There’s nothing quite like being a parent. You experience so many incredible moments with your child: from first steps and first words to first days of school and beyond. And, like with any role or job, parenting comes with its own challenges. It’s important to acknowledge your hard work as a parent and the normalcy of feeling burnout at times along the journey.
While these tough moments — which are experienced by many parents — can feel like a lifetime, there are effective ways to address and manage them. Research suggests that mindfulness-based practices are especially effective for reducing stress, anxiety and depression.
Here are three mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) practices to prevent burnout and practice self-care:
Mindfulness at Bedtime
How many times have you heard someone talk about “racing thoughts” when they’re trying to fall asleep? Instead of responding or reacting to those thoughts or feelings, the above research from the American Psychological Association suggests noting those feelings and letting them go through acceptance, one of the two key components of mindfulness meditation.
You can begin this acceptance practice by paying close attention to what you sense during your nighttime routine. For example, what sensations do you have when washing your face? What do you feel in your body when you first lie down in your bed? Noticing and accepting our sensations, emotions and thoughts brings us into the present moment, which is ultimately practicing mindfulness. To go deeper, try this short, guided meditation for sleep from the Yale Stress Center.
Mindfulness at Your Desk
Did you know that it’s possible to give your immune system a little boost and reduce stress at your desk with mindfulness meditation? You can start by simply sitting upright in a chair. In this seated meditation, the instructor explains that sitting upright is a position of stability and dignity, which helps you feel more stable. Next, notice what thoughts and feelings arise as you sit still. You might think something like “I have too much to do; this is silly.” Challenge yourself to sit with those thoughts and to not move. Sitting in awareness and choosing to not act on every thought can be an impactful act of self-care and mindfulness.
Next time you’re on a break, try putting on your headphones, closing your eyes and completing the full version of the seated meditation above.
Mindfulness from Anywhere
A body scan meditation can help us to connect with our bodies exactly as they are in any given moment. This practice could be done with your little one around nap time or when you’re in need of some quiet time yourself. If you’re able to, start by finding a quiet, safe place to lie down. Ask your child to lie down with you. Start by noticing your toes. Ask your child, “what do you feel in your toes?” Ask yourself the same question in your mind or aloud. Work your way up the whole body.
It is okay if either of you find it challenging to put all of your sensations into words. It’s most important to simply feel the sensations and notice them. As the meditation shares, having an open-hearted attitude matters more than the meditation postures or completing the exercises perfectly. The goal of a body scan is to give yourself permission to be exactly as you are.
We often feel like we need to take big actions to create big change—but really it’s the small actions, like a short meditation, that can add up to the transformation we want.
We hope these MBSR resources help relieve a little stress for you and decrease burnout in the long term. Take what resonates and don’t worry about doing it perfectly. The key is to just start with one small step.
For more helpful resources on parenting, check out:
Positive Parenting Tips and Scripts
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