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It’s that time of year…cold and flu season. And this year, they are predicting it to be bad. Yep. Didn’t need to read the headlines to know this one. 4 of the 5 of us in my own family have it at this very moment.

That said, I’ve been practicing my mindful mama techniques like mad! Here are my favorite 4 that will make your next run-in with sickness more manageable and (believe it or not) actually bring out your most fanatically calm and compassionate mindful mothering self. (Seriously, we mindful mamas are masters at making the most out of difficult situations!)


1) SWITCH out of guilt mode
Upon hearing that first cough, feeling that hot forehead, or hearing the dreaded, “Mommy, my stomach hurts,” notice if your mind goes to guilt. I've noticed my tendency to beat myself up for my kids getting sick. That first cough sets my mind into action; I immediately chronicle all the recent places I took them: the gym child care center, the indoor community play structure (aka-- the McDonalds play structure on major steroids), or the moms group with all the kiddos running around where they most likely picked up the bug. 

Just notice when you are tempted to take responsibility for stuff that isn’t your fault. We know it's not realistic to live in a bubble, and our kids are going to be subjected to germs no matter how much we attempt to avoid it. So if your thoughts go to guilt, a mindful mama switches them around to a more realistic and productive thought: “This just makes their bodies stronger.” It’s true. Challenges in our lives make us emotionally more resilient and sickness in our bodies make our bodies more resilient. Seek the silver lining here, mama.

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2) SURRENDER to the moment
This may be the hardest for moms to do. It takes incredible mindfulness and awareness to let go of our everyday, high expectations for how things “should be” in our mothering and allow them to be as they are, especially when our kids are sick. 

If, for days on end, your child has been in their pj’s (you, too for that matter), has had nothing to eat but popsicles and ice cream ('cause that's all that feels good on that sore throat), and has watched unlimited television (because that’s the only activity they can muster the energy to do), LET IT BE

Notice when your thoughts start to resist the present moment and shift to how you think they should be. As you notice them, let them pass like clouds across a blue sky without emotionally reacting to them.   


3) SLOW DOWN the speed of life
When anyone in the family gets sick, it’s such a good time to get back to basics. During these long days of caring for your sick child, continually ask yourself: “What’s really important right now?” 

As a mindful mama, notice your temptation or desire to keep pace with your “to do” list. Your child will most likely be calling out for your attention every 30 seconds, and if your mind is situated on getting other things done, you are going to get very frustrated, and may inadvertently take it out on your child.

Finding your focus--comforting and caring for your child-- will help you acknowledge the fact that you may not get much of anything else done in the next several days. You might just notice that this break is kinda nice. It’s a great reminder that we tend to do too much anyways. 


4) STOP and take a break
How long does it take you to hit your wall? You know, the “I can’t take this anymore” wall. We all hit our walls at different times (I think I lasted about 3 days before I hit mine this time). We all have breaking points. Pay attention to yourself and how you feel. Your body will give you cues that you need to rest.

Caring for a sick child takes constant attention, compassion, and kindness. Maintaining this level of attention is really, really hard day after day, sleepless night after sleepless night. You simply must give yourself permission to take a break! We can’t maintain the levels of compassion that our children need when we are totally depleted. Do anything, something other than caring for someone else, for some part of your day. It will help you to remember the most important mindful mama mantra of all: This too shall pass. It always does. Repeating this mantra at 3 am as I respond to the cries of my sick child really helps me mother in the moment.

Being mindful during stressful times like our child's illness, we are able to give them the ultimate medicine-- attention+love+compassion.

 
 
RUNNING ON EMPTY
We're moms. We've all been there. Completely, utterly, totally....depleted. But this is good! In terms of our Mindful Mama practice, we can learn something in this space. I had just put my twin toddlers down for naps (thank goodness, at age 3, they still do this) and put my 4 year old in her room for her own alone time when I collapsed on the couch. I knew I was tired when I quickly abandoned my feeble attempt to reach the remote to catch up on a couple missed episodes of Giuliana & Bill. All I could muster the energy to do was stare blindly at the ceiling and  breathe.

“So…how are you doing? How’s everything going over there,” Ronelle asked. She knows me well. This girl can correctly identify my overall emotional state from a one word text message. She also knows major changes are headed my way. In light of my husband’s new job, we're uprooting our family and moving to a brand new city, a new home, and a new life several states away. That means more chaos, more messes, and more work on top of the already rather chaotic, messy workload of being home full time with three kids age 4 and under.

“I think I just have to lower my expectations,” I sighed, defeated.

It’s only till I get completely run-down and exhausted that I realize how high my everyday operating expectations are for myself. Essentially what I was saying to Ronelle was, “I can’t spend a hour every day giving each child one-on-one attention with educational activities...," “I can’t make every single meal...,” “I can’t meet everyone’s demands the minute they want them met...,” and “I can’t keep the bathrooms spick and span, the kitchen floor gleaming, and the dust from forming a thick layer on the entertainment center...” without losing my mind!

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I SURRENDER (but in a GOOD way!)
Step one was becoming AWARE of my slightly lofty expectations. I’ve noticed that it’s these self-imposed, rigid “shoulds” that I unconsciously attach to on a day to day basis.

Then came step two-- SURRENDER (which is much easier when exhausted, am I right?). This is the lesson exhaustion teaches us. Surrender. Wave the white flag. Throw in the towel, what have you. The moment we surrender, we release the grip our “shoulds” have on us. We let go of our expectations. We detach from thinking we have to do all the extra crap we think must do in order to feel a sense of accomplishment. The act of surrendering that comes so naturally when exhausted allows us to cease clinging to what “needs” to happen and allow what is happening to actually happen…without judgment.


“Fatigue is a gift. Like many of the gifts that come to mothers, it is not one you would choose...Fatigue helps you forget. When you are tired, you let go. You drop what you no longer need and you do not pick it up again. You slow down. You grow quiet. You take comfort. You appreciate the smallest things. You stop fighting.”
(Karen Maezen Miller, Momma Zen)



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YOUR MINDFUL MAMA PRACTICE
You drop what you no longer need and you do not pick it up again.

What you do let go of when you are so tired you can barely muster the energy to brush your teeth? Pay attention next time (or maybe that time is now). Pay attention to the standards, things, events, ideals, or activities you let go of. Then ask yourself if you really need to ever pick those up again. 

As for me, I am not suggesting that I’m not going “pick up”spending one-on-one time with my girls, meeting my family’s needs, or cooking/ cleaning (wait…I’d actually love to not pick up cleaning again!). Rather, what I won’t pick up is my unhealthy attachment to my thoughts about doing these things.

Mindful Mama is sometimes just too darn tired to label, judge, or react. This is surrender! This is acceptance! When you are too tired to strive to make the moment any different than it is, you’ve just embodied mindfulness to its fullest extent. Make this your practice. Practice this mindset when you are exhausted and then practice it when you are functioning at full speed. You might just find that when you fully embrace not forcing things to be a certain way or pushing yourself so hard, you spend a lot less time being exhausted in the first place. 

When you are tired, let go. Changes are pretty good that you won’t let go of anything worth fighting for.