Working Mom 3.0: Scheduled stillness
Working moms have a schedule for just about everything. But do you make time to relax? In this installment of Working Mom 3.0, writer and yoga instructor Stephanie Taylor Christensen explores the challenges and benefits of finding that elusive inner state of peace and relaxation.
Relaxed yogi, frazzled mom
In addition to being a writer, I'm a yoga instructor. You would think that I have mastered the art of relaxation. Wrong. Though I teach my students the benefits of breathing and final resting pose, I'm no more "zen" than the working mom who wears a business suit each day.
While there are certainly worse things than getting paid to do yoga, the experience of dropping off my child at the playroom in order to get to the classes I teach is often stressful. If my toddler is having an "off day," I can hear his screams through the classroom walls, which are inconveniently shared with the playroom. Despite my efforts to turn my focus inward, my inner mom instinct is often stronger than my inner yogi. Once I hear those shrieks, my mind darts between what pose I will guide my students into next, and what in the world is going on in that playroom.
While I encourage my students to enjoy the benefits of breathing and meditation, I struggle to find time in my day to practice what I preach. We working moms have a constant job. Who has time to just "be" when there are so many "to dos" in a day?
The benefits of letting go
It's important that we working moms allow ourselves time to be still, for mental well-being and physical payoffs. Yogis have long understood the benefits of using the breath to calm the mind, and how it can impact the critical systems of the body. Medical science has also taken note. According to the Mayo Clinic, practicing relaxation techniques can slow your heart rate, lower blood pressure, ease anger and frustration, and reduce chronic pain and muscle fatigue.
Knowing how to harness the power of your breath can also boost confidence in dealing with challenges; it's your natural tool in gaining control over stress, and your responses to it.
Make bedtime your time
Use bedtime as a form of relaxing "me" time. As you lie down, try a deep relaxation technique. Closing your lips, and relaxing your face muscles, repeatedly inhale through your nose for a count of four. Slowly exhale through the nose for a count of six. Let your body melt into the mattress,and continue the breathing pattern for five to ten minutes (or until you doze off)!
You can also try progressive relaxation -- tensing and releasing large muscle groups in your body. Start with your toes, tensing them for five seconds and releasing for 30 seconds. Move up to the calves using the same pattern, and continue all the way through the body.
Don't pressure yourself by adding one more "to do." Vow to try these easy relaxation practices for a week, and see how the quality of your life improves.