Mental Fitness and Parenting

Most of us do our best to avoid physical pain. If something “hurts” we usually think that something is not right inside and visit a doctor. We might not act so quickly if it is us personally, but if it is our partner or child we are usually quick to act. Mental pain is a bit different as it is not easy to know if someone is experiencing this. And it is equally not easy to know what to do about it.

Physical health and immunity are what parents focus on most.

When my children were younger my daughter broke her arm more than once, broke her finger on a trampoline… it was actually pointing in the wrong direction and required surgery. But the worst was when she was working at a day camp and cut her finger while cutting watermelon. She severed the nerve and almost cut an artery requiring delicate surgery.  Each time I was quick to act to take care of her physical pain. These are accidents and I see accidents as being part of life.

Internal physical pain though is different. It is not usually caused by an accident.  We do our best to avoid this type of pain by building up a strong immune system.  We help our kids with this by ensuring they eat healthy food, get their shots when they are young, encourage them to exercise, be outdoors and get a good nights sleep so that they grow into healthy adults. We focus on their “physical immunity”.

 Most parents I know also focus on their own physical immunity. After all they want to live a good long life to be there for their children and hopefully grand children. So we exercises, eat healthy, get outdoors and go for our regular check ups.

Mental immunity and mental fitness are keys to good health.

Have you ever thought about your “mental immunity”? I first heard about this concept in “the Book of JOY”. The synthesis of discussions between the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu. Mental immunity helps us avoid mental pain and mental pain is equally as bad as physical pain. Often mental pain takes much longer to heal than physical pain.

So what is mental immunity?It is learning to avoid the destructive emotions and to develop positive ones. Mental immunity means we can turn frustration, fear, anger, disappointment, sadness and anxiety into learning opportunities. Into a gift. When our mental immunity is low, small disturbances can throw us into distress and big issues can have us choose to numb our pain. Becoming dependant on something external, you choose – food, alcohol or gambling. Anything to escape or mental pain.
To have mental immunity we need to improve our mental fitness. We can work on this, just like we do at the gym for physical fitness. When we are mentally fitter we can rationally know we have a serious problem that we have to deal with and on the emotional level we stay calm, clear headed and laser focussed. This is mental immunity.

The number one goal of the subconscious mind is to keep us safe.

Doubt, fear and other energy draining thoughts such as shame or guilt are all natural and the subconscious mind likes to keep these front and center. It’s number one goal is to keep us safe. It keeps us alert and rumminating, sometimes deep into the night.

The thing is most of our concerns are minor and surmountable if we are clear headed and relaxed. We need to be relaxed and grounded to be able to reflect on daily stressors in order to respond to them from the perspective of growth and the sage.

 Being mentally fit enables us to face big challenges.

To improve our mental fitness requires as much practice as to improve our physical fitness. We just don’t realize that our mental fitness is as important, if not more important than our physical fitness until there is a problem. I endured 10 years of legal processes over a house that we were building. Unfortunately my family could not live in the house. We also were facing 12 different legal processes in two foreign languages. This was ongoing when my children were in their teenage years and we moved several times in those 10 years, out of necessity.

I was lucky that I had already been working on mental fitness for several years. During this disaster I continued to work on my mental fitness as much as my physical as I knew I need both in order not to fall into the deep well of despair. I also needed to be mentally fit to find creative solutions to the bind we found ourselves in. And, my family needed me.

Mental fitness takes time to develop and to practice to maintain.

There is no pill one can take to have good mental fitness. We have pills to help us sleep, pills to help us when we are anxious but they all have side effects and do not address the underlying issue. Developing strong mental immunity and fitness is something that should be as important as physical immunity and fitness. The masters of meditation and meditative physical practices have known this for centuries.

Stress and frustration on the surface can feel like a lame excuse for feeling unwell. They are however the core of so much of our unnecessary suffering that we create in our own mind. Everyone of us experiences set backs and suffering. It is what we choose to do when we are suffering that is going to make or break us. If you have low mental fitness the likelihood is that you will end up with a physical manifestation of your low mental immunity.

Our “saboteurs” can show up in our parenting style. 

Parenting is the least linear life-process that I can think of. Its not simple, no matter where you live and what socio-economic bracket you are in. There are pitfalls on ever level.

“Knowing oneself” I believe is key to parenting success. To know oneself means we understand both our positive and negative attributes. We recognize them and we have the ability to work with our negative attributes so they do not overtake our parenting style. These negative attributes are an opportunity for our own growth!

We can label our negative attributes as our saboteurs and or positive ones as our sageA fairly recent book published by Shirzad Chamine, Positive Intelligence, outlines a process for people to be able to befriend their saboteurs, become more sage and develop a higher level of mental fitness (PQ). When we are engage in using the Sage perspective in our parenting, our children prosper and thrive. 

Parenting frustration free begins with good mental fitness.

Parenting is not easy, I think we can agree on that. And no two children are alike and each developmental stage of a child is very different. New pleasures and new challenges arrive at each one. It’s these challenging moments when we might find that our mental fitness is not where it could be. When our mental fitness is low we find ourselves “reacting from a saboteur perspective” rather than from the sage.

Building your mental fitness improves not only your mental immunity – it reshapes your responses to everyday life and reduces the frustrations that come with challenging parenting moments, allowing you and your children to thrive.

So where do you stand?

1.  Do you know your top saboteurs? Try this free saboteur assessment.

2. What do you do to keep yourself free from parenting in saboteur mode?

3. Would you like to improve your mental fitness? If the answer is yes. Drop me an email.

Balance on my Friends, Annette

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