From Frazzled to Composed in One Minute Flat!
Working mothers take everything they do seriously because they care. They care about their work and they care about their families (and generally not in that order), creating stress and guilt for them. This stress can make them tired, moody, anxious, and sometimes even depressed. How can working mothers reduce the negative impacts of this stress … and not sacrifice the incredibly important and rare resource of time? One concept that holds promise is mindfulness.
When we think of mindfulness, an image of a monk may come to mind, or an image of someone who has tuned out the world to turn their focus inward. But mindfulness is so much more, and so much less, than what is depicted by these images. Mindfulness is the act of focusing the attention on the present moment[ii]. For the working mother, this focus can be as simple as listening intently to her child or consciously experiencing energizing rays of sunshine when walking her child to the school door. Mindfulness can occur constantly, while engaging in other activities (so taking no additional time at all) or can be a separate and distinct activity such as meditation.
Meditation can be as quick as one minute in the car before going into work or before a meeting, something even the busiest working mothers can find time for.
Much of the existing research on the benefits of mindfulness deals with the meditation. Research has found the actual structure of the brain, including the areas responsible for the regulation of emotion, learning, and attention, can be changed through regular meditation[iii]. A number of benefits can result including improved cognitive function4, enhanced self-esteem, enhanced positive affect, greater optimism, enhanced feelings of competence, increased life satisfaction, and reduction in stress levels[iv], all elements that contribute to well-being.
Mindfulness and meditation can result in “statistically significant reductions” in stress levels, when practiced on a regular basis. Even though many experts recommend spending 20 minutes or more in meditation, just one minute can be enough to tame frazzled nerves and result in the composure that calms the mind and restores confidence, something many working mothers could really use during their busy days or when transitioning from home to work, or work to home.
ONE MINUTE MEDITATION
- Breathe in to a slow count of 5
- Hold your breath to a count of 5
- Exhale to a count of 5
- Hold to a count of 5
- Repeat 2 more times (for a total of 3 repetitions)
Counting is important to this exercise as counting occupies your mind and forces you to pay attention to the breathing activity. Try counting in one second intervals, more or less. When you do, each repetition is roughly 20 seconds, depending on how fast or slow you are counting, so three reps takes about a minute. This one-minute mediation can be used anywhere, anytime you need a brief mental break. Additionally, breathing slow and deep, as this meditation directs you to, forces oxygen into your lungs and bloodstream, providing a quick energy boost especially when stressful circumstances result in shallow breathing. You can close your eyes during this meditation, if that helps you focus on your breathing, or you can leave your eyes open and focus your gaze on something soothing, such as a plant or the landscape outside the window.
Try it – what do you have to lose? One minute? One minute is an incredible bargain even if it provides only 10 minutes of mental peace to a harried working mother. If it provides more – say a sense of confidence and composure or a way to release the stress of the work day before transitioning to home – it’s priceless!
 Guendouzi, J. (2006, November). “The guilt thing”: Balancing domestic and professional roles. Journal of Marriage and Family, 68, 901-909. http://dx.doi.org/0.1111/j.1741-3737.2006.00303.x; Holmes, E. K., Erickson, J. J., & Hill, E. J. (2012). Doing what she thinks best: maternal psychological well-being and attaining desired work situations. Human Relations, 65, 501-522. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0018726711431351; Liss, M., Shriffrin, H. H., & Rizzo, K. M. (2012, October). Maternal guilt and shame: The roles of self-discrepancy and fear of negative evaluation. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 22, 1112-1119. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10826-012-96873-2
 Liss, M., Shriffrin, H. H., & Rizzo, K. M. (2012, October). Maternal guilt and shame: The roles of self-discrepancy and fear of negative evaluation. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 22, 1112-1119. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10826-012-96873-2
 Jones, B. D. (2012). Women who opt out: The debate over working mothers and work-family balance. New York, US: New York University Press; Liss, M., Shriffrin, H. H., & Rizzo, K. M. (2012, October). Maternal guilt and shame: The roles of self-discrepancy and fear of negative evaluation. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 22, 1112-1119. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10826-012-96873-2
 Insert reference for mindfulness
 Gardhouse, K., & Segal, Z. (2015). Mindfulness. In J. D. Wright (Ed.), International encyclopedia of the social & behavioral sciences (2nd ed., Vol. 15, pp. 249-553). http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-08-097086.8-14148-0
 Brown, K. W., & Ryan, R. M. (2003). The benefits of being present: Mindfulness and its role in psychological well-being. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84, 822-848. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/0022-35220.127.116.112; Gardhouse, K., & Segal, Z. (2015). Mindfulness. In J. D. Wright (Ed.), International encyclopedia of the social & behavioral sciences (2nd ed., Vol. 15, pp. 249-553). http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-08-097086.8-14148-0
 Ratey, J. J., & Loehr, J. E. (2011, April). The positive impact of physical activity on cognition during adulthood: A review of underlying mechanisms, evidence and recommendations. Reviews in the Neurosciences, 22(2), 171-185. http://dx.doi.org/10.1515/rns.2011.017
 Baime, M. (2011, July). This is your brain on mindfulness. Shambhala Sun, 45-49, 84. Retrieved from https://www.nmr.mgh.harvard.edu/~britta/SUN_July11_Baime.pdf; Holzel, B. K., Lazar, S. W., Gard, T., Schuman-Olivier, Z., Vago, D. R., & Ott, U. (2011). How does mindfulness meditation work? Proposing mechanisms of action from a conceptual and neural perspective. Psychological Science, 6, 537-559. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/1745691611419671