Mindfulness is a buzzword right now. Researchers who study mindfulness and mindfulness practitioners report benefits like better sleep, lower stress levels, less pain, fewer negative feelings, improved attention, lowered heart disease, increased working memory, more focus, less emotional reactivity, and higher relationship satisfaction, among other benefits.
Although most people associate mindfulness with meditation, they aren't the same thing. Mindfulness is simply be-ing in the present moment, noticing what's happening right now, not thinking about the past or worrying about the future. When you're mindful, you don't think about the stressful transition coming up this week or what your co-parent is going to say or do next. You aren't thinking about whatever dumb things you did last week. You're focusing only on what's happening right now. You can mindfully do anything: eat, walk, talk to a friend, breathe, swim, exercise, listen to music.
When you're mindful, it doesn't mean you're always at peace. Sometimes what's happening in our present moment isn't happy or positive, and it's ok to have negative feelings about that. When you're mindful, you can notice that you're having an uncomfortable feeling without judging it, or yourself, for having that feeling. For example, if you're anxious about dropping off your step kids, you can notice that anxiety, not blame or judge yourself for feeling anxious, and decide how to handle it.
Being a step parent is a rocky road, emotionally speaking. It's unpredictable, painful, it makes you grow and stretch, and it shows you parts of yourself that you may not love. When we're mindful about the rocky moments, we can show ourselves love and grace through them. We can choose to respond to our co-parents rather than react to them. When we're mindful, we allow ourselves and our partners space to experience our emotions without blaming or judging them.
Mindfulness also involves accepting what is, rather than spending our time wishing for something different. This part of mindfulness and step parenting was the most difficult for me, as I spent most of the first 10 years of my marriage wishing that bio mom would change. The longer I spent wishing for that, and denying what was actually happening, the more wrapped up I got in her behavior, not what I could do to feel better. When I learned to be mindful and accept that I had negative feelings about her, then decide what to do about those, I found that I could be less reactive and more responsive. Mindfulness is something that can be extremely helpful to step parents! Try it out and let me know what you think.
Sara Susov: Step Up Mentoring
Cover Photo by Lesly Juarez on Unsplash