This relatable guest post on how-to tips for overcoming stress and becoming a calmer parent is filled with much needed advice and written by author Michelle Gale
One day I got into an argument with one of my one of my kids about not cleaning up a mess and had a door slammed in my face. I really wanted to jump up and yell: “How dare you slam the door on me?” But as I just sat with this surge of emotions, sensations, and angry thoughts for a few moments, they subsided.
I suddenly realized that I’ve slammed doors too. When I finally re-engaged with my child again I was able to connect, rather than just correct. I was able to share what I was experiencing, listen to my child’s feelings, and strategize together how we could avoid that situation in the future.
As I began to make a habit of observing myself in this way, I gradually found myself spotting these kinds of reactions coming on before I was overcome with emotion. As I learned how reactions get going, before long — quite out of the blue — I found myself unexpectedly intercepting the crazy train.
To help my clients (and myself) practice this technique, I like to use the acronym STOP:
S- Stop. Pause. Don’t do or say anything else!
T- Take a breath while focusing on a long exhale.
O- Observe the emotion/feeling present. Label it. (sad, frustrated, angry, confused, hurt, scared)
P- Proceed, with lower emotional reactivity and a more sane response.
As the days, weeks, and months went by in my life, I continued to notice things that triggered me and what reactions I had. This increased awareness has helped me remain calm and centered more of the time. I attribute it directly to daily practicing mindfulness and meditation.
My definition of mindfulness is simply a compassionate act of allowing inner and outer experience to arise moment by moment with a clear, non-judgmental awareness. Meditation is the formal practice, like when we practice observing our own thoughts while sitting, walking or paying attention to our breathing.
How-to tips for overcoming stress and becoming a calmer parent
Using your breath to help you be a more peaceful parent:
- Focusing on the breath can be a beautiful way to come back to a more centered state, but you have to build the muscle of this center in the same way that you build your muscles at the gym. Repetition is the key.
- Use the sensations of breathing to guide you. Notice the air coming through your nostrils on the inhale, as well as the exhale. Feel your chest or belly rise and fall with each breath.
- The most difficult part of any practice is remembering to do it. Remind yourself to practice mindful breathing by adding a reminder to your calendar, writing yourself notes, or setting an alarm on your phone — whatever it takes.
As we learn to become impartial observers of our thoughts and feelings, we are better able to respond positively and proactively in situations where we might otherwise lose control. Try it and see how it can lift you out of the rush, stress and distraction that often seems to drive our lives as parents. As we awaken to who we are, we can live more fully and show up more authentically as parents, and in every aspect of our lives.
You can find a free breath meditation on Michelle’s website here.
About the Author: Mindful Parenting Educator Michelle Gale, MA, is a former head of learning and leadership development for Twitter who teaches parents to better connect with their kids by first connecting with themselves. She is the author of the new book “Mindful Parenting in a Messy World.” Learn more at www.MichelleGale.com.