When you’re busy with work, family and home, finding time to unwind can seem impossible. Many mums, understandably, put caring for their families above their own needs. But a little self-care not only helps to keep you healthy, it also helps you manage your busy schedule better. Some simple strategies can make a big difference.
Mindfulness health benefits
One of these strategies is mindfulness. Dr Judy Lovas is a mindfulness expert, and presents seminars on evidence-based relaxation therapy around Australia. She says mindfulness is “an awareness of what is currently happening around us, both internally and externally, without being judgemental”.
Relaxation and mindfulness have many scientifically-proven health benefits. “Quality research demonstrates both physical and psychological benefits of mindfulness,” Dr Lovas says. “These include decreased anxiety, depressive symptoms, pain and sleep disorders.”
And you don’t need to go sit on a mountaintop to be mindful—a simple practice will bring more calm into every day. “In fact, starting with being mindful for two to five minutes each day, every day can be beneficial,” Dr Lovas says.
Putting it into practice
“Time is precious for modern mums on the run and the good news is that devoting huge chunks of time to mindfulness is not necessary to increase health,” Dr Lovas says. “Evidence highlights that it is the regularity of practice, not the duration that improves wellbeing.”
“Mindfulness is not the same as meditation since it can be applied to any day to day activity, such as washing dishes, playing with our children or checking emails. Being attentive to the task of the moment is mindfulness and practicing regularly is the key to success.”
Try these simple strategies for everyday mindfulness.
Be aware of your breathing
Pause what you are doing and take five slow, mindful breaths. Try this when you first wake up and before going to sleep at night, and a few times during the day. Place sticky notes around your home or workplace to remind you to take some mindful breaths.
Engage your senses
Take notice of the sounds around your home or workplace—like birds singing, the phone ringing, laughter and passing cars. Use the sounds as a reminder to be present in each moment. When you’re engaged in conversation, listen deeply to what the other person is saying, trying not to judge. Notice how your mind and body feel as you communicate.
Be aware of your body and how it moves, like changes in posture, the feeling of your legs on your office chair, or the way your weight is positioned over your feet as you stand in the kitchen. Notice if there are any areas of tension in your body—is your jaw clenched, your stomach knotted or your neck tight? Breathe deeply and allow the tension to release.
Whenever you eat or drink, slow down a little and really taste your food. Notice its smell, the texture in your mouth, and the sensation of chewing and swallowing. Think about where your food has come from, and how it is nourishing your body.
Recent neuroscience research states that our brains aren’t really capable of doing several things simultaneously. What we actually do is switch between tasks rapidly, which takes more time because of the stop/start process that happens in our brains.
Instead of trying to do three things at one, focus on one thing at a time. Bring your attention to the task at hand—whether it’s brushing your teeth, making the kids’ lunches or preparing that presentation for work.
Turn the devices off
Research has shown that device use affects our memory, concentration and ability to focus. It’s hard to achieve a mindful state when we’re distracted by social media alerts or a flood of emails.
For at least part of each day, turn off social media updates and other notifications. Use that time to really focus on what you are doing at work or home. You can turn everything back on later and catch up with what you’ve missed.
Try a mindfulness app
If you’re hooked on technology, a mindfulness app could be perfect for you. Several apps are available for Apple and Android devices, such as: Smiling Mind, Calm, Headspace, Stop, Breath and Think, and The Mindfulness App. Many of these are free, too. Check out the Google Play store or the App Store for one that appeals to you.
Start with one strategy, and slowly build your mindful practice. You, your family and your colleagues will soon be reaping the benefits of your relaxed new attitude.