Mindfulness techniques for dealing with teething
Mindfulness. Maybe you’re a committed advocate of it – in which case, I salute you – but if you’re anything like me, it’ll be something that you’ve seen mentioned in a few online articles or in a 10 minute piece on The One Show.
So, when a friend of mine mentioned it to me, round about the time our youngest was going through teething – well, I admit…I was sceptical. I mean, I barely have time to brush my teeth, let alone light some joss sticks and do some cross-legged meditation.
But then, my friend’s pretty normal – and I was feeling particularly stressed out with Archie’s teething – so I figured, why not? Sure. I’ll give it a go.
That was 18 months ago. Has it completely changed my life? I wouldn’t go that far. Has it helped with the stress of teething (and everything else?) Absolutely.
So now, dear reader, I’m going to recommend it to you – and pass on what I’ve learnt to see if it’ll help you get through things a little more easily.
For me, it came down to two key things. Firstly, it helped to give me a way of thinking about my own thoughts – especially negative ones. You know, those 2am specials like “You’re a terrible parent”…“I should know how to do this better”. We’ve all had those, right? Anyway, what my research into mindfulness has taught me is to start to see those kind of thoughts in a more objective way. In other words, to see them as things that I can have some degree of control over, rather than being just pulled along by them.
The best description I read was from a piece on the NHS website1 and an interview with Professor Mark Williams, former director of the Oxford Mindfulness Centre.
“Some people find it very difficult to practice mindfulness,” he says. “As soon as they stop what they’re doing, lots of thoughts and worries crowd in.”
“It might be useful to remember that mindfulness isn’t about making these thoughts go away, but rather about seeing them as mental events.”
“Imagine standing at a bus station and seeing ‘thought buses’ coming and going without having to get on them and be taken away. This can be very hard at first, but with gentle persistence it is possible.”
I love the idea of thoughts as buses, rather than thinking about a train of thought – which sounds like something you can’t get off once those negative thoughts come along. Just having that mental image of buses helped me start steering (no pun intended) my mind away from negative thoughts when they came along. Of choosing whether to think about certain things or not. Try it.
Secondly, it helped give me ways of coping with times when I just needed to find some mental space that didn’t feature a (crying) babba. I think this is what more people might think of as being ‘mindful’.
So for me, that meant learning a few simple techniques to help me concentrate on something else. I know having spoken to my other mindful friend that she has her own equivalents, but here’s a few I’ve found that worked for me.
1) The Bathmat Technique.
So, we’ve got quite a fluffy bathmat in our bathroom. I discovered that when I’m up in the night and struggling with a grizzly baby, if I stand on it and concentrate – really concentrate – on the sensation of the material on my bare feet and the strands coming up between my toes, it really does take me to a different place. It takes a while and you do have to make a conscious effort – I try to visualise the strands between my toes in huge detail, like I’m the size of an ant – but it does give you a few minutes ‘time out.’
2) 4-7-8 Breathing.
I think I found this one online, but I like it as it’s really simple and very easy to remember:
Breathe in through your nose for four seconds.
Hold your breath for seven seconds.
Breathe out through your mouth for eight seconds.
Like I said, it’s really simple, but after about four or five rounds of breathing I guarantee you’ll be feeling better. Try it. 2
3) Leave. Your phone. Downstairs.
This has made a big difference, too. My phone used to be my go-to distraction when I was up in the night. But then (the horror!) I left my phone at a friend’s house and had to go without it for a few days. I suddenly found that rather than scrolling through Facebook or going down the Twitter rabbit hole, just concentrating on my baby not only meant that he settled back down a lot sooner, I got back to sleep a lot quicker afterwards. Since then, the phone’s stayed downstairs every night. Give it a go.
Like I said, there are LOADS more techniques you can find online, so just try a few and see which works for you.
And remember, if there’s one thing I’d suggest you take away from this blog, it’s this: thoughts are like buses. And you don’t have to get on them.