Welcome to parenthood! You’ve officially decided to choose the rollercoaster ride of life. Embarking on the most fulfilling and exciting, yet the most worrying and exhausting, journey. A invaluable tool in your armour is to make time for your own wellbeing, which is the first thing that is dropped when you, quite rightly, focus so intently on your new bundle of joy. However, from day one there are small things you can do for you. Even if it is just 5 minutes a day, which will fundamentally help you now and in years to come to be a more present and happy parent.
Fight and Flight
Todays modern life breeds a non-stop and fast-paced reality, especially if you are a parent; we work harder, stretch ourselves more, sleep less, rest less and relax less. When we are rushing through our days, operating on autopilot, busily carrying out one activity followed by another, without any pause for breath, we are operating in ‘fight and flight’. Physically, our sympathetic nervous system is stimulated – affecting our adrenaline hormone production, raising our heart rate, increasing the pace of our breath and restricting digestion. Mentally, we struggle to switch off, find ourselves worrying more, sleep poorly and can find ourselves unhappy. Perhaps the only time we ‘stop’ is to jump on social media and quickly flick through the activities others are getting up to, perhaps making you feel like you need to do more, or that you’re missing out. You don’t and you’re not, you’re doing amazingly. How often do you stop and recognise how well you’re doing? I’m not saying we should be sitting back with our legs up 24/7, quite the opposite, it’s all about finding balance.
Rest and Relax
Can you imagine reading out a sentence in a book, without pausing for the spaces or punctuation? Slow down, add the spaces, pause for breath and everything will make a lot more sense. Parenthood by default brings with it less sleep, less down time and more worry. Therefore with everything else you’re trying to juggle it is even more important to practice resting and relaxing. It is essential for our mental and physical health – ultimately meaning we’ll be more present, energetic and engaging parents. Physically when we make time to stop and genuinely relax, our parasympathetic nervous system is stimulated – improving our digestion, lowering our heart rate, taking breath to our extremities and improving circulation. Mentally, we slowly start to switch off easier, worry less by focusing more on the present moment and find ourselves happier and more fulfilled. Making time for yourself is not a luxury and you’re not being selfish, it is a necessity!
Top two Mindfulness Tips
- There are loads of aspects to Mindfulness, but a key tool is to be present in the current moment. Stop what you’re doing right now, look around, scan your surroundings and become aware of your breath. Inhale and exhale. Look at your child as if you were looking at them for the first time, it is truly powerful.
- At the end of every day come to a comfortable seated position, close your eyes and think of three things that went well today, that brought you joy. And then think of one thing that you feel could have gone better and that you will try to improve on tomorrow. The power of reflection, solitude and visualisation.
For the purpose of this post I’m going to focus on the benefit of yoga asana (movement) and pranayama (breath). The difference between yoga and other forms of exercise is that you move with the breath, therefore moving with more purpose and perspective. You breath into specific parts of the body to help bring awareness to them, you stretch to improve flexibility and you strengthen to avoid injury. Breastfeeding, napping changing, lifting in and out of the pram/car seat, bath time and basically all other parenting activities can have a serious negative impact on our posture, core and back. Making time to do 10 minutes of your stretching and day will make a difference, I challenge you to google ’10 minute yoga stretch’ – it won’t cost you anything apart from 10 minutes of your time. Why not push to 20-30 minutes to build in some core strength work if possible, it’ll have dramatic affect how well you feel in your body. Mentally, the power of movement and consciously breathing is endless, above all you have just made some time for you, you deserve it!