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How can I practice mindfulness during my Au Pair stay?

by AliceReading time: 5 min.
How to practice mindfulness during your Au Pair stay
Mindfulness is a huge topic and even though the resources are endless, it might be difficult to find the right practices for yourself. Nowadays, I wish I had learned about this topic earlier to help me cope with anxiety and stress during my Au Pair stay abroad or during my university studies. Since I could experience the benefits of mindfulness myself I am very happy to share them now with AuPair.com’s community. Read the article below to find some inspiration you can use in your daily life to become a more mindful Au Pair!

Mindfulness - the term and its origin

Mindfulness signifies maintaining an awareness of our thoughts, feelings, physical sensations, and the environment in which we are living. In addition, it is an approach to practicing acceptance towards our own feelings and thoughts without judging them. 
 
Mindfulness has been practiced by humans for centuries all over the world. The term evolved from the Buddhist word “Sati” which describes the “moment to moment awareness of current events”. Buddhism was founded by the Indian Siddhārtha Gautama, most commonly known as Buddha, in the 5th century BC. 
 
In 1979, Jon Kabat-Zinn established the term in the USA, by implementing a “Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction,” or MBSR program into his therapy at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. He combined scientific as well as traditional Buddhist approaches to improve his patients’ mental health. 
 
Nowadays, mindfulness and the conversation about mental health continue to grow, and the list of books, movies, and apps about the topic is limitless.

The benefits of practicing mindfulness for Au Pairs

Practicing mindfulness can have numerous benefits for your overall well-being and mental health. These are some of the key benefits of becoming a mindful Au Pair:
 
1. Stress reduction: Mindfulness helps to reduce stress by allowing you to focus on the present moment and accept it without judgment. It can help break the negative thinking and rumination cycle, promoting a greater sense of calm and relaxation. You can benefit from this ability, for example, in moments when you are feeling stressed and overwhelmed with the amount of tasks in your daily life as an Au Pair
 
2. Improved mental clarity and focus: Regular mindfulness practice can enhance attention and concentration abilities. By training the mind to stay focused on the present moment, mindfulness helps reduce distractions and enhances cognitive performance. This is very helpful when it comes to childcare because the job requires high focusing to ensure the children’s safety and that they feel seen.
 
3. Emotional regulation: Mindfulness cultivates awareness of one's thoughts and emotions, allowing you to observe them without immediately reacting. This awareness provides an opportunity to respond to emotions in a more skillful and measured way, fostering emotional resilience and regulation. If, for example, your Host Children are in a difficult mood and you feel triggered by it, this skill allows you to stay calm and reflect on your own emotions first.
 
It's worth noting that the benefits of mindfulness can vary from person to person, and regular and consistent practice is necessary to experience these benefits.

How to practice mindfulness

I personally have found some practices that have helped me to create mindfulness and to have a reflective perspective on life. Maybe they might be an inspiration for you as an addition to your existing practices or they might serve you as a motivation to start your journey as a mindful Au Pair. 

Journaling

Journaling about my daily life, my feelings, and my inner world has given me the opportunity to connect with myself in a deeper way and to learn more about my needs and boundaries. By setting aside a few minutes each day I can write down my thoughts and observations without judgment. The best aspect of this method is that you can note down things bothering you that you would never tell anyone. The importance is to give these heavy emotions a voice, release yourself and let them go. If you feel like it, you can even tear up or throw away the piece of paper afterwards, which supports the process of letting go.

Spending time in nature

Taking a walk outside and breathing in the fresh air has a magical effect on one’s mood. I try to focus on the sensation of each step, the movement of my body, and the sounds and sights around me. In addition, I love walking barefoot in the grass because I feel more connected to nature and more grounded. According to research, people living more in tune with nature are happier and feel that their life is worthwhile. Are you an Au Pair living in the countryside? Then you’re extremely lucky since you are probably surrounded by parks and fields. However, if your Host Family lives in a big city you can certainly find some parks close to you.

Meditation

Meditation and breathing exercises, especially when done in the morning or in the evening, can be very beneficial for your mindful routine. I usually listen to guided meditations on topics like loving-kindness, body scans, reducing stress and anxiety, visualizations, etc. There are many apps available that provide guided meditations and exercises, e.g. Headspace, Calm, and Insight Timer. When meditating as an Au Pair in the morning, you can start the day with more motivation and balance and set a positive intention. In the evenings, after a long and stressful time with the Host Kids or hours of studying in the language course, there is nothing better than meditating and calming your mind and body.

Engaging in activities that help you relax, such as yoga or Tai Chi

I personally love practicing yoga, because it helps me connect to my body and breath and it is even a great physical exercise. Physical benefits range from increased flexibility and increased muscle strength to weight reduction. Tai Chi is a Chinese martial art that combines deep breathing, flowing movements, and meditation. Other practices that can help you relax are Pilates, Qigong or even dancing. Basically, any physical activity is great for tuning into your body and reducing tension. Check out the sports centers close to your Host Family’s home. They surely offer an activity you would like to try!

Practicing gratitude

Take time to appreciate the little things in life, such as a beautiful sunset or a delicious meal. Keeping a gratitude journal and writing down 3 aspects you are grateful for every day can be enormously helpful. A study by psychologist Alex Wood in the Journal of Research in Personality proved that feeling grateful blocks negative emotions. Since you cannot feel grateful and have negative emotions at the same time, gratefulness is the ultimate tool to feel better, be more focused, have greater confidence, and greater empathy for others. Why don't you start by being grateful for the opportunity of being an Au Pair in a beautiful country and experiencing another culture first hand?

Taking breaks from technology and social media

Modern technology is great but only up to a certain limit. From time to time it can be very beneficial to take a break from technology and especially social media. It helps you reduce distractions and improves your focus, which is crucial when working as an Au Pair and minding children. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association has shown that young adults who use social media more than three hours a day are more at risk for mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety, and eating disorders. To start reducing your social media use, you could uninstall apps for a period of time or use the timer function on your smartphone to limit the time you spend on certain apps. In addition, instead of binge-watching series on Netflix, you could, for example, take up a new hobby.

In summary, remember that mindfulness is a skill that develops with practice, so be patient and compassionate with yourself! Start with short sessions and gradually increase the duration as you feel more comfortable. Consistency is key, so try to integrate mindfulness into your daily routine. I hope this article inspires and helps you to create a more mindful lifestyle and become a mindful Au Pair!
 
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