By Annabel FitzsimmonsUpdated Dec 21, 2014
Stacy Maynard, a mom of two from Oakville, noticed a pattern to her days — one that you may find familiar. “It was go-go-go. Mornings were spent yelling at the kids to get out the door, then there was the chaos of work, kids’ activities, homework, and hurrying here and there.”
One morning, she realized something had changed. “It hit me like a ton of bricks,” Maynard says. “I thought, ‘We’re not rushing. I’m not yelling. I’m calm, and we’re out of the house three minutes earlier than we need to be.’”
Maynard attributes this shift to meditation. “I was looking for something to reconnect with myself, to calm the craziness,” she explains. A friend recommended a meditation retreat, and afterward, Maynard was hooked and wanted to explore it further. Soon meditation was part of her daily life.
Read more: Meditation for kids: 4 methods to try>
Meditation is a practice that helps to calm and quiet the mind. There are many types, but the purpose of each is to train you to become aware of your thoughts and feelings and let go of mental clutter.
What is it? Traditional meditation is practised in stillness, either seated (most commonly cross-legged on the floor or on a chair with your feet firmly planted on the ground) or lying down on the floor or in bed. Three types of meditation include guided meditation (lead by a series of vocal prompts); mantra meditation (mental or verbal repetition of a phrase or affirmation); and relaxation (imagining each area of your body relaxing).
There are also meditation practices that involve moving your body while focusing on your breath, like yoga, or even going for a walk while being mindful of your breathing.
The benefits of meditation can touch many areas of your life, helping you decrease stress and anxiety, better manage your emotions, let go of mental distractions, and be more present and attentive with your kids. Research shows that meditation can also help with insomnia and can improve mental sharpness. Kim Foster, a general practitioner and mom of two in Victoria, views meditation as the perfect antidote for today’s multi-tasking mamas. “As moms, we’re not very good at taking care of ourselves,” she says. “Meditation allows you to become connected with the present instead of constantly looking forward and planning the next several steps in your day.”
Why meditate? The benefits of meditation can touch many areas of your life, helping you decrease stress and anxiety, better manage your emotions, let go of mental distractions, and be more present and attentive with your kids. Research shows that meditation can also help with insomnia and can improve mental sharpness.
Kim Foster, a general practitioner and mom of two in Victoria, views meditation as the perfect antidote for today’s multi-tasking mamas. “As moms, we’re not very good at taking care of ourselves,” she says. “Meditation allows you to become connected with the present instead of constantly looking forward and planning the next several steps in your day.”
Alyson Pancer, a clinical social worker, cognitive behavioural therapist/mindfulness therapist and mom of two in Toronto, recommends meditation as a tool for coping with the daily challenges of being a parent. Whether you’re dealing with tantrums, bedtime routines, school work or your growing to-do lists, “meditation teaches you to breathe through difficult feelings instead of suppressing them. If we deal with stresses as they occur, we can prevent anxiety from piling up over time.” Pancer experiences the benefits of meditation in her own life. “I can remove myself emotionally from situations a lot more quickly and get perspective on what’s happening,” she explains. “If I have a bad parenting moment, I’m able to recognize it as just a bad moment instead of judging myself. I acknowledge it, move on and try to approach the situation differently next time.”
Since taking up meditation almost two years ago, Maynard isn’t the only one who has noticed a difference in her house. When her eight-year-old son said he was glad they weren’t rushing all the time anymore, she realized her own anxiety had created stress for her kids. The shift in their once-frazzled weekday routine isn’t because the mornings have changed, or that there are fewer things that need to be done. What has changed is her approach. These days, she finds herself enjoying more quality time with her boys. “Now, instead of being half there—and thinking about work or checking my email while I’m with my kids—I’m fully there,” she says. “Once you see the benefits of pausing and being present, you realize you have a choice in how you do things. When I take a breath, my kids feel like they can take a breath, and we’re all so much happier for it.”
How to get started Foster believes that meditation is ideal for moms because it can be practised anytime, anywhere, and requires no fees or special equipment. “You can squeeze it in when it fits your schedule,” she says. “Research shows that even short bursts of five or 10 minutes can be beneficial.”
Read more: Meditation: 5 must-haves to help you unwind>
All you need is to put aside a few minutes to sit quietly, or go for a walk and focus on your breathing. Or you could do a few yoga poses in the morning, listen to a guided meditation during your lunch hour (for free online meditations, go to chopra.com/library/guidedmeditations), or have a meditation CD in the car for times when you’re early for school pickup.
The benefits of meditation are felt most when you practise daily, but find time whenever you can. “Even taking five deep breaths at a stoplight is a way to bring a meditation practice into your day,” Pancer says.
A version of this article appeared in our May 2013 issue with the headline "Serenity Now," pp. 36-38.