Mindfulness can empower you to experience a greater sense of joy and satisfaction in the simplest of acts.
How many times do we find ourselves making dinner, answering the phone, throwing clothes in the laundry and everything else in between all at the same time; mindlessly going from task to task without really engaging in any one thing. When was the last time that you took a moment to smell your husband’s crisp white shirt after it comes out of the dryer while feeling the soft linen texture between your fingers? Or savor the taste of the melted butter on your toast while it nourished you in the morning?
Women today take so much pride in how many tasks they are able to manage simultaneously. We applaud each other on how we are able to multi-task. We must manage the house, raise perfectly dressed, well mannered athletic children with great grades who only eat gluten free, NON-GMO, well balanced meals that you have personally prepared at home! Not to mention, the pressure for us to look good, work out, maintain our careers, and don’t forget the perfect social life, ect. ect. Are you exhausted yet?
How many of us Mamas are caught up in being perfect? What is the cost of this type of perfection? To think that we can do all this and be ‘ok’ in the end is unrealistic. What happens behind closed doors when all the kids are asleep? You finally kick back for some well deserved me time. For some moms, thats a cup of green tea and strawberries, for others its a quart of their favorite ice cream and netflix. However, more and more moms today are unwinding with a glass of wine at the end of the day. It’s their ‘reward’, ‘me time’ treat. Drinking at the end of the day, alone or with other moms, is considered a socially acceptable indulgence.
May be, we are setting unattainable, unrealistic goals for women. The pursuit of perfection is emotionally and psychologically draining. Perfection is based on the notion, that we must not let anything slip, ever, but its a completely unrealistic ideal and trying to chase it can be illusive and incredibly unrewarding. Many of us are riddled with guilt at our perceived failures in motherhood. In the end, are we ever good enough?
For many moms caught up in this unhealthy race, coping becomes essential. What begins as a glass of wine at the end of the day eventually turns into the entire bottle for some women. Before you know it, you are drinking in the morning. Drinking is no longer something you find yourself doing socially, now you do it alone, in excess, to drown all those feelings that have been building up; feelings of sadness, guilt and never being good enough no matter how much you do among others. It’s also important to note, that women are constantly comparing their real lives with other women’s highlight reels on social media. Again, these are unrealistic goals. Social media is sending the wrong message. It’s not an accurate picture of someone’s life but rather a skewed, curated version of someone’s life, but women tend to forget this.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in five 25-34 year old females regularly binge drink. Binge drinking for women is defined as consuming four or more drinks in a two hour time period. Addiction treatment facilities further support the CDC reports, who state that more and more young moms are coming in to ask for help with alcohol. Drinking is being treated as an acceptable coping mechanism among women.
In a culture that applauds perfection, multi-tasking and expects women to do it all, who pays the price? Women do. What if we didn’t have to do it all? What if it was ok to do less but be present? What would happen to our quality of life? our relationships ? our contentment?
Mindfulness allows us to slow down and experience life in the here an now. It is a research based practice with proven results in decreasing anxiety and depression and improving overall mood. Being Mindful is a practice, a lifestyle choice. No one starts off being an expert at mindfulness. It’s a process. It’s a journey. Mindfulness may also provide an alternative coping mechanism to many moms seeking relief from the stress that they are carrying without the negative side effects of alcohol dependance.
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is giving attention to the hear and now. It is a practice that allows us to develop awareness around our present moment. When we are present in the here and now we become aware our thoughts, our feelings and emotions and the sensations we are experiencing within our bodies.
Initially we may be side tracked by our thoughts as they lead us away from the present. If this happens we are to gently redirect ourselves back to the present moment, back to our breath, back to the sensations we are experiencing, back to the way we feel. Once we remove our thoughts from the picture, we become aware of our feelings, and next the experience of these feelings. Just because we are sad does not necessarily mean that we are going to experience sadness in an unpleasant or negative way .
We are often so afraid of the pain and discomfort we associate with our difficult emotions, that we attempt to avoid them. We may numb these emotions through harmful coping mechanisms such as drugs or alcohol. Learning to be present with uncomfortable emotions is difficult and often times scary. However, mindfulness takes the power away from the perceived pain and puts the power back in the hands of the individual.
The experience of our emotions can be pleasant, unpleasant or neutral. Once we allow ourselves to experience these sensations we may notice that we are sad and this may be a pleasant experience of the now or unpleasant, but we must allow ourselves to experience the emotions without judgement. Meaning, we do not assign ‘bad’ or ‘good’ to the fact that we feel a certain way, nor do we hold ourselves accountable for feeling a certain way, we just let it be. We create a safe space within ourselves to allow these feelings to exist.
The practice of mindfulness does not allow for multi-tasking. It is the exact opposite of being an over-achieving multi-tasking mama. Mindfulness celebrates uni-tasking. Our sole task is to be a compassionate observer of our present moment. We are to hold our present moment and allow it to be, without judgement, but with compassion. This act of self-compassion is an act of self-healing. When we are coping with uncomfortable emotions that evoke unpleasantness, mindfulness allows the unpleasant sensations to be; creating space for them is an act self-compassion. As we offer loving-kindness to ourselves in those difficult moments, we heal.
Women today are in dire need of a safe space to be vulnerable and real. We must allow ourselves to enjoy the simple things, whether that is relishing the morning sun in your face, or listening to your child’s laughter and allowing his sheer joy to sink in. When we practice enjoying the simpler things in life, we begin to embrace our own imperfections and our humanity. Slowly, we strip away societal expectations, unhealthy ideals, and unrealistic definitions of motherhood. Now you are free to enjoy your moment. A mindful mama who is in touch with her humanity is empowered, so watch out world, here she comes!
-Manijeh Sheik, MHCI
Manijeh practices mindfulness with her clients.