Feeling the pressure: mindfulness for moms
Feeling stressed? Women’s health expert, Josie Bouchier, offers 5 simple and achievable tips to help busy moms unwind.
Being a mom can feel totally daunting. Every time we check emails or social media, we are inundated with studies, blogs, and advice that tell us how to mother. On top of making sure we are feeding our children the right foods, encouraging correct brain development, forming positive sleep habits, and fostering emotional / social awareness, we feel pressure to put them (and ourselves) into a cute outfit, casually posed in our immaculate yet understated home so we can snap a quick picture while doing the clever activity learned on Pinterest. Oh, and don’t forget to save time and energy for your partner, your friends, your career aspirations, and making dinner!
Needless to say, new and seasoned moms are feeling the pressure of motherhood, perhaps now more than ever. New moms might be lacking confidence and feeling a strong expectation to do it all perfectly. While seasoned moms might be dreading dividing their attention amongst their children and taking on more work while still caring for their own needs. Either way, it has never been more important to practice mindfulness and to learn how to take the pressure off.
Here are my five favorite, tried-and-true strategies to alleviate stress throughout the day:
- Ear massage: In Chinese medicine, your entire body is represented on your ear. Massaging your ears between your thumb and forefinger not only feels fantastic, it’s like giving yourself a whole body massage! Gently but firmly massaging each nook and cranny of your ear, except for the ear canal, can help calm your spirit, balance your hormones, awaken each organ in your body to function more optimally, and activate your bones and muscles to heal. Massage one ear at a time or both together for 10-15 seconds per side, as often as you like.
- Belly breathing: This technique will extinguish stress hormones circulating in your body, such as cortisol, faster than any drug. How it works is genius. And you can do it anytime, anywhere. Place your hands below your navel and let your belly expand as you inhale. Exhale, and let your belly relax and contract. Repeat. No need to take big breaths, just breathe normally as you do this belly breathing exercise – the more often, the better. The reason why controlling our breathing instantly relieves stress is because the part of our involuntary nervous system that dictates our stress response, also known as our “fight or flight” response, has a loophole. The loophole is our breath. Our breath is the one system in our body that is both involuntary and voluntary. Think about it – our bodies will continue to breathe if we don’t think about breathing, but we can also control our breathing. If you don’t calm your breathing pattern, then stress becomes an involuntary, automatic response. If you consciously change your breathing by doing this exercise, stress melts away. Breathing into your belly is like flipping the switch from your sympathetic nervous system (“fight or flight”) to your parasympathetic nervous system (“rest and relax”). Amazing!
- Inhale lavender essential oil*: Taking a whiff of lavender essential oil is one of the simplest, easiest things you can do to relax. I like to put a little dab of lavender essential oil under my nose or on my temples to feel immediately at peace. It’s also wonderful sprinkled on your pillow before bed. You can easily find small vials of lavender essential oil at most natural grocery stores or online. Carry it with you in your purse or diaper bag at all times. It’s great for children and babies, too! *Before using any essential oils during your pregnancy, it’s always a good idea to talk to your doctor or midwife.
- Take a bath or a footbath: Before bedtime, take a bath with Epsom salts and a few drops of lavender essential oil. My mom used to say that all the stresses of the day went down the drain after her nightly bath ritual. I’m sure you’ll agree. If you don’t have enough time or a good soaking tub, try a footbath instead. Use a large pot from the kitchen or a basin, fill with warm water and add a couple drops of lavender essential oil. Soak for 15-30 minutes. In Chinese medicine, three important meridians begin at the feet: the spleen, liver, and kidneys. These organs play a crucial role in fertility, hormone balance, and sleep patterns. Simply warming your feet will benefit all of those meridians.
- Go on an ‘information fast’: Sit on your hands instead of Googling, don’t click on the article, politely decline well-meaning advice from friends and family. When it comes to making decisions about your child, you are their mother, and you know them better than anyone else. Whether it’s introducing solids, choosing childcare or considering screen time, ask yourself, what works for me and my child? Turn inward for the answer. Don’t worry about the cute outfit and immaculate home (unless they bring you joy), you’re an exceptional mama who is already doing it all. Give yourself a well-deserved break.