Attending to the needs of your children while prioritizing your own well-being is one of life’s toughest balancing acts. As a meditation coach, I often remind my clients (and myself) how effective a mindfulness practice can be to nurture your mental and emotional well-being.
Mindfulness means being aware—without judgement—of the present moment as it relates to your mind, body, environment, and relationships. It provides a framework for accessing calm, awareness, and clarity in your daily life.
Below, I’ve shared six mindfulness techniques I use and recommend. The approach I like best is to keep trying techniques, adding the ones that work best for you into your self-care toolkit. That way, you’ll have an abundance of options to choose from when stress strikes.
Here are six ways you can use mindfulness to support your mental well-being:
1. Celebrate yourself
So often, we are our own worst critics. In order to detect potential danger, we all have a negativity bias wired into our brains. Unfortunately, that negativity can become the lens through which we critique ourselves as parents, judging all the things we do and don’t do. Mindfulness gives us the opportunity to quiet that inner critic and instead cultivate a voice of compassion, love, and kindness towards ourselves.
Tip: Write down one thing to celebrate about yourself on a Post-It note and put it on your bathroom mirror as a reminder of the qualities you contribute to your family.
2. Tap into your breath
Breathing is a powerful tool we all have at our disposal, but it’s easy to take for granted. You can do breathing exercises anywhere or any time, whether that’s during a routine meditation, a frustrating task, or a tense moment when you’re feeling triggered.
Tip: Use a breathing technique to move from a “fight or flight” state of stress into a “rest and digest” state of calm. The “4-5-6 breath” is an exercise you can begin the moment you feel stress coming on:
- Breathe in through your nose for four seconds.
- Hold your breath for five seconds.
- Breathe out for six seconds.
- Repeat this pattern at least three times or until you feel calmer.
3. Hit pause
Taking a moment to pause lets you step outside of a chaotic scene and prioritize obligations. Even if you can’t physically leave the room, you might take that deep breath, close your eyes, or look out the window to find a moment of clarity. You might realize you need to ask for help with something, or let it go for now.
Tip: Repeating a mantra can help you pause and step outside of a tricky moment. A mantra can be any word or phrase that’s meaningful to you. Pair this with slow and intentional breathing to move you out of the state of overwhelm and into a state of calm.
4. Practice active listening
When I’m not really present and don’t consciously communicate with my family, I can start to feel disconnected from them, even though we live together. I may go through the motions of a conversation, but my mind is elsewhere. Sometimes I’m too focused on how I want to respond, or distracted by how I’m feeling in the moment.
Tip: The next time you engage in a conversation, try to really listen to the person talking—both their words and emotions. If a thought pops up in your mind, gently acknowledge it without any self-judgement and let it go. You can return to it later.
5. Focus on one thing at a time
Multitasking can feel like an essential strategy for parents, but it tends to put us on autopilot, bypassing awareness. Have you ever thought back on your day or weekend and felt like you missed out on meaningful connection with your family because you were not present in the moment?
Tip: The next time you’re working on a task, try to be fully engaged in it, focusing only on what you are doing. One way to do this is by noticing what you’re smelling, tasting, hearing, seeing, and touching. This can help you stay connected to what’s happening in front of you instead of merely going through the motions.
6. Check in with yourself
Parenting can be exhausting, especially if you tend to give to every member in your family without taking a moment for yourself. It’s important to remember that you are just as worthy of care and attention as everyone else in the family.
Tip: The first step in preventing depletion is to tune in to how you are feeling. Check in with yourself throughout the day to see if you need to stretch, eat something, or rest for a few minutes. The more often you practice this check-in, the sooner you’ll start to realize when you need a little self care—even if it’s just a five minute break.