Dear I For Her,
I am a 34-year-old working mother of a 2-year-old toddler. I juggle between work and home so much that I always feel stressed out.
Till motherhood happened to me, I was a star performer and a perfect wife. And, suddenly my expectations to be a perfect employee, a perfect spouse and a perfect friend went for a toss.
Like any new mother, I am always pressed for time and that leads to a lot of unnecessary stress and constant worrying about my marriage, my career and my health.
My worry starts with a simple “what if” scenario before it turns into a battlefield situation where bombs are going off and sirens are blowing.
The more I try to control those thoughts the more and more I find myself out of control. If you ask me, I am not enjoying anything – my work, my motherhood, even my relationship with my husband.
Recently one of my friends suggested about Mindful meditation to maintain inner peace with the constant worry.
Could you help me understand, in a very simple language, what Mindfulness is and how does it work?
(A proud I For Her community Member)
Ask The Expert is a new initiative by “I For Her” where we bring reputed and credible wellness experts to answer the queries of our community members. If you have a query that you would like answered, then please submit your query (anonymously if you want) here and our experts would help you with it.
We requested Tanvi Chaturvedi, a passionate Social and Personality Psychologist who is committed to women wellness to answer this query on Mindfulness.
Congratulations on embarking on a wonderful journey of motherhood.
Like any working mother, you will find this journey stressful and overwhelming yet most meaningful and enriching experience.
Coming to your query about Mindfulness, when I was asked to pen down my thoughts on Mindfulness, the initial thoughts revolved around writing the spiritual aspects of this concept.
After drafting the first few lines, it occurred to me that Mindfulness is not limited to the traditional model. Hence, I decided to give this concept a psychological spin and add a flavour of personal perspectives to it. Hope you will find it interesting!
Read on to know more:
- What is Mindfulness?
- Can Mindfulness really help in building healthy relationships?
- How can you practice Mindfulness on regular basis?
Q: What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is fundamentally concerned with becoming more aware of the present moment.
It can and should be practised during everyday activities and not just when seated in meditation.
In the movie Karate Kid, Mr.Han says-
“Kung Fu lives in everything we do, Xiao Dre! It lives in how we put on the jacket, how we take off the jacket. It lives in how we treat people! Everything… is Kung Fu”.
This dialogue truly captures the essence of mindfulness.
Mindfulness is nothing but psychological Kung Fu – it is about living in the present moment.
Let me quote a personal example here:
Post my work hours, whenever I used to walk into the kitchen [not that it happens very often:)], and cut cucumbers and onions for preparing a salad, I invariably used to cut my hands. This became a recurring phenomenon to an extent that my spouse thought that it’s an excuse for not doing household chores and making him work (just kidding !!!).
One fine day, my spouse casually told me that you never live in the present moment.
He used this example of bruising my hands and stated –
“You are continuously thinking about your work, what you need to do next, you are so lost in what’s coming up, it impacts your focus and you land up hurting yourself. Your mind is not on the task at hand but everywhere else. Think about it”.
I pondered over this seriously.
Next time, when I walked into the kitchen to prepare a salad, I first sipped a glass of water, took a deep breath, told myself –
“You have worked enough today. Rest everything can be looked into later or tomorrow. Right now, just focus on the task at hand. Live in this moment.”
After practising this for a few weeks, I realized that my “kitchen casualties” declined immensely.
With this very routine experience, I have come to realize that mindfulness like Kung Fu lives in everything we do.
Another central principle of mindfulness is about having a neutral response to something we experience.
It is a state of awareness where we operate beyond motivated reasoning. Our reaction is not related to attack or defend and win or lose. It is the drive that goes beyond. It is to view things as honest and as accurately as possible, even if it’s not pretty or convenient or pleasant.
Basically, it is the ability to cut through own prejudices, biases, and motivations; and just try to see the situation as objectively as possible.
This does not mean that one has to be emotionless.
It only implies that one needs to be aware of his or her own emotions, direct it in a manner that we see the world as clearly as possible. And when we do so, we are ok with it.
In a nutshell, it is about adopting a policy – “I am OK, you’re OK”.
I have been a student of psychology for 17 years. Over the years, I have managed to leverage on my empathy quotient. I empathize with everyone, however, I may not necessarily involve myself in every situation.
One may argue that this is not possible to attain with your loved ones and to a large extent, it is true. Most of us get affected by each and every encounter we have in our daily lives.
Q: Can Mindfulness really help in building healthy relationships?
With respect to relationships, I practice mindfulness by clearly setting my priorities.
I have categorized people into three buckets- inner circle, outer circle and outermost circle.
Inner circle will include relationships that are my lifelines – parents and spouse.
Outer circle includes relationships that mean a lot to me but I need not interact with them on a daily basis such as cousin brother and sisters, best friends and a few other confidantes.
People in the outermost circle includes the rest of the world who are not part of the first two circles.
This categorization helps me to channelize my thoughts and emotions. Those events that are related to the first two circles gauges my attention, for the rest of it, I have developed a detached perspective.
Don’t misunderstand me here. Detachment doesn’t mean a lack of empathy. It only means you choose your battles wisely. Prioritization helps in achieving this.
Q: How can you practice mindfulness on a regular basis?
Few tips that I deploy to practice mindfulness on a regular basis are:
- Taking a deep breath when feeling overwhelmed, thinking about things that are not in my control especially at the workplace. Drinking a glass of cold water always helps.
- Consciously telling my mind – “Loosen up, no one’s watching you and thinking about you. Everyone’s too busy worrying about themselves.” Few people may argue that its a lie, but in my experience, the moment you stop worrying about other people’s judgments, life becomes beautiful. It’s all in our mind.
- Avoid everything and everywhere syndrome. I keep telling myself that I don’t know everything and hence can’t do everything. And, I can’t be everywhere and keep everyone happy. I try not to be a ‘ people-pleaser’ as it only leads to worrying about the future.
Lastly, mindfulness cannot be achieved or practised without being self-aware. Self-awareness and accepting oneself is imperative. I strongly feel that I have a long way to go.
However, today, I’m aware of my strengths and derailers. This acceptance of self enables me to achieve mindfulness to a great extent. Living in the present moment requires us to be highly self-aware, accept ourselves with our flaws and leverage on our strengths to have a fulfilling life.
I would like to conclude by quoting dialogue from the character Master Oogway from my favourite movie series Kung Fu Panda
“Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, and today is a gift…that’s why they call it present.”
Live in the Present!
About the expert – Tanvi Chaturvedi:
Tanvi is a Social and Personality Psychologist by training. She specializes in the domain of psychological profiling & behavioural assessments. She has completed her M.Phil from the University of Cambridge. Also, she is passionate about using the principles of social psychology and personality psychology to predict behaviours and increase wellness in different walks of life. You can reach her at: