By Lauren Gallagher PH.D. & Daya Alexander Grant PH.D., M.S.
What happens when two mamas with PhDs and a love for sport psychology meet over green juice in NYC? A conversation about ambitions and struggles, of course. But also a recognition that we can balance the gigantic mom role with the other parts of ourselves that make us whole. One of us is just beginning her mothering journey and the other is 19 years in. As we chatted about life, kids, and our personal passions, we discovered that although this journey is a challenge, and regardless of where we are on the path, this experience is a shared one. So many of us question our ability to maintain presence in our roles as mamas while still preserving our unique identity and pursuing our career dreams. Here are three tips on embracing the grind and absorbing the power that results from being both a mindful mama and a badass go getter!
Push. Surrender. Repeat.
While this certainly applies to labor, this message is imperative for continuing to make progress in your career, without losing your mind. Research has shown that alternating between deep work (pushing) and cognitive rest from that activity (surrendering) may help the brain develop creative solutions to problems [reference].
Our mind is still working and thinking about what we immersed ourselves in even if we are not presently focused on it. This is good news for us go get ‘em moms who don’t get those huge chunks of time anymore. For optimal productivity, alternate between 60-90 minutes of full immersion in a task before taking a cognitive break. This time frame lends itself nicely to laser focus during nap time or school hours followed by a “break” to be completely present when the children are around. That full immersion in activities with our children is critical to being a mindful mama.
Research has shown that alternating between deep work (pushing) and cognitive rest from that activity (surrendering) may help the brain develop creative solutions to problems.
The push and surrender pattern can also be applied at the macro level. You may have a month where you have the bandwidth and creative flow to move projects forward. Excellent! Enjoy that! But then, you may hit a plateau. That’s OK. Instead of swimming against the current, let it be easy and surrender to what is, trusting that another breakthrough is in the pipeline. All in all, recognize that inching forward is still progress.
Sweat once a day
You know the research. Exercise is good for you. Period. It’s good for your body and your brain. Find the time to get the blood pumping - whether you walk, run, spin, hike, go to the gym, or take a class. Move regularly and you will notice your energy levels elevate and your cognition sharpen.
Move regularly and you will notice your energy levels elevate and your cognition sharpen.
Some days will be tough. We get it. Move anyway. Other days it’ll be downright impossible to get a full workout in. On those days, commit 10 minute to something - a brisk walk outside or a mini-circuit of squats, plank, and burpees (yep) at home. That’s it. And there’s always the jogging stroller! Your endorphins will ensure that you never regret a workout.
Take time to think
It took me a year to figure out that one of the reasons I was so drained was because I’m a textbook introvert. I need silence to survive. And here I was - a stay at home mom with a permanent buddy who wasn’t exactly silent. I found myself telling people “I just need time to think!”
It took me a year to figure out that one of the reasons I was so drained was because I’m a textbook introvert.
Two years in, I realized that for me, the sweetest moments of silence can be found in the early morning hours. I joined the 5am club and committed those first two hours of the day to any combination of meditation, yoga, and exercise. But if evenings are your jam, make that your quiet time.
You can also take mini vacations throughout the day. Light a candle and pick up the nearest book. Ten minutes of meditation, quiet reflection, listening to music or reading something that interests you while you drinking your coffee or tea can go a long way in providing the self-care you need to recharge your batteries.
Lauren Gallagher, Ph.D., is a school psychologist, author, public speaker, and mama to two teenagers. She recently co-authored her first children's book, The Hard Hat for Kids, with Jon Gordon - a story about being a great teammate. She has a private practice where she works with young people to help them discover their unique passion and purpose so they can lead their very best life.
Daya Alexander Grant, Ph.D., M.S., is a mental strength coach, yoga teacher, and mama to a two year old. In her private practice, she empowers athletes to connect to their greatness, crush their goals, and know fulfillment in the pursuit.