You do enough. You have enough. You are enough. Say it to yourself. Now repeat as many times as necessary.
I’m sure all parents have been there—baby in your arms, crying, and nothing you do seems to bring any comfort. The crying continues. Your tension rises. Your anxiety builds. The crying is so, so loud and you wish it would just stop. Just…stop.
For me as a dad, these events were compounded by the fact that, oftentimes, my child simply wanted to nurse. They were tired or hungry and a bottle simply wasn’t going to do it. But mom wasn’t around and even trying skin-to-skin wasn’t doing the trick. I simply wasn’t “equipped” with what was wanted.
Cue the anxiety building even more. Cue the feeling of helplessness. Cue the frustration, the anger, the desperation. These feelings, especially in this situation, are very common; they are also times I can replay in my head very, very easily—even years later.
Allow me to introduce you to the idea of MINDFULNESS. A dictionary definition is “a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.”
Mindfulness, at its core, is about being present. Being in the moment—here and now. It’s about grounding yourself in your present place.
Wait a minute, though. In the present moment there is a loud, crying child and emotions running rampant in your body. Why in the world would you want to be present in THIS moment?
Think about it this way: mindfulness is like standing in a river, feeling all of the elements, observing but not fixating on any one thing and just being one with it. You are self–aware, in the moment, sensitive, observant of your surroundings, aware of others, and focused. And if the water starts to carry you along—the current, the torrent—be focused as it carries you, but adjust as you go, and continue to be as aware as you can. Try to remain in the middle between the emotional and the logical minds, in what is referred to as “The Wise Mind.”
Thanks, Andy. Uhmmm…what?
I’ll give you an example. Let’s go back to the situation—there you are, baby is crying, won’t stop, your anxiety is building. Ever see the film “For Love of the Game” with Kevin Costner?
“Clear the mechanism.”
So, first, stop. Breathe. Deeply. Focus on the air filling your stomach, NOT your chest. Inhale deeply and then exhale for longer than it took to breathe in. Close your eyes briefly as you feel the air filling you up.
Next, start going through your senses. What can you see, hear, touch, taste, and smell? Try to focus outward and not on the cause of your anxiety. What colors are around you? Is there wind blowing the trees outside a window? Maybe there’s a tea kettle you can hear whistling. Or perhaps a favorite, empowering song begins singing in your head. Feel your feet against the floor—are you wearing socks? Soft, comfy socks? Are you barefoot against carpet? A wood floor? Are you warm? Cold? How do your clothes feel against your body? Taste may be difficult, but think of a favorite food. A nice, warm, gooey cinnamon roll. Peppermint tea. Homemade marinara. And smell. Can you smell that cinnamon, that mint, that marinara? Maybe you can smell that beautiful baby smell.
Scan your body. Are your shoulders tense? Your legs? Move from head to toe and allow the tension to move down, down, down, and out your toes and into the floor.
It’s not much. It’s not even a certain thing. And it takes lots and lots of practice. But this practice, whether trying to self-soothe during a tantrum or dealing with stress at work can be a beautiful thing to have at your disposal. Moms and dads can use mindfulness in their everyday activities to lower the shoulders, ease anxiety, and be in the moment.
Being calm in the midst of chaos is something your kids need emotionally and something they need to see modeled for them. You’ll feel better and so will they.
Love. Compassion. Gratitude. Joy. Be present and experience it all.