Stress Less – Back to School and Any Time – with a Mantra Boost
Commercials make the back-to-school process look so carefree. Arm in arm, parents and smiling children pop into big-box stores for pencils and notebooks, maybe a new outfit or backpack… and off they go! If only…
For some of us whose kids need extra support, or have a hard time with transitions, this time of year isn’t so simple. Anticipating the shift from summer to more structure, from familiar to new, can cause all kinds of feelings and emotional reactions in our kids – stress, anxiety, fear, resistance, insecurity – that make our job as parents more challenging.
As if that weren’t enough, many of us also need to dust off that IEP or 504 and establish communications with a whole new teaching and support team. Different people, different routines. It’s not easy.
So how do you manage to keep the school-start stress at bay and weather the storm? How do you break out of that worry cycle / to-do list frenzy? One method that has worked for me and helped several other parents I know is what I call the “Mantra Boost”. Mantras can help you step out of that tempting trap of negativity and see things in a whole new light.
With the rise in popularity of meditation and yoga, lots of people are talking about mantras. Before I share my simplified adaptation, let’s look briefly at what a mantra is.
The ancient Sanskrit word mantra breaks down into “man” – mind, and “tra” – instrument, so a mantra is an instrument of the mind.
In practice, a mantra is a word or sound used to enter a deep state of meditation. By repeating a mantra over and over, a person is able to reach a state of heightened awareness. Expanded awareness helps you witness your thoughts rather than react to them. Over time, mantra meditation can help you cultivate a more present, peaceful and balanced lifestyle.
In western-style yoga classes, some teachers will invite their students to set an intention for the class and offer mantra suggestions to use during class, such as “I am calm” or “I am strong.” The idea is to repeat your mantra silently as you move through the poses to keep your mind focused. Whether in still meditation or yoga, it is believed that repeating a mantra will direct the healing power of Prana (your vital energy) to help you realize your intentions.
By now you might be thinking “Right. How on earth am I supposed to find the opportunity to sit in silence and meditate?… Hmm… I would need to go to three yoga classes a day to lower my stress levels!” Fair enough. But guess what? You can still use a simple mantra to help you focus on the things that matter.
Here’s a quick way to harness the power of mantras as you’re going about your daily routine to interrupt negative thought patterns and put yourself on the path towards greater fulfillment:
1. Pick a mantra (or pick several).
Below are some mantras that might resonate with you:
I’m doing my best
I got this
I’m a good mom / dad
It’s ok to take care of myself, too
I am making the best decisions with what I know today
Every day is an opportunity to look at a situation with new eyes – and hope
This is hard, but it will pass
I can’t change the wind, but I can adjust my sails
I can’t change the waves, but I can learn to surf
Challenges are gifts that force us to find a new center of gravity. (Oprah)
I am calm
I am strong
I am happy and healthy
Surrender and enjoy the process
Find the perfection in imperfection
What’s most important will get done
I will find my strength in the journey
Clear eyes, full heart
The darkest nights produce the brightest stars (John Green)
2. Now Write Your Mantra on a Post it and Put It Where You’ll See It
Once you pick a mantra – or several – write each one on a Post it or a strip of paper and put each note in a place where you will see it every day. (Tip: To save time, you can print out this list and cut it into individual mantra strips with a scissors.) Whenever you see your mantra, or think of it, repeat it silently to yourself.
One of my friends has mantra notes in her desk drawer, on her bathroom mirror, in her car, and at the bottom of her purse. She says each time she sees one, it reminds her of her intentions and helps her put things in perspective. Another mom I know put a few mantra notes in odd places so she would occasionally discover a little piece of encouragement.
Mantras are said to have the ability to help you alter your subconscious impulses and habits. Commit to repeating your mantras for a month and see if you notice yourself feeling more positive and uplifted. Going back to school doesn’t have to be painful. You got this!