It’s important to look after your own wellbeing first – or taking a flying analogy, to fasten your own seat belt before assisting others. Mindfulness when practiced regularly offers a great opportunity to notice if, when and in what way your own wellbeing needs attention. When practicing mindfulness, the goal is not to relax or feel good all the time – if you do, that’s a bonus as with the rest of life, including parenting. Sometimes when practicing mindfulness, we might notice feelings of tiredness, pain, hunger, cold or excessive heat, thirst or strong emotions. We might notice thoughts or memories passing through that stir up strong emotions too. If you had a traumatic birth, are experiencing severely low mood or otherwise are aware your mental health is suffering a few things are helpful – you can access talking therapy via referral from your GP in the UK, and if you feel comfortable your health visitor can be a point if contact to facilitate that. You might also consider accessing counseling via a local provider in your area. If you’re feeling particularly vulnerable for any reason, my advice from my own experience would be to keep your practice short and activity based rather than long and meditative. Also, if something comes up for you that needs practical attention – eg hunger or thirst – you can choose to stop your practice to meet the need or note it to do straight after. I’ve often noticed I’m really thirsty while practicing mindfulness so have learned to keep a glass of water in every room of my house now to address that.
Some suggestions for mama mindfulness
Have a bath with candles and bubbles while someone else takes care of your baby for an hour. Take some deep breaths in and out, noticing the scent of the bubbles and the candles. If you’re someone who enjoys a glass of wine in the bath, notice the scent of that too. If you have a drink of any kind, notice the taste. If you like to listen to music in the bath, choose to notice one aspect particularly such as the melody or words and really focus in on that. If it’s quiet, notice what that sounds like in your home – can you hear any splash sounds? Watch the candle flame closely – see the colours and movement flow. Watch the bubbles move and pop on your toes. How does the water temperature change as you’re lying or sitting there? If you have a bath pillow or other comfort prop, how does that feel?
Have a drink and snack of your choice by yourself for half an hour – maybe a coffee and cake in a bookshop or cafe, a mocktail in your garden in the evening or an ice cream watching the waves by the beach. Whatever helps connect you with your sense of who you were before children. Notice the smells, tastes, sights and sounds of your drink, snack and environment. Maybe try mixing up the combinations over a few practices to get different experiences.
Leave your baby with someone else for half an hour to get some exercise – maybe a swim, walk or yoga. Notice how each part of your body feels as you move it – any aches or pains that need attention? What can you do to ease then through movement? What can you see, hear, feel, touch and taste? What thoughts or memories pass through? How are you feeling emotionally?
Paint, draw or craft while someone else looks after your baby. Notice what medium you are drawn to. What appeals about that to you? Notice your feelings and perceptions as well as the sensory feedback from your chosen activity.
#mindfulness #maternal wellbeing