Love Yourself: Mindfulness in Motherhood
By: Pamela Brill
After the arrival of a baby, trying to find calm amidst chaos is easier said than done. There are diapers to be changed, bottles to be prepared, laundry to be done…the list is endless. If you find yourself wondering how to steal a few moments for yourself and rejuvenate your sense of self, you're not alone.
"Having a baby changes a woman's life," says Deborah Sandella, a psychotherapist and author of Goodbye Hurt & Pain, 7 Simple Steps to Health, Love and Success. "Changes in her hormones, energy level, relationships and daily routine are profound. It is a highly emotional time, and having patience with her partner, baby and self will help the adjustment."
Of course, getting to that happy place takes a bit of practice and may not come easy to the woman who is used to be in control. That's where meditation, yoga and mindfulness come in handy, and along with some advice from the experts to getting started, you'll be able to better manage all the highs and lows of new motherhood.
You may laugh off the idea of trying to meditate when you're having enough difficulty getting the hang of breastfeeding, but experts believe that the benefits outweigh the naysaying. "Meditation allows the brain to reorganize itself…and quiets thinking," says Sandella. She also credits this practice for decreasing pain, keeping your body's biological age young and rejuvenating your energy level.
In addition to lowering blood pressure and reducing stress levels, meditation can be useful maintaining a healthy diet. "Before each meal, it could be helpful to take a moment to quietly contemplate the food choices you're about to make," offers Rebekah Borucki, meditation/yoga instructor and author of You Have 4 Minutes to Change Your Life: Simple 4-Minute Meditations for Inspiration, Transformation & True Bliss. "You might ask something like, 'How does this food serve me and my goals?'," she poses. "This doesn't mean that you'll make the healthiest decision, but at least you'll be making a mindful decision. Believe me, I've chosen to eat the donut plenty of times."
Of course, finding time to meditate may be your biggest challenge, but as the mother of five attests, meditation can be done anywhere, for any length of time. "You don't need a perfectly quiet house to have a successful session," says Borucki. "My bathroom, laundry room and parked car in the driveway are my go-to meditation spots when I have a full house."
To get started, Borucki recommends sitting up tall and keeping your jaw, shoulders and hands relaxed. "Make sure that your whole body feels comfortable," she says. "And if things like music, incense or the sounds of nature help you to feel more focused and at ease, use them. Create a practice that suits your likes and personality."
Once you are settled, some simple breathing exercises can put you in the correct mindset. Sandella suggests managing your breath by changing the length of the inhale and exhale: "Inhale 1-2-3-4, hold your breath 4-3-2-1; exhale 1-2-3-4, hold your breath 4-3-2-1." Another method, Borucki offers, is to take ten long inhales and exhales, and repeat 'peace' on each inhale and 'release' with every exhale. "The whole process takes about -3 minutes and allows me to reconnect with myself in between hectic tasks," she notes.
Strike a Pose
An alternative way to reduce stress and be in the moment is through yoga, which can be practiced in classes and in the home. If you've recently had a baby, be sure to check with your doctor to ensure that you are medically fit. For beginner yogis, Borucki advises finding a class with a certified yoga instructor. "Always tell the teacher that you're new and that you've just had a baby, along with other health concerns or injuries you have had," she says. "A good teacher will pay attention to you during class and guide you through pose variations."
Poses that are best for new moms involve opening and relaxing the hips, strengthening the middle and lower back and helping correct the rounding of the shoulders, which often happen during breastfeeding. "You also might want to explore poses that help strengthen the pelvic floor," adds Borucki.
With these forms of physical exercise, moms can also benefit from boosting their mental health through mindfulness. Allowing yourself to be present takes work, but is something that can be done long past the early years of motherhood. Sandella believes that asking and receiving help from your partner and others, as well as simply enjoying time spent with your baby, can be incorporated into a more mindful way of living.
"Maybe finding yourself is just about allowing the crazy, chaotic messiness of it all and being still," surmises Borucki.