Mini-Meditations: Mom’s secret to getting through the toddler years

Mini-Meditations for Moms

Back in the day, when I was a freewheeling ladypreneur who set her own rules and schedule, before the baby, and nap time schedules, and play dates…  Back when all I had to do was take care of me, and I did a damn fine job of doing it….  Wayyyy back then, I had a lovely little meditation practice.  I would wake up, put on the tea pot, and sit on my meditation cushion in front of the floor to ceiling window in our Brooklyn apartment.  I had a little altar, with all the things I thought belonged there — a big ceramic buddha head, some candles and crystals, all the good stuff.  For 15-20 minutes, I would sit and focus on my breath or listen to a guided meditation.  I felt grounded and I felt good.

But that was oh so long ago.  Now, my daily schedule is dictated by an adorable, opinionated creature with needs of her own.  She wakes up in the ungodly hours between 6 and 7am, and so begins our daily adventure. During her naps, I cram in as much relaxation and self-care as I can, while still keeping myself fed, my business afloat, and my house in (relative) order.  Needless to say, that leaves little time for my meditation practice of yore, and that hasn’t been a big deal… until now.

I’ve been lucky that I haven’t found motherhood to be particularly stressful or hard.  I love it, and feel pretty content most days with the whole set up.  But that was until my calm, mellow sweetpea started to turn into a toddler.  She may not be toddling yet, but that hasn’t stopped her from exerting her rather strong will upon typically mundane daily activities, like nursing and diaper changes.  She wants things done her way, and if they’re not, she’ll make her displeasure known.

Now I’ve read up on all of this toddler business, I know what to do to help her feel validated and heard, while still setting limits where they need to be set.  I have a plan of action, and for the most part, it works.  Our tantrums haven’t lasted for more than a couple of minutes (though they feel like an eternity), and go away as quickly as they come on.  But DAMN, if they don’t do a number on my nervous system.

Our first day of tantrum-y behavior left me feeling like a stressed out, strung out mess. Was this the price I had to pay for a year of relatively easy, stress-free motherhood?  Was this my punishment for all those times I proudly talked about my “easy” baby?  That night, I ordered in (gluten-free) baked mac n’ cheese and ate more chocolate than I needed to.  I saw a dangerous path that I was heading dow, and knew something needed to be done, ASAP.

The next morning, I tried to meditate. I sat on the balcony off our bedroom as the sun came up, and closed my eyes.  My goal was to sit for 15 minutes before I had to go get little M up.  I got to maybe minute 3 before all the thoughts of changing nap schedules, meal plans, teething remedies, and weekend plans were just too much to take.  I couldn’t focus on my breathe, and all the focusing on focusing was just giving me a headache. I gave up and felt like a total failure.

Then I remembered the new Breathe app that magically appeared with the latest software update on my Apple Watch.  I thought to myself, maybe I’ll just start with a minute here and there, and see what happens.

Mini-Meditations for Moms

So when I put M down for her two naps that day, as well as when I put her to bed for the night, I took a minute, literally just one minute to sit outside with my Breathe app.

As the day went on, I noticed my fuse get longer, my sense of humor return.  That one minute, three times a day helped me to regain my sense of self and balance in the face of a defiant toddler.

The next day, I extended my mini-meditation sessions to 5 minutes, and the difference I felt was palpable.  I’m taking all pressure off myself to get back to a 15 or 20 minute daily practice. I find that the more pressure I feel internally, the less likely I am to actually do it.  But these little mini-meditations are absolutely perfect.  I can set them for the amount of time I want or need in that moment, I can always find time to squeeze in a couple minutes of mindfulness and calm.

I swear this is going to be what gets me through these toddler years!

Mini-Meditations to Try:

  • Focus on the breath.  This is the easiest meditation around. Sit for a minute or two, simply focusing on your breath.  As thoughts pop in your mind, acknowledge them and let them float by, always coming back to the breath.  This is great for lowering blood pressure and decreasing stress.
  • Double the exhale. If you need something else to focus on, try doubling your exhale.  Inhale for a count of 4, exhale for a count of 8.  Inhale for a count of 5, exhale for a count of 10.. and so on.  You can do this for a minute or longer!
  • One-minute pranayama meditation.  30 seconds of bellows breath, followed by 3o seconds of ujjayi breath. If you don’t know what any of that means, click here for a how-to.  This is amazing for slowing racing thoughts, quieting anxiety, and energizing the mind.

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