Michelle Gale, Mindful Parenting Educator
Author of Mindful Parenting in a Messy World: Living with Presence and Parenting with Purpose
Researchers say one of the top causes of burnout is feeling overloaded—trying to do more in less time. For working parents, the stress may feel doubled as they pursue the twin goals of being successful in their careers while trying to be the best parents they can be. How can parents cope when it feels like there’s not enough time in the day to accomplish each task they need to get done? I personally discovered that very often my anxiety manifested itself in the worry of running out of time. I hated being late, and my anxiety around tardiness revealed itself in my body language. When I had the thought “I might be late,” this evoked in me a clenched jaw, tight throat, fast heartbeat and overall uptight feeling. Add in the pressures of dealing with children, and parents at times find themselves feeling emotionally triggered. What’s a stressed-out parent to do?
1. Explore your triggers.
What sets you off? Sit down with a journal or piece of paper and write out what triggers you most in the course of a day. Think about the morning, afternoon and evening. Consider your home environment as well as the outside world. Which people seem to trigger an unwelcome response? What is it that they do? We can’t change or make shifts in our lives without awareness of where we struggle. Make this list without beating yourself up over any of it. Think it all through in a matter-of-fact way, as if you were a researcher collecting data.
2. Own your emotions.
The hardest part of being a parent isn’t dealing with the naughty or inconvenient things my children sometimes do or say. The truly difficult aspect of being an effective parent is getting myself under control. When you feel yourself starting to get tense, take a few slow, deep breaths. Focus on each inhale and exhale. Now, observe your feelings and name them. The key for me was to learn to stop myself as I’m about to react, tune into what’s really driving the emotion I’m experiencing, and settle myself down.
3. Commit to learn (from your kids).
This means looking at those moments you feel parentally stressed through a new lens. When you feel triggered by something your kids say or do, practice the step above while asking yourself what you can learn from the experience.
Michelle specializes in helping parents break habits that aren’t helping their families and find greater compassion, forgiveness and presence through mindfulness. A former Twitter executive, she juggled a high-level job as head of learning and development with the demands of raising two sons. Like a lot of working parents, she felt pulled in multiple directions.