Mindfulness for Young Adult Parents I

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    By Manpreet Gill

    Parenting at any stage in life is difficult. Adapting to new roles and responsibilities as a parent, working, and ensuring your child (or children) are growing up in a safe and nurturing environment can be very overwhelming and stressful. For young people especially, there are several specific stressors which are unique to their generation and age demographic (Kershaw, 2015). Young parents and adults today, are raising their kids in a tough economy where in order to keep the family afloat, both parents must be in the workforce (Kershaw, 2015).

    Young families

    In the case of single parent households, this becomes even more difficult as multiple jobs and countless hours are required in order to make a liveable income (Kershaw, 2015). The amount of stress associated with being a young parent can be very overwhelming and can impact your physical and mental wellbeing. In one study, 52% of young millennial parents reported experiencing such high levels of stress that they could not sleep well (Ray, 2013). Long term exposure to stress can also result in the development of chronic conditions such as obesity, cardiovascular disease, and type 2 diabetes mellitus (Reiner, Niermann, Jekauc, & Woll, 2013). In order to ensure that you can effectively manage your stress levels, for you and your children, there are certain practices you can begin to adopt into your day to day routine. These practices are structured around the concept of mindfulness, which “is the act of seeing things as they truly are in the present moment” (Hyland, Lee, & Mills, 2015, p. 578).

    Mindful families

    In western culture, the concept of mindfulness is derived from (or closely related to) traditional Buddhist mind training methods. As exemplified through a growing body of research, mindfulness has shown to have a number of physical and psychological benefits (Hyland et al., 2015). For these reasons, the practice of mindfulness has been incorporated in many different treatment regimes for anxiety, depression, and other mental health and physical issues. Here are some examples of how you can not only embrace, but incorporate the principles of mindfulness into your life in order to reduce stress:

    Practicing Yoga

    Yoga

    Practicing yoga has shown to have positive effects in young adults and parents (Gard et al., 2012). Yoga increase mindfulness, as it helps one pay attention to the purpose and present moment in a non-judgemental way (Gard et al., 2012). Yoga is not only restrictive to body positing/poses, but it also incorporates breathing exercises and meditation as well (Gard et al., 2012). In one study, researchers designed a yoga program for young adults who were experiencing high levels of stress (Gard et al., 2012). After the yoga course, participants reported lower levels of perceived stress, higher levels of life satisfaction and self-compassion. If you cannot attend a yoga class, there are some amazing online resources available to guide you as well! There are thousands of online videos which help guide you through each pose along with the steps to effective meditation.

    Mindfulness based stress reduction

    Mindful parents


    Mindfulness based stress reduction (MBSR) is a mindfulness training course which is designed to teach participants formal mindfulness practices (Khoury, Sharma, Rush, & Fournier, 2015). These practices are meant to teach people how to “observe situations and thoughts in a non-judgemental, non-reactive, and accepting manner” ” (Khoury et al., 2015). What these techniques do is challenge the existence of stressful thoughts and prevents them from having a negative impact on one’s life (Khoury et al., 2015). Practicing mindfulness in your day to day life affects the areas of the brain which are associated with how you feel, think, and pay attention (HealthLink BC, 2017). MBSR is taught through classes throughout the community, however there are also some online resources as well which provide some valuable information about how to develop and learn these stress management mindfulness techniques.

    Here are some examples of how you can practice mindfulness:

    Mindful Eating

    When you are eating a meal, eat without any distractions in front of you such as your phone or television. Focus on the food that you have in front of you, and take slow bites enjoying the flavours of your food. Look at your food and observe the different textures and colours. (HealthLink BC, 2017).

    Mindful Breathing

    i. Go for a walk outside and take a moment to take a few deep breaths. Focus on your breathing, and observe the different sights, sounds, and smells around you. Feel the cold or the warmth of the weather outside. How does the temperature feel against your skin? (HealthLink BC, 2017).

