As a Marriage & Family Therapist and a parent to 2 young boys, and I want to support people’s Mental Health and Family Relationships. This past year has been a challenging time for all of us in different ways, and it’s important that we all support each other in our communities and within our own families.
Start a daily meditation practice
One great way to take care of yourself right now is to Start a daily mindfulness meditation practice. Research repeatedly shows that meditation helps with issues such as anxiety, depression, and stress. Harvard University’s clinical studies on meditation found that participants were better able to disengage, relax, and stay present after starting a regular meditation practice. Brain scans showed a thickening of the brain and changes in the activation of the amygdala, our emotional part of the brain.
The amygdala and our nervous system are constantly scanning our environment to detect for safety, and when we feel unsafe, our alarm system goes off to protect us. In a pandemic, we have been in a constant state of alarm for the past year. If you are feeling depressed, stressed, anxious, reactive, struggling to be present and function, and just not yourself – it’s because you body is overworked and traumatized. Mindfulness helps your body to feel safe again, calm your nervous system down, and give your body a break, which is so needed right now.
Bringing mindfulness tools into your daily routine helps you to be present – with your kids, your partner, your co-workers, and with yourself. It helps you pause your reactivity – which we all have more of right now. The more often and earlier you can become aware that you are moving out of your window of tolerance (feeling out of control), pause and breath, you can then stop your reactivity from causing disconnection in your relationships.
The ability to regulate your emotions is a life-long task, and ideally parents are teaching their kids how to regulate their emotions from an early age, so that they feel confident to do this as adults. However, some of our own parents struggled with this themselves, so they didn’t teach us how to do it! It’s never too late to learn. Right now, we likely feel challenged by our ability to help our kids, let alone ourselves. Mindfulness meditation practice is something you can do with your kids. Here are some different Mindfulness tools and videos to help kids learn how to regulate their emotions, calm down, manage anxiety, and even fall asleep.
I started to regularly meditate this past year, and it helps me stay present, pause, and calm down when I am struggling. I made it a part of my morning routine, and aim to meditate for 15 minutes when I wake up. I’m an early morning person, and wake up before my kids do, so this works for me. Find a time of day that will work for you. There are several apps out there, but the one I like is Insight Timer.
Here’s a great article from the Greater Good Science Center (which also has helpful short parenting videos) that makes sense of our behavior and feelings right now – it discusses our need to be in control, how people respond when they feel controlled by others, and that all we can do is control ourselves.
Take good care of yourself, your marriage, and your kiddos.