Writing this article couldn’t come at a more symbolic time. October is all about gratitude. But as the CEO of our family, I can tell you, it’s not easy keeping it together at this time of year. We are “knee deep” in school commitments, activity schedules, and homework. The holidays are looming and the financial stress of balancing the books can seem unbearable.
How do we not pass on this anxiety to our children?
The key is to create healthy, mindful habits that our children might also embrace. And it starts with us. Parents. Not dissimilar from the airplane depressurization context when you must first put on your own oxygen mask before securing your child’s.
I recommend that you practice mindfulness yourself first with these three daily exercises:
1. Meditation: Even five minutes a day can help calm your nervous system. I find the “after” effects of meditation similar to exercise; afterward, I feel calmer and centered. The word “meditation” can sometimes feel overwhelming but it doesn’t have to be. Take some of the guesswork out of it by downloading an app like Headspace or OMG I Can Meditate and try a guided meditation or a “meditation challenge”.
2. Be active: If physical activity isn’t already part of your life, make a commitment to exercise at least 30 minutes, five times a week. In combination with meditation, exercise has been shown to be effective in combatting symptoms of depression. And with 150 minutes of physical activity a week, you’ll also likely find yourself sleeping better. I’ve even noticed that when I’m physically active it helps to ward off sickness.
3. Be present: When you start to feel your mind racing with tasks, take a moment to be aware of your present surroundings. Use all your senses. Take a deep breath, smell, listen, and look at what surrounds you. Try to focus on the bigger picture and don’t fixate on one thing. Ask yourself, will this really matter three months from now?
Passing it on to your kids
Once you’re feeling more at peace it’s time to start talking about mindfulness with your children:
4. Find out what they already know. Some schools in Canada are starting to incorporate mindfulness into the curriculum and your kids might already be familiar with the concept. Ask questions and get them feeling good about what they already know. They might have mindfulness exercises from school that you can try out as a family.