When I first began to study mindfulness, one of my immediate thoughts was: this is great, but how does mindfulness work for moms?
Being a mama, after all, is my most important job, and one that I just knew mindfulness would help me with, but I wasn’t sure how. A brief Google search helped me to stumble upon the work of Dr. Shefali Tsbary, in particular her book entitled The Awakened Family.
Dr. Shefali’s work is based primarily around the idea that as we parents become more aware of our own inner child and inner struggles, we can stop parenting from a place of reaction to those emotions and parent the unique child (or children) right in front of us. So often, we let our own tribulations and traumas from growing up dictate how we parent, when in reality, what our kids really need is for us to be as attuned to them as possible, just as they are, each and every day.
Mindfulness and self-awareness are powerful parenting tools, to be sure, but having been thrown back onto the foster care roller coaster before I was “ready” (aka before MY perfectly planned out plan) has caused me, in recent months, to “forget” some of the other benefits of mindfulness for moms.
As I began to receive nasty emails from my kids’ bio mom, I began to worry more.
As we were assigned (yet another) new social worker, I began to worry more.
As I heard less and less from anyone at DCF or our daughter’s lawyer, I began to worry more.
All this worrying came was happening below the surface of my consciousness, and I really didn’t see it affecting my day to day life very often. Until one night, or early morning rather, my husband noticed I was wide awake at 4 am.
“What’s wrong?” he whispered.
“I can’t sleep; I’m worried about what the social worker said today when she brought the baby home from her visit.”
“What did she say?”
“She said that they had a really good visit and that she was surprised how well her mom did with her.”
“AND, that makes me worry that we’re not going to be able to adopt her.”
“Cathleen, she didn’t say we couldn’t adopt her. All she said was that it was one good visit. There’s so much more to this situation.”
And that’s when it hit me: he just CBT’d me! Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is the main way I teach people to overcome anxiety.
Let me assure you that even those of us fully versed in the treatment of anxiety can find ourselves letting our worries have a little too much power in our lives. The good news? When you’re fully versed in the treatment of anxiety you return to what you know and you practice what you preach. Again and again and again.
The next day, I actually did some of the CBT and Mindfulness modules in the Fear Less course. I made room for journaling and mediation in my day. And in making space for stillness, I had an epiphany – that’s usually when epiphanies happen, right?
Am I living life so scared of losing what I have that I’m not spending any time enjoying what I have?
I think it’s so easy for women, but especially mamas to let those pesky “what ifs” creep in and take over their thought life. But when we do this, we miss the magic of what is happening in our beautiful, messy, chaotic lives RIGHT NOW. And even if life feels a little too messy and chaotic right now (I feel that!), it’s still beautiful because it’s HERE. It’s OURS. It’s ever-changing, but right now it’s like this. And worrying it away is a huge waste of that gift.
So to get myself back on track, I breathed deeply for a while and I prayed: Help me to enjoy the blessings of THIS day without worrying whether or not they will be here tomorrow.”
And then I brought myself back to the present moment, again and again and again throughout the rest of the day. Back to the toy covered floor. Back to playing in the yard. Back to the deep blue eyes of my little daughter. Today, she’s here. Today, I’m here.
Today, moment by moment, is all we really have, my friends. So this post is mostly a reminder for me, but hopefully also for you to stay mindfully present in it. Let’s readjust when we notice our worries taking up too much space. No one is immune to anxiety, that’s for sure. But knowing what to do with it when we experience it will allow us to spend more time LIVING and less time fixated on the “what ifs” that seek only to steal our joy.
Wishing you all the very best!