    Mindful Breathing

    ii. Sit in a quiet spot alone where there are no distractions. Focus on your breathing and listen to the sounds around you. If there is a window, gaze outside and look at everything. Observe the clouds in the sky, the plants along the sidewalk etc. Focus on how your body feels and the different sensations you are experiencing (HealthLink BC, 2017).

    Mindful Journaling

    Journaling your experience in a “mindfulness journal” is also a great strategy to write down your thoughts and feelings. Completing an entry at the beginning or end of the day can help to gather your thoughts. Having this outlet available also helps to instill calmness and clarity in your routine as well.

    Mindful Journaling

    Mindfulness for Young Parents Video

    Video created by 
    Manpreet Gill
    1:41 mins, November 2018
    In Adobe Spark Video

    Access these Online Resources

    Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR)

    Lotus Blue

    This is an online resource available to anyone who is interested in learning about how to use mindfulness techniques to reduce stress. It is created by a certified MBSR instructor who has created different modules with corresponding videos to help aide in the learning process. This resource allows you to access a MBSR class anywhere, anytime, and for free.

    URL:: https://palousemindfulness.com/index.html


    Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) Locator

    Lotus Blue

    If you prefer to learn MBSR techniques in person, the following website by the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Healthcare, and Society has an instructor locator tool. This tool allows you to type in your location in order to find the closest, certified mindfulness instructor to you.

    URL: https://umassmed.edu/cfm/mindfulness-based-programs/mbsr-courses/find-an-mbsr-program/


    The Centre for Mindfulness Studies

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    The Centre for Mindfulness Studies provides a number of great free audio-guided meditations. It is a great way to start your journey of learning to be mindful and how to meditate.

    URL: https://www.mindfulnessstudies.com/


    Youtube Yoga Videos

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    There are thousands of online videos available which outline different yoga poses. Many also have calming music accompanying them to help with meditation as well.

    URL: https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=yoga+mindfulness


    Yoga Journal

    Lotus Blue

    The following website is a great resource to learn more about yoga and its implication with improving mindfulness. A number of different poses with illustrations and instruction are included as well.

    URL: https://www.yogajournal.com/poses/peace-of-mind


    References

    Gard, T., Brach, N., Hölzel, B. K., Noggle, J. J., Conboy, L. A., & Lazar, S. W. (2012). Effects of a yoga-based intervention for young adults on quality of life and perceived stress: the potential mediating roles of mindfulness and self-compassion. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 7(3), 165-175.


    HealthLink BC. (2017, December 7). Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction. Retrieved from https://www.healthlinkbc.ca/health-topics/abl0293


    Hyland, P. K., Lee, R. A., & Mills, M. J. (2015). Mindfulness at work: A new approach to improving individual and organizational performance. Industrial and Organizational Psychology, 8(4), 576-602.


    Kershaw, P. (2015). Population Aging, Generational Equity & the Middle Class. Generation Squeeze.

    Khoury, B., Sharma, M., Rush, S. E., & Fournier, C. (2015). Mindfulness-based stress reduction for healthy individuals: a meta-analysis. Journal of psychosomatic research, 78(6), 519-528.


    Ray, J. A. (2013). Family Connections: Today’s young families: Successful strategies for engaging millennial parents. Childhood Education, 89(5), 332-334.


    Reiner, M., Niermann, C., Jekauc, D., & Woll, A. (2013). Long-term health benefits of physical activity–a systematic review of longitudinal studies. BMC public health, 13(1), 813.


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      Mindfulness for Young Adult Parents II

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        By Amy Li

        Mindfulness refers to the awareness of the present moment, and the focus of one’s attention to their thoughts, emotions, and body sensations. The goal of mindfulness is to help promote mental well-being, as studies have shown that practicing mindfulness can result in lower depression and anxiety levels (CHEO, 2018a). Given that depression and anxiety are relatively common conditions in the population, it means that because these diagnoses don’t go away even when starting your own family, then one should be additionally aware of how to use mindfulness in their day to day lives for both their own benefit, as well as the benefit of their children. The goal of mindful parenting relates to not just being aware of your own thoughts and patterns, but also being able to provide your full attention to your child/teenager, typically by listening to and observing your child’s viewpoint, and accepting who you and your child are as individuals.

