In addition to sleep, nourishing food and exercise, we all know a healthy dose of “Zen” – or whatever your preferred term – is crucial to our well-being, especially during the craziness of the winter holidays. But we’re also moms, so staying on top of the first three is hard enough; Zen seems about as likely as your kids offering to take care of the dirty dishes while you watch “The Bachelor.”
But miracles do happen, and I am now a believer that your Mom Zen is out there, even during the holidays, and even if you stumble on it in the most unlikely of places.
I recently returned from a trip to New York City to visit a group of friends I’ve had since my teens (so, a few years). This is something I pull off about once a year when I manage to line up the childcare and work logistics just well enough to leave town by myself for several precious days.
When people see me after these mini getaways or scroll through trip photos I’ve posted on social media, they often comment on how relaxed and “rested” I look. They usually assume this is due to a few nights of uninterrupted sleep, and I’ll admit, I do sleep well knowing no one will fake-urgently need me in the middle of the night. (My kids love a good existential discussion at 3am.)
But it’s not sleep that restores me when I take this time away; it’s the sudden slowdown of the thoughts, reminders, worries and to-do’s that are racing around my brain at all other times. For a few days each year, my mind is relatively quiet.
The crazed-brain phenomenon is certainly not exclusive to moms, but we rank right up there when it comes to mental juggling acts: field-trip permission slip! Soccer cleats! Presentation deadline! Shower at least weekly! It doesn’t help that our culture is obsessed with multitasking, aided by apps and devices that enable us to toggle rapidly between emailing a coworker, booking (or canceling) an exercise class, texting our spouse about that evening’s dinner plans and keeping up with the Kardashians…I mean, serious global affairs.
The brain is, of course, capable of processing huge volumes of information at once, and Kardashians aside, much of what we’re thinking about is important. But that doesn’t mean operating at maximum capacity all the time is good for us. It’s like carrying a comically large handbag (guilty!); just because you have the space, doesn’t mean you need to bring all that stuff with you everywhere you go (yikes, really guilty!).
When I took my first solo trip after having my kids, I wasn’t expecting the rush of calm and relief when my mind slowed down. I felt what people who are good at meditation must feel when they tune out unnecessary mental noise. It was a wonderful kind of floaty feeling. And that personal Zen is one of the main reasons I make those few days away a priority.
We can all find ways to tap into a quieter mind, and utilizing them isn’t an indulgence; it makes us healthier, more grounded moms, employees and friends all year long. When you discover what works for you, guard it fiercely and return to that place (physical or spiritual) as often as you can. You’ll be amazed what a rested mind can accomplish when real life inevitably ramps back up again.