Try as you might, having 20 minutes to yourself to listen to a meditation track or practice some breathing exercises can feel near impossible. And even if you're lucky enough to have this golden 20 minutes, if you're anything like me, you can get into a trap of thinking that there are "better, more important things to do" or you sit and engage in mindlessness such as scrolling through social media.
I've outlined some techniques that have helped me in the past. I have found that the more I practice these simple ways to incorporate mindfulness and meditation, the easier it is to attend a yoga class or listen to a full meditation because my mindset is already positive about it and I'm already enjoying the practice and reaping the benefits.
1. Mini meditations during feed time
Whether you breast or bottle feed, do your best to use this time as an opportunity to notice the rise and fall of your breath. Notice any sensations in your breasts or body as you feed. Notice how your baby is cradled in your arms. If you're breastfeeding, you may like to close your eyes. When I do this, I notice that my milk lets down much quicker. Sometimes, I open my eyes and my babe is fast asleep. I think the calm of my body helps her to drift off.
I have noticed a massive improvement in settling time and my own well-being by opting to do this as opposed to replying to text messages/watching TV or just generally being distracted.
If you're bottle feeding, you might like to notice 3 things you can see, hear and feel as you watch your baby drink. Can you see her little cheeks moving? What can you hear? Is his hair touching your arm? Are her feet resting on your thighs? I find feed time really sacred and a beautiful way to connect with my baby and my body.
The longer I feed (I'm almost at my goal of 2 years!), the more it can sometimes feel like another task to do or a "hold up" (the number of times I've been late because Cadence wants a feed as we are walking out the door is amazing). But returning to the breath and recognising what's happening in my body has really helped ease this negative way of thinking for me.
2. Stay mindful during tasks
Thinking about the washing you're planning to do once the dishes are done is not going to get you any quicker to that laundry - contrary to popular belief. Do your best, without judgement of self, to stay present when completing a task. Use some breathing exercises. You might want to breathe in and upon exhalation, repeat (either out loud or in your head) an affirmation. "I do enough, I have enough, I am enough" is a good one. Thanks Brene Brown!
3. Playtime - the ultimate in mindfulness
When I was initially at home with Cadence, I sometimes found it really difficult to focus my attention 100% on play. Sometimes we can see play as "oh she's happy on her own - excellent" and an opportunity to escape to the kitchen or whip our phone out to check our emails. Play is amazing for building a connection with your child, to release stress and to stay present. You'll notice too that it's much easier to attend to the tasks that you need to if you've already engaged in meaningful play because you can include your child. My toddler is much more willing to hand me pegs while I hang some washing out if we've already spent an hour reading books and building towers. If you can immerse yourself fully in playtime with your child, you will notice a shift in your well-being and child. Playgroups and parks are great for this if you're struggling because you're not surrounded by your household tasks.
4. Log out of social media during the day
This is a hard one. Sometimes, as a stay at home parent in particular, it's too easy to access connection from others via social media without having to leave the house. These connections can indeed be meaningful - but at the same time, you're also potentially being dragged into reading and responding to less meaningful content and this can take up much of your time and energy. Believe me when I tell you that you'll notice a difference if you do this. Social media then becomes a nighttime treat. Having said this, I also recommend ceasing phone use just before bed and leaving your phone on the dresser or out of reach (I'm still learning this one!)
Turning off notifications from apps like Facebook, Instagram and the like can help significantly as you aren't being drawn to open the app every time you're notified. When you join a group or like a page, it can also be useful to check your notification settings in these so you aren't alerted each time a random person posts or responds to something you aren't even following.
If you're a bit addicted like I was and needing some help, there's a great app called QualityTime (I have no affiliation - just a fan) that can help you monitor your phone usage during the day. You could even ask a mum friend to do the same for solidarity - check in with each other at the park or at the end of the day.