        Mindful dad

        For those parents who are still relatively young themselves, specifically those in the age range from 19 to 35, there will be certain challenges that are faced, different from those who are in an older life stage when they have their children. There is evidence that adolescent (<20 years old) parents already face additional obstacles and barriers to parenthood as it is, compared to those who first have children when
        they’re older (Thompson, 2016). Common challenges faced by young parents between the ages of 19 to 35 include juggling the transition to adulthood from their own adolescence, which could involve living on their own for the first time away from their parents, and taking on responsibilities of life such as cooking, cleaning, and commuting for themselves. At the same time, there may also be the need to postpone one’s post-secondary education or take a break from work and occupational development/advancement, due to the demands of parenthood.

        Mindful family

        Regardless of the barriers that one might face as a young parent, the process for managing these stressors and other obstacles are similar to what other parents might use as a mindfulness technique.

        Some mindfulness exercises that can be tried on your own, with your partner, or ideally with the whole family including the kids, are described below.

        Family Yoga

        Choose a 30-minute period of time where you don’t expect any particular interruptions and find a space without any screens around (e.g. TV, computer, phone). Put down a yoga mat or perform the exercises on a carpet. Put some relaxing music on, and a scented candle if you have one. With your family member (this could be your partner, your child, or all of the family), initiate yoga positions and stretches together. This might involve using each other as supports, for example, as seen by the poses here.

        Yoga

        As you perform each pose, focus on your breathing, and on the muscle tension in each muscle group being stretched relaxing and elongating along the the fibers. At the end of the yoga session, thank your partner for performing this exercise with you, and hug/kiss them.

        Breathing Buddy

        Choose a 10-minute period of time where you don’t expect any particular interruptions and find a space without any screens around (e.g. TV, computer, phone). Grab one of your child’s stuffed animals to be your breathing buddy to use to demonstrate to others. Every participant should have a stuffed animal or other doll with them to breathe with.

        Mindful Parenting

        Everyone lies down and “sits” their breathing buddy on their tummy. The goal is to have the breathing buddy rise and fall gently with each breath cycle. Remind yourself and others that the focus is to breathe slowly and steadily so that the stuffed animal looks like it’s riding a carousel, and to ensure that the stuffed animal doesn’t ever fall off. This tool can be used to teach children awareness of their breathing cycle, control over their breathing pace, and encourages them to remain focused on the breathing task, thus they shouldn’t be thinking about whatever was inducing stress for them before.

        “Detective W”

        This game can be played with your children to help them identify feelings and understand them better. Similarly, in yourself, the goal is to also develop better awareness of your emotions, and the underlying reasons for them. When used in response to a particular emotion, one should ask their children/themselves the following:

        Detective W

        WHAT do you feel right now?

        Feelings and emotions, such as happiness, sadness, anger, jealousy, boredom, etc.

        WHO do you feel it about?

        Yourself, a parent, a sibling, a child, an inanimate object that caused bodily injury, etc.

        WHERE do you feel it in your body?

        In the chest, in the tummy, in the head, in the muscles, in the throat, etc.

        WHEN did you start feeling this?
        WHEN did it stop?

        When the event happened, when a parent yelled, when a child screamed, when I fell asleep, when I was playing, When I was working, etc.

        WHY are you feeling this way?

        Identify root cause for emotions, and check if it’s a fair reason, or if there are other factors involved. Can you let it go?

        There are a multitude of other mindfulness skills, techniques, and tools out there in various forms, to be learned and explored, each with their own individual benefits tailored to specific situations. It is highly encouraged that all young parents explore these resources themselves, to find the best fit. There are also some mobile apps such as Headspace and Mindshift, which discusses mindfulness and guides you through strategies as well.

