Parenting

Being Mindful Amid the Chaos

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Does this sound familiar at all? I wake up, usually to the sound of my newborn crying. I pick him up, and while I feed him I grab my phone. I read whatever emails have come in and respond to them. I click on a few different news apps to catch up on the latest, then I log into Facebook to see what my friends are posting. I might make a stop over to Amazon to throw a few things in my cart, and then, if the baby is extra hungry and still feeding, I look at what crafts I don’t have time to make on Pinterest. All of this usually involves some talk of the election (which inevitably gives me indigestion), Christmas sales, holiday recipes (oh the calories!), gifts I need to get, and diapers I need to buy. I quickly move from one task to the next because I am at the mercy of my nine-pound child.

Once he finishes eating, we rush downstairs to join my husband and toddler. While rocking the little one to keep him calm, I help my husband negotiate with our two-year-old in an attempt to get breakfast into him. They rush out the door for pre-school while I rush upstairs to take a shower before the baby needs to eat again.

As the day goes on, it’s more of the same: me trying to squeeze in some work in between feedings, quickly throwing together meals for my older son, responding to whatever texts come in, and getting everyone bathed and in bed before collapsing on the couch. With about an hour to unwind before needing to get to bed myself, my husband and I catch up on whatever show we recently recorded on the DVR. By the end of it, I am usually nodding off. He fills me in on the last five minutes that I slept through before I call it a night. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Of course, things are a little crazier these days with our newborn in the picture, but I can’t say that we weren’t frantic when it was just three of us. Our days routinely consist of rushing to the next thing, sometimes with our eyes glued to our phones, both out of necessity (God bless mobile banking and the Amazon app), or for escape (although Facebook is quickly becoming more stressful than it’s worth). Before we know it, days turn into weeks turn into months, and we have little to show for it.

Recently during my 3 a.m. feeds, I have been reading up on mindfulness. With all of the insanity in the world right now, I have come to accept that if I don’t get a hold of things, at least in my own little corner of the Earth, life will pass me by, and possibly knock me on my butt in the process. But perhaps — just perhaps — taking a moment to stop and take a breath might slow down this roller coaster that we all seem to be on and make it worth the ride.

If the term is new to you, mindfulness is “paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally,” according to author Jon Kabat-Zinn. It has its roots in Buddhism, but you don’t need to be religious in any way to make it work for you. Aside from bringing into focus our immediate surroundings, thoughts, and feelings, researchers have found that “taking part in a mindfulness program decreases the habitual tendency to react emotionally and ruminate on thoughts and physical sensations.” They believe that the skillful use of attention “helps people regulate their emotions in a positive way.”

According to the article on Here to Help, here are a few things you can easily do to be mindful in any given moment.

Notice what you are doing as you are doing it and tune into your senses. When you are eating, notice the color, texture and taste of the food.

Don’t feel that you need to fill up all your time with doing. Take some time to simply be.

When you are walking, tune into how your weight shifts and the sensations in the bottom of your feet. Focus less on where you are headed.

Practice listening without making judgments.

According to another article in the Huffington Post, here are some things that mindful people do every day:

  • They take walks
  • They pay attention to their breathing
  • They unitask
  • They know when NOT to check their phones (this is one I need to start ASAP)
  • They get outside
  • They feel what they’re feeling

I caught part of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off on cable recently and was reminded of this: “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around for a while, you could miss it.” John Hughes nails it again. If any of the mindfulness steps listed above can help drown out the noise and make us feel more centered, even for a mere moment, then they are certainly worth a try. I’ll just personally need to do them while bouncing a newborn in one arm. So much for unitasking…