Parenting is often stressful and it’s something that Anna Parker-Naples knows that all too well. Seven years ago during a difficult pregnancy, Anna was in a wheelchair and was told that she might never walk again.
“It was quite traumatic and life was very very difficult, so I decided to get help with my mindset,” Anna says.
She decided that she needed to make positive changes to achieve the life that she wanted, so she went to see a hypnotherapist, who was a neurolinguistic programming (NLP) practitioner. “He opened my mind up to a whole world of possibility. As a result, within three weeks I started to make progress and within two years I had fully recovered.”
This experience led Anna to think about ways to focus on the things that made her truly happy. “Before I had children, I was an actor,” she says. “Instead of thinking that I wouldn’t be able to do that any more and that my life was over because I was in a wheelchair and had three kids, I started to put into place ways to stop the panic. I started looking at ways I could have elements of what I wanted in my life.”
Anna started to record voiceovers from home, which led to work on video games and audiobooks. As a result, she became a successful voice actor. Soon she was flying to events around the world.
On returning to the UK, Anna was struck by the language used by other mums in the playground and how it was effecting their emotions. Anna’s interest in NLP made her notice the words they used and she decided that she wanted to change her career direction and use her skills to help others, so she launched the Inspiring Mummy Club.
Her aim is to give other mums the tools they need to help them regain calm in their lives using mindfulness and other techniques.
Read on to discover Anna’s mindful parenting tips…
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11 best tips for mindful parenting
- Take control first. You need to take control of your life first and try to regain your balance before you start to think about where you would like to be in the future. “No matter how many times you use meditation – life happens, particularly as a mum. We can all have a moment where things can go a bit wonky in our lives,” Anna says.
- Remember – no one’s perfect. “No one’s living like some peaceful zombie. We all have challenges.”
- Build a strong foundation. Anna says that you need to work at building resilience so that when you have a “wonky” day, you’re able to cope. “You’re still affected by those things. You’re still allowed to feel sad, upset or emotional, but it’s about saying ‘this doesn’t have to overwhelm me’, because you have the tools to take back control.”
- Breathe! Take three minutes to focus on your breath and calm down (there’s a free download on Anna’s website which you can use for this). When her children were younger, Anna would put them on the naughty step when they’d been misbehaving. She started using the time to focus on her breath, rather than watching a timer. It meant that when she returned to her child she was calmer and more measured in her response.
- Don’t give up what’s important to you. “Many mums give up the things which become important to them when they become a mum,” Anna says. “It just happens. You need to find the things that are you enjoy and make it a priority in your weekly diary that you are going to have 20 minutes to yourself. It could be as simple as reading a book that you really enjoy or meet a friend without the children in tow. It’s about remembering that your life matters too.”
- Don’t feel under pressure. Stay-at-home mums often feel under pressure because they’re not working and that when their partner is home it’s family time. “So when does their time come?” Anna asks. “Make commitments to yourself that you are going to have time for yourself.”
- My time is important. “Put a stake in the ground and say ‘I’m important and my time is important’. Don’t sacrifice that.”
- Be grateful. Every morning, write out a gratitude list and write just three things. Do it either first thing in the morning or last thing at night. “Focus on what is good in your life. It’s very easy to talk about what’s bad because we’re so used to doing it, but if you start to notice the tiny things in your life that made you happy, that made you smile, that starts to shift your brain. You begin to notice that there are good things in your life no matter how overwhelmed you feel.”
- Watch your language. “If you’re constantly talking about how stressed or frazzled you are, in your body you’ll feel very different,” Anna says. “Instead think: ‘I’m making time to be calmer’.” It helps to shift your viewpoint.
- Commit to training online. If you’re spiralling, commit to an online course to help you. There are lots available – or you could even try an app.
- Be aware of your body. Self care is important – it’s about taking care of your own wellbeing. Make time to look after your own fitness and nutrition. “Even if you make time for ten minutes of yoga while the kids are screaming around you. It might not be the most relaxing time, but your body will have had some nourishment.
Anna Parker-Naples will be speaking at the Mindful Living Show in London on 2 June 2018.
Photography by Ravinder Crone and Dawid Sobolewski on Unsplash