        Mindful father

        Regardless of the approach, it is always important to remember that reflection is a useful skill that forms the basis for mindfulness, but that it isn’t always easy to develop or adapt right off the bat.
        Trained individuals such as counselors can help with this process, but there could be limitations of available time and finances. Regular routine application and development of skills will also go a long way towards benefiting one’s future mindfulness capacity, so it’s highly encouraged to get out there and practice these strategies every day! Best of luck!

        Mindfulness Technique Video – Box breathing

        It can be difficult to feel relaxed during the day when you’re under stress, and often you’ll find yourself feeling tense and your mind racing as a result. Some ways to release this tension include the practice of mindfulness techniques, such as box breathing, which you will learn how to perform in this video.

        Video created by Amy Li
        2:04 mins, November 2018


        Box breathing is a strategy to help clear your mind by focusing solely on your breathing. The basic concept is to take slow deep inhales and exhales, sustaining your breathing for 4 seconds in between each action, while envisioning a box. For example, breathe in slowly through your nose, filling your lungs and abdomen with air, as you rise up the side of the box. At the top of the box, sustain your breath for 4 more seconds at maximum inflation, before slowly exhaling down the side of the box for 4 seconds. At the bottom of the box, sustain your breath for 4 seconds at maximum exhalation, before returning to the start. Repeat this for as long as you need to, focusing on the box. Remember that sustaining a breath isn’t the same as holding it, as we’re not trying to “squeeze” or “bear down”, which closes off the airway. Instead, we’re just slowing the end of the in and out part of the breath.

        Mindful family

        Start with a few minutes a day, until you get the hang of this technique. Once you become skilled at it, then you can use it whenever and wherever you’d like, such as on the commute, or while lying in bed to help with falling asleep at night.

        Mindful Parenting Resources

        Mindfulness 201: Bringing mindfulness to parenting

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        A short fact sheet regarding mindfulness and how parents can use it to improve their own functioning, facilitate better understanding of the development and emotions of their child, and to improve the parent- child dynamic. The website is put together by CHEO, which is the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario.

        URL: http://www.cheo.on.ca/en/Mindfulness-Parenting


        Raising the Mindful Family

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        A resource compiled by Mindful, a non-profit dedicated to promoting mindfulness. This page provides details on several mindfulness considerations that form part of everyday family life, as well as provides examples of mindfulness exercises to try out.

        URL: https://www.mindful.org/raising-the-mindful-family/


        11 Tips for Mindful Parenting

        Lotus Blue

        A Quebec chain of clinics called MindSpace Clinics provides care to those in need of cognitive-behavioural therapy, mindfulness, and other psychology techniques. They also maintain a blog with various posts and articles, which informed the tips provided on this page.

        URL: http://mindspaceclinic.com/11-tips-mindful-parenting/


        The Best Meditation Apps for Parents

        Lotus Blue

        A reference page that compiles suggestions for meditation apps that can be used by parents during the process of mindfulness. Most smartphones running either the Apple or the Android platform should have access to these apps in their respective online App stores. The portability of these apps make it easier to reference on the go for busy parents who are caring for children that keep them even busier.

        URL: https://www.activekids.com/parenting-and-family/articles/the-best- meditation-apps-for-parents/


        Mindfulness-Based (MBCT) Support Groups in British Columbia

        Lotus Blue

        Searchable directory of support groups, counselors, and workshops using the Psychology Today website. Search conducted for BC-based groups, refined in the search criteria to be “Mindfulness-based (MBCT)”. Despite all the best online resources one might find, there isn’t anything that can replace face- to-face interaction and counseling from a trained individual.

        URL: https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/groups/mindfulness-based- mbct/british-columbia?sid=1543399133.2033_20538


        References

        CHEO, 2018a. Mindfulness 101: The Basics. Retrieved from http://www.cheo.on.ca/en/Mindfulness

        CHEO, 2018b. Mindfulness 201: Bringing mindfulness to parenting. Retrieved from http://www.cheo.on.ca/en/Mindfulness-Parenting

        Thompson, G. (2016). Meeting the needs of adolescent parents and their children. Paediatric Child Health, 21 (5): 273.


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