by Monica Nolasco Ed.D.
As I read through a paper by Isha D. Williams and other mental health professionals, I found myself writing comments in the margins such as, “This goes for moms, too!” and “…and moms with their babies!” next to descriptions of mindfulness tools the authors of the paper use such as self-hypnosis, spirituality and music. Williams says, “…In the mental health profession, many people are susceptible to compassion fatigue, and mindfulness can help to guard against it.” And, why is this so? Here is Williams, et al, again, “…one cannot attend to someone else’s emotional and psychological needs until one does that for oneself.” (Williams, 323)
So, what do mental health professionals and moms have in common that makes them susceptible to compassion fatigue?
Both healthcare professionals and moms are typically primed to think of others’ needs before their own. This “you before me” mentality, if not attended to over time, causes burn-out and, sometimes, even a complete depletion of spiritual, emotional and physical energy in the caregiver.
Mindfulness and self-care
At the end of this article, I will give you five tips you can use immediately to help you “mom”.
But, first, let me explain why self-care is so important for those who care for others. In the Williams article, she quotes a colleague’s (Gentry’s) definition of self-care as “ability to refill and refuel oneself in healthy ways.” (Williams, 322)
The key word there is “healthy”. And, as Williams points out, these self-care actions are not narcissistic, but, rather, crucial to reducing the amount of stress and anxiety a caregiver experiences – so that she can be present to the needs of the person she’s helping.
I am conducting a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) workshop from September 1, 2018 through October 27, 2018 at East Bay Healing Collective in Berkeley, California. While it represents a significant time commitment, I believe participants of all backgrounds and experience, including moms, will find it worthwhile in helping them grow in their careers and personal lives in a world of increasing stressors on all fronts.
Now, I have those tips for self-care I promised you at the beginning of this article.
5 mindfulness practices for self-care
These five tips come from the various sources I have listed at the end of this article.
MINDFUL WALKING. Many of you probably already walk as a form of exercise. Bringing mindfulness to it involves a simple practice to start your walk: Stop and notice your breathing before you put one foot in front of the other. What does the air going into your nose and out of your mouth feel like against your nostrils and the insides of your mouth? How deep are the breaths? Now, as you walk, take note of your movements – how your arms move (or not), what your feet feel like against the sidewalk or path, how your clothes touch your body – even what the temperature is.
“When you notice yourself ‘wandering’…gently return your attention back to your body…” (Shattell, 3)
MINDFUL BREAKS. These are the adult’s version of a short time-out and can be taken throughout the day – at scheduled times such as while sipping your morning coffee or at stressful moments when dealing with a teenager’s rebellion or a toddler’s meltdown (stepping away and bringing yourself into what you are feeling so that you can deal with the challenges of the moment). Publisher’s Weekly provides a positive review for Breathe Mama Breathe: 5-Minute Mindfulness for Busy Moms by Shonda Moralis. You will find more helpful hints in Ms. Moralis’ book.
MINDFUL BREATHING. You’ll notice that, in the tip on mindful walking, we are incorporating mindful breathing into it to help you “get off on the right foot” as it were. But you can use mindful breathing as a sitting exercise any time throughout the day. This practice is not so much about changing how you’re breathing as it is about noticing your breathing.
First, sit somewhere comfortable but not too cushy with your back straight but not tense and your feet flat on the floor. Bring your attention to how the air feels as you breathe in and out. Check out your chest or belly poking out and flattening with each breath. Silently say “in” and “out” with each inhale / exhale. And, when you find yourself getting distracted, bring your mind back with a single, self-compassionate word (“wandering”). (Shattell, 3)
A short mindful breathing moment also makes an effective time-out moment.
MINDFUL MEDITATION. Find 10 minutes to sit quietly and focus on your breathing before your kids come home from school or you pick up your child at day care, you may find that this quiet mindful awareness of your body helps bring clarity to your interactions with others. (Williams, 326)
MINDFUL LISTENING. This activity takes mindful meditation to another level of awareness that turns your attention outward from just focusing on your breath to noticing sounds in your immediate surroundings.
As you sit and focus on your breathing, stare at a point in the middle distance in front of you. As you relax into the exercise, close your eyes and notice a sound (maybe an airplane flying overhead, the sprinklers whirring or a fan blowing cool air on your skin). See where this awareness of sound takes you. (Williams, 327 – 330)
Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction as a way of life
Please visit the events page on the SAGE Career Coaching site
to learn more about my MBSR workshop and consider joining us. By the way, I am not just a career coach, I’m a mom, too (and have used MBSR techniques to help me be present in the moment). In the meantime, I wish us all a Happy Mother’s Day!
If you’d like to learn more about mindfulness and meditation and how both can help with your personal and professional development, contact me via email
Book review of Breathe Mama Breathe: 5-Minute Mindfulness for Busy Moms by Shonda Moralis. Review, copyright of Publishers Weekly. Property of PWxyz LLC. www.publishersweekly.com
Shattell, Mona, PhD, RN, FAAN, and Johnson, Angela, MSTOM, MPH, LAc, Dipl OM. Three Simple Mindfulness Practices to Manage Holiday Stress. Journal of Psychological Nursing. 55, 12: 2 – 4, 2017. Copyright © SLACK Incorporated. DOI: 10.3928/02793695-20171117-01.
Williams, Isha D., et al. Perspectives on Self-Care. Journal of Creativity in Mental Health. 5: 321 – 338, 2010. Department of Human Development, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, Virginia, USA. Copyright © Taylor & Francis Group, LLC. ISSN: 1540-1383 print/1540-1391 online. DOI: 10.1080/15401383.2010.507700.