As moms we hold a lot of information in our heads, and sometimes that can be overwhelming. There are thoughts that fly in for a second to remind us to buy plastic forks for school, and then more important thoughts about how our kids and families are doing that linger. And then there are the thoughts that seem to taunt us by drifting in and out of our heads, and escaping us just when we need to remember them!
Sometimes in the middle of the day I find that my mind feels overly busy. I can be doing play-doh with my daughter, which I think would be distracting, but my mind can still be going a million miles an hour. There is a chattering upstairs that is hard to slow down, and I know it’s affecting other parts of my body because I feel myself get physically nervous.
In a perfect world, when this happens I could call up a friend or family member to vent, or I could find my nearest yoga studio. But the truth is, when your mind is running at its highest speed, there isn’t time to find the nearest meditation cushion and take a 10-minute break. We need quick and easy strategies that can start to turn the volume down in our minds.
Here are two strategies that I have found useful for slowing things down in my mind:
Take a 4-7-8 breath. Dr. Andrew Weil recommends this relaxing breath exercise to calm down, and some even suggest it can help for falling asleep. Here are the directions from Dr. Weil’s website:
*Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound.
*Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four.
*Hold your breath for a count of seven.
*Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count of eight.
I like to repeat this entire exercise 3 or 4 times. Even if you can’t do the 8 breaths to exhale (I find this hard), it won’t matter because your mind (and body) will already be calming down since you’ve been focusing on counting.
Sing the words to a song. I discovered this exercise by accident, and it’s a useful one you can do anywhere (except perhaps a meeting). When your mind is becoming overly active, pick a song with words that you know, and sing it out-loud. Try it now, if you feel like it: Pick a song you like (Dancing Queen?). Start singing the words out-loud. When you’re done you’ll notice that you weren’t thinking about anything else except the song.
If you have access to a radio, you can find a song you know and sing along and you get really distracted quickly. If you’re with your kids, try You Are My Sunshine or another classic you can enjoy together :)
What other strategies do you have for slowing down an overly chatty mind?
Soon after I woke up this morning I read about the shooting of Philando Castille, and then I read updates about the shooting of Alton Sterling. Because I teach and do research about multicultural psychology, these stories of lost innocent lives and the complexity of race relations and discrimination in our country are not entirely surprising. But this morning I found myself contemplating the events in the context of being a mother.
I walked around the kitchen, preparing cereal bowls and lunches. Preparing my children for the day ahead, preparing clothes and combing hair. Our roles as mothers always involve preparation. The one area that I never have to prepare my kids for, though, is how to exist in this world as a visible ethnic minority.
To give you a little background, my mother is Latina and my father is White. I identify as being of mixed ethnicity and have spent a good deal of time exploring my privilege associated with that identity and the way I look. While my children have South American family members and they feel connected to their Latino ancestry, they look 100% White and are always identified as White.
So today I've been struck by the privileges of being a mother of children who look White. These are unearned privileges, because I didn’t do anything to get them. Yes, I am a hard-working mother. Yes, parenting is not easy and we have challenges as a family. And yes, there are obstacles in life for my daughters because they are girls. This is all true, but I still have unearned advantages that others do not have.
As I try to wrap my head around this idea I think back to one of the most powerful essays about White Privilege by Peggy McIntosh, in which she describes a list of advantages she has because she is White. She notes everything from being able to shop in a store without being followed, to finding a band-aid that matches her skin tone. I realize that my own set of privileges related to parenting are similar, but also unique in some ways. Because parenting and the protection and positive development of my children is so fundamental to my life, all of these privileges have profound benefits.
Below are just a few of the daily advantages I have as a mother of children who look White:
*I have confidence that teachers and professionals are interacting with my children without bias.
*If my children get in trouble in public, I know they will not be seen as bad examples of their race.
*I can find toys and books that have characters who look like my children.
*If a concern emerges at school or daycare about my child, I can feel confident that the teacher has not magnified the issue because of my child’s race.
*I can be confident that my children will learn about role models, public figures, and accomplished professionals in the world who look like them.
*I can let my children wear whatever they want, even clothing that is trendy.
*I can feel confident that if my child is not invited to another child’s birthday party it is not because of their race.
*I can be sure that the world will have high expectations for my children.
*I can write a blog entry like this without people accusing me of trying to “play the race card.”
There are so many other privileges I have, but this one is perhaps the most poignant to me today:
*I can hear news about shootings of innocent teens like Trayvon Martin and Tamir Rice without feeling like I could lose my children one day in the same way.
This post is dedicated to the mothers.
Dear Fellow Mom,
If you’re like me, you feel tired almost every day and there is rarely time to do something fun for yourself. Babysitters cost a lot of money and the weeks go by without trying anything outside of the daily routine.
Remember, we all need a night out. And sometimes, we should let loose. Wear uncomfortable shoes, order apps, a cocktail AND dessert, and laugh loudly with our friends. Just because we are moms doesn’t mean we can’t party anymore!
~A mom from New Mexico who still likes to have fun
I'm Lisa, a mother and psychologist dedicated to supporting moms. Read more here.
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