A significant benefit of mindfulness is the positive effect it can have on your children and the quality of your parenting.
According to the World Health Organization, one in four people will experience a mental health condition at some point in their lifetime. From the range of different mental disorders, depression alone has seen a rise of more than 18% between 2005 – 2015. Over 300 million people around the world suffer from the illness today.
Even if we’re not part of those statistics, from time to time, we may all experience circumstances and events that challenge us physically, personally, socially, financially, emotionally, psychologically, mentally, and/or even spiritually.
Sometimes, those challenges are simply minor inconveniences, but at other times it comes in the form of life-altering challenges, such as separation or divorce.
The common factor between all challenges, whether they are big or small, is the stress that accompanies these situations/circumstances. It’s the stress that triggers overwhelm, which often causes us to act out-of-character.
During my own separation, there were certainly moments that were marred by stress. I found myself behaving in ways that I had never done before, doing things that I would never do again.
One night after tucking my children into my own bed, I left the room to find some relief in much needed “me” time. It was past my children’s usual bedtime when I headed downstairs, so it frustrated me to hear their continued laughter and play, especially when I had already given up my bed for their benefit.
After returning to the room a couple more times to calmly remind them that it was past their bedtime, I started to feel the rise of my anger and annoyance.
On my third visit back to the room, I abruptly opened the door, stormed over to the bed, grabbed my six-year old’s teddy bear, and threw it across the floor. As I held back the tears, overcome by the feelings of misery and defeat, I saw the confusion and distress on my children’s faces.
The relentless effort I had put in over so many weeks, trying to secure their emotional well-being, was seemingly undone by this one single event.
I felt like I had failed them.
What came out of that night was some deep self-reflection on my part. I recognized my own pain, exhaustion, and stress, as well as the need to prioritize my physical and emotional well-being going forward. This realization also highlighted the need for me to find effective stress reduction strategies to get me through the divorce process.
In time, I found a tool that was successful in changing my response to stress, called “mindfulness”.
According to HelpGuide, practicing mindfulness can bring improvements in both physical and psychological health. Two significant benefits include reduced stress and improved sleep.
Often during separation and divorce, our minds become preoccupied. We find ourselves either dwelling on the past, or worrying and catastrophizing future events. We get caught in streams of thoughts and feelings that intensifies our stresses.
As we go about taking care of the “practicalities” of separation and divorce (in addition to taking care of the kids), the emotional strain, stress, and frustration of it all can get the better of us. It makes dealing with the slightest challenge difficult.
What more, we find that we’re more emotionally reactive and a lot of the time, our children, and other people around us are on the receiving end.
Mindfulness allows us to switch off auto-pilot mode, become less reactive, and more conscious about what we do. It’s a tool that can help us manage our actions, reactions, thoughts, and feelings, as well as behavior, even during stressful times.
So how do you apply mindfulness during your separation/divorce experience?
Well, mindfulness is about bringing your mind back to the present. Whenever you become aware that you’ve been distracted, simply bring your attention back to the ‘here and now’, rather than reliving the painful breakdown of your relationship, and worrying about everything that could go wrong in the future.
This new awareness will enable you to refocus on the activity, person, or event in front of you. With a clearer mind, you’re more alert to tackle daily trials and tribulations, and better focused to make positive short- and long-term decisions for yourself and your children.
Another significant benefit of mindfulness is the positive effect it can have on your children and the quality of your parenting.
A common problem most parents (not only sole parents) often struggle with, is screaming at their children. We say things like “I must be a terrible mom but just can’t seem to stop screaming at the kids”, “I’ve got no control, I have to scream to get them to do things”, “I can’t help it”, “It happens before I know I’m doing it”.
By practicing mindfulness, we can bring our full conscious awareness to our parenting moments. We can elect to bring intentional thought before responding, rather than mindlessly reacting.
As adults, we have the ability to choose our actions and reactions. Sometimes we forget this fact because our reactions can seem automatic and uncontrollable. The truth is, despite any discomforting thoughts, feelings, or external factors, we always have control over our behavior.
At this stage, you’re probably saying to yourself, “OK, but it’s easier said than done.”
If you find yourself faced with this inner resistance, I’d like to invite you to just give mindfulness a go and then make up your mind about it.
The next time you hear your internal voice say: “I shouldn’t be screaming at them” or “I’m feeling overwhelmed”, or you catch yourself doing something that is not aligned with your values, take a moment to meet that stress, and rebalance with mindfulness.
Pause what you are doing. Take a few deep breaths. Then choose actions and reactions that will provide you and children with the greatest benefit. You may then come to realize that there are things in your life that you can’t control, but your response to stress is not one of them.