I’m starting to understand something. It’s taken me a while but I’ve come to realize a theme amongst patients I see. When I ask questions pertaining to anxiety many shy away from this word that comes with so much weight; however if I ask questions pertaining to whether they feel ‘keyed up’, ‘overwhelmed’ or ‘restless’ many nod their head in agreement, finally finding that something that summarizes their angst.
This is not just a professional issue for me, it’s also personal. As a working mother of two young boys with one on the way I’ve come to realize that my thoughts are rarely still. In fact, they are more like the waves of an ocean, crashing in my brain with items of the never ending ‘to do’ list. With our society’s hyper focus now on meditation and mindfulness, many of us believe that stillness is the antidote to restlessness; it makes sense doesn’t it? I’ve come to learn something different and although the difference is subtle it is noteworthy.
As many of my readers know I love the app “Headspace” and have set a goal of 100 days of consecutive meditation in the morning. Although I’m only half way to my goal I have recently completed the ‘restlessness’ meditation pack and through this have come to learn the technique of noting. Noting is simply a mindfulness technique where you are aware of when your mind becomes distracted from the present and at it’s most basic, identity whether you have been distracted by a thought or a feeling. Progressing further, you can then identify the thought or feeling as positive, negative or neutral. It’s a simple, delicate process that with practice apparently becomes effortless (note the huge emphasis on the word ‘practice’).
What Headspace founder Andy Puddicombe makes clear is that we have to get away from the notion of a still brain being ‘good’ and a restless brain being ‘bad’. Some of us have busy brains (myself included) and this is ok; it is learning to be aware of when the brain becomes overly restless or busy that is the overarching goal here. It is as if there is an outside observer in your head that can take notice of when things are spinning in frenzy and help return you to the present moment even if it’s just for a minute. Many of us are just too caught up in the fury of our thoughts to take a step back.
I feel passionate to share this especially with women in our society who juggle so many different responsibilities and titles. Although things are changing slowly, for the most part women continue to do the lion’s share of the house hold work and child raising; many while working either part or full time.
I’ll leave you with some practical tips that can help with managing restlessness especially for the mother who wears oh so many hats….and if nothing else, this article is to make you realize you are definitely not alone and just like juggling, the art of finding these moments of stillness just takes practice
- The Weekend Check In: Khalid and I have started using this principle now. We simply spend 10 minutes on a Sunday going over the week ahead – work schedule, kids activities, appointments, pick ups/drop offs etc. What is especially useful is having a separate column on a white board where you can amalgamate any nagging items you have during the week, and know there will be a dedicated time and space that you can give them their full attention.
- Relying on automated services: By this I mean grocery delivery, food preparation and/or cleaning services to help lessen the burden of these mundane ongoing tasks that just need to get done
- Recognizing the power of transitions: Know that as soon as you drive into work or open the front door you are expected to be different things to different people. At work you are expected to be ‘on’, be focused and productive. Whereas at home you are everything to everyone – the cook, the cleaner and even entertainer at times. Give yourself 3-5 minutes before entering your new role, whether it be taking a short walk around the block or a few deep breathes in your car to allow yourself to physically, mentally and emotionally transition from role to role.
- Follow Sheryl Sandberg’s principle that “Done is better than perfect”. It’s no joke that from the moment we find out we are pregnant many of us inherently strive for our version of perfection. Along the way life forces us to realize that kids neither want nor need perfection, they just need you to be present.