then all of a sudden the wheel that was supposed to be attached to our stroller started rolling away and I caught the stroller and Jane before it crashed onto the cement. Fast forward, once we walked inside I heard a RUMBLE – Jane had a blowout and I’m talking about a massive explosion of poop that was all the way up to her neck. I cleaned her up while everyone was breathing quietly, then realized I didn’t have a backup outfit. Jane started to cry and it was now time to breastfeed – since I never had done this is public and I’m pretty modest, I turned my back to class and breastfed Jane. We eventually rolled around on the mat – Jane was in just her diaper but she didn’t care about anything that had transpired.

It’s those times when it’s not quite, when things aren’t going as planned and everything seems chaotic that emotional regulation can transform your experience, how you parent and show up in the world.

Our role as a parent goes well beyond providing for the child’s basic needs such as providing a home, food and changing their poopy diapers. We play a crucial role in helping our children regulate their emotions, which requires a lot of self-control and an ability to regulate our own emotions. One parenting strength is to have emotional regulation because this is the fundamental concept for the development of resilience and wellbeing for your whole family.

Mindfulness Exercise: You can begin by recognizing your own personal resilience and strengths that will help prepare you for motherhood. You can do this by listing 3 things that went well today. It can be as simple as you got out of bed and showered (which was really hard because you’re exhausted from feeding your baby all night), you went for a walk and felt the sun on your face and you laughed so hard that you peed your pants. This helps put things into perspective. This exercise increases confidence and can help you feel more capable as a mother. I promise, when I was struggling, I incorporated these techniques and saw results within 1 week. You will too!

The Viktor Frankl quote comes to mind and is very moving. Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.

How mindfulness can help create a space: Self-regulation involves taking a pause between a feeling and an action, so essentially, you’re taking the time to think through things instead of instantly reacting.

But where (and how) do you begin?

Start by carving out at least 10 minutes a day, just for you.

When you make intentional choices that include your own self-care you can then come from a place that allows you to have a full cup and give others what flows over. It’s true and to be honest it isn’t easy and I have to make a conscious effort to care for not only my family but myself as well. It takes time to master this skill and it might be a life long struggle – but there is a difference between struggling and suffering and as a parent you want to learn the difference. When you embrace the struggle, you can thrive but if you are actually suffering, you need to get help and there is no shame in that.

This might help further motivate you: Self-care practices can help boost your immune system, help you mentally and physically and make you less susceptible to stress, anxiety and depression.

If you want to be a calm, loving and empathetic parent, it helps if you’re able to take good care of yourself too. Same for your spouse. And if you’re able to nurture your relationship while working as a team to provide the love and support needed to raise your children, you’ll feel like you both can weather any parenting storm that arises. I say this because having a baby is such a joy and blessing, but it’s good to acknowledge that it’s equally hard.

Reminder – We are wired to connect: With the pandemic and the feelings of not wanting to be a burden, sometimes new parents might feel that they need to go at it alone. However, neuroscience has proven that this can be detrimental to not only the parents but also the children involved. We are wired to connect, and social connections facilitate survival. When you look at statistics of the happiest people in the world, they are the ones who are socially connecting face-to-face. Here are some ideas to help you start thinking of creative ways to connect.

Ideas for support during a pandemic:

Set up meal trains (not just for 2 weeks but for months out)

Tell family/friends when you need supplies and they can drop off care packages to you

Consider a drive-by sip and see with family/friends

Consider allowing face-to-face contact through a glass door

Set up telehealth mental health appointments, if needed

Know that you’re never alone and can access support through Unique Footprints in a way that’s empowering while you tackle the most important job on the planet! Let’s find strength in motherhood together.

Your heart will open in a way that you didn’t even know was possible. We want to help you through this transition into motherhood, so we’ve included our favorite grounding practice. But let’s first start with Brene’ Brown’s parenting manifesto that brought Oprah to tears.

Grounding is a helpful tool for times when you feel anxious or just need to be more centered in the present moment. This type of grounding is called 3-2-1. You start by naming three things you can see, then hear, then feel. Once you finish listing three of each, then you move onto naming two more of each. Finish the exercise by again naming one more answer for each category. It can help you slow down your thoughts, slow down your breathing and can reduce anxiety. It works and is a form of mindfulness treatment for PTSD.

Pro Tip: This week reflect on the type of mother you hope to be and incorporate self-care practices into your day. Try both grounding exercises and dedicate at least 30 minutes to your self-care every day this week.

We’d love to hear: What’s your go-to grounding practices? Leave a comment below and let’s inspire all moms to make self-care a priority.

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Unique Footprints Authors:

Jenny Morrow, RN, IBCLC, LCCE, RYT

Jenny is a born and raised Texan who loves the feel of a book in her hands, an unshakable optimistic and refuels by time in nature. She’s a mom, neonatal nurse and founder of Unique Footprints (a fully realized, 100% digital pregnant and new mom resource). She created her company in the delivery room – literally! As a nurse assisting with deliveries and postpartum care, she directly witnessed families who did not feel prepared and were shocked through the transition into parenthood, and she knew there was a better way. Jenny has taught over 10,000 expecting families how to prepare for this time in their lives. You can learn more about Jenny here.

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