I love the theory of mindfulness, but in reality my mind is just plain full!
As a mama, I’m sure you’ve experienced those never-ending days where you were up late doing laundry or dishes and up early to ensure all lunches are packed and healthy breakfasts are consumed. These days include a task list where two things are crossed off and three things are added, only to realize that you dropped the ball on some item.
Like the time I realized a day before my favorite son’s birthday that I may need a birthday cake, plates, goodie bags, and such for his party the next day. That never even made it to my list! Rather, it just woke me up clanging in my head in the middle of the night.
Busy mamas have a lot going on. My mom says the days are long but the years are short. She reminisces on what a freaking cute toddler I was, and how she can’t possibly comprehend I am now a mother myself to three freaking cute kids. These never-ending days run back to back but before you know it, you are downsizing from your big family home to a small ranch because the kids are gone.
I realized that the minutes in my life completely revolved around everyone else. What people at work needed from me. What my volunteer work needed from me. What my kids needed from me. And me, I didn’t get any of it.
I was starting to notice I was living in a brain fog and actually convinced myself in one late-night moment of weakness that I had early-onset Alzheimer’s. I just couldn’t remember things. I was struggling to juggle every ball the world was throwing at me. I was still loving life, but I felt a sort of mama burnout approaching. Like the ends of one of my cute sweaters frayed a little too much to be stylish. My mind was too full.
I decided I needed to set appropriate boundaries and carve out time for myself. This came in the form of creating disciplined habits of existence for this mama of three children. Here they are, in hopes that they inspire you to take back what is yours…your mind.
“This is it” – my mindful mantra
I began a mindfulness mantra in almost every moment of being with my family members: “This is it.” I started retraining my brain to exist solely in the present moment and not fly to an encounter of the past or a task of the future.
If I was reading a story with my favorite middle child, then I read it aloud with a passion and all the silliness the moment called for.
If I was helping my favorite oldest child with her homework, I left my phone (and thus email access) in a different room and actually focused on her support.
“This is it” has become a daily habit from moment to moment when I feel my mind called away to some other thing. I try to embrace that this moment, right here, right now, is the only moment promised and I must live it the best way I know how.
At some point, I started choking on every meal. Yes, every meal. I would consume two or three bites of food and then it would literally get stuck in my throat and choke me. Every. Single. Time. After consulting doctors on what could possibly be wrong with my body, I was speaking to a friend who simply said, “Why don’t you just slow down and enjoy your food?” It was like a 2×4 hit me. I am a smart woman, yet I had not even considered that it wasn’t my body choking me, it was my mind!
Somewhere in my adult life, I had trained myself to eat quickly so as to move on to another task. At work, it was eating literally standing up while I did lunch supervision or in between phone calls. At home, it was making sure everyone had their meal, then inhaling mine before anyone asked me for anything, which they always did. Or dining out to eat as a family, shoveling down the food so I would be ready to leave by the time the kids took their two bites and proclaimed, “I’m full!”
I decided to quiet my mind before every meal. Taking a breath and perhaps a drink of water before my first bite. Now I take a bite, intentionally put my fork down while I chew. I concentrate on slowing down and tasting the flavor, rather than just completing the task of clearing my plate. I find that I am now actually much more engaged in conversation of the company I share the table with.
This is a hard-won habit for me. I am the type of person who really doesn’t need a lot of sleep to function well, and I usually get my best inspiration in the wee hours of the morning. All my blogs thus far have been written while my house is sound asleep. I enjoy the quiet of the middle of the night.
Yet alas, I found that my brain fog did not clear itself until I created a habit of going to bed at the same time every night and waking up around the same time each morning. I had to train my mind that sleep was what my body needed.
I set alarms on my phone that help me to do what I need,and when my bedtime alarm goes off, I doze off.
As a good conscientious mama, I always took my prenatals while pregnant, and then later made sure my kids took their daily vitamins. I seem to have no problem ensuring healthy habits for my loved ones, but there I was, leaving my own supplement bottles untouched in the cupboard. I made it a daily habit to take a multivitamin and probiotic and before I knew it, my mind was once again filled with the boundless energy I needed to get through my high intensity days.
So I’m human and not perfect at any of these habits. Some are more ingrained to my daily living than others as I try to continually improve as a woman, wife, and mother. Yet overall, these habits have helped my body and soul transform from being stressed by a full mind to living a mindful life journey.