Wow. What an intense week it has been!
We are all busy juggling our balls and spinning our plates like something in a crazy circus! Many of us are trying to manage, work, children (and associated pressure for 'home learning') extra pressures like study, housework, ill relatives etc etc.
The list goes ON. The pressure mounts, our stress levels rise, our capacity to cope shrinks. Our mental health suffers and this means that our physical health will too (as the stress response means that our immune system is weakened). Do you relate to this?
The truth is, we don't know how long this will go on for. The uncertainty makes everything so much worse. Here is one thing that I do know:
If we keep pushing and pushing to get things 'done' with no let up, we will burn-out.
At the moment, most of us don't have a support network. A lot of us adults don't have someone to look out for us and notice the signs. So we need to be aware of this and make time. We need to be more aware of ourselves.
Here are some very basic ways that we can build in moments within the day to support our mental health. Little mini windows of time that we can try and find some headspace:
* Take a shower or bath as a mindful practice, notice your thoughts, let them pass. Try and be aware of the sensations in your body. Try this within the day as a reset. Really enjoy it and savour the moment rather than seeing it as functional.
* Try to take some time off technology- this is especially important as we are all on screens more than usual at the moment. Be intentional about time off the screen!
* Get stuck into a good book, try to fill the time that you would normally mindlessly scroll on social media, with a few pages of your book. For example when the kettle is boiling or while tea is cooking.
* Try to notice your breathing, at regular intervals throughout the day (maybe even set an alarm). If you find your breathing rapid and shallow, see if you can slow it down and bring it deeper into your body (aim for 6 breaths a minute).
* Get out for a walk, even if it is just round the block. Even better if you can do this on your own.
Basically, try to be intentional and check in with yourself, how are you feeling? Do you have the capacity to deal with whatever it is that you are trying to? If not, take 5- 10 mintues to reset yourself.
There are some really useful apps that can help guide you, if you are needing a bit of calm but are not sure what to do. I like Headspace, Calm App and Insight Timer, feel free to add any below that work for you. Even just getting some headphones and listening to music can really help to give you some space.
If you found this helpful, come and join my group , where you can watch the video of me talking this through.
You may also like my training videos (currently on sale) you can find those here:
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It can be easy to rush through the 'jobs' and the things that we 'have' to do and almost race our way to bedtime. I have been guilty of this on many occasions, thinking about how long I have until I can rest!
It is completely understandable, being a parent can be exhausting!
Sometimes though, we look at photos and think "where did that time go, it feels like only yesterday that they were a baby"
I think that many of us have the view that somethings we just have to 'get done' before we can enjoy the 'quality time'.
But what if it is ALL quality time? What if ALL of the moments that we have with our children are times when we can connect with them?
I call these Mini Connections. Ways of connecting with our children in the normal day- to - day messiness of family life.
Perhaps you can think of a time in the day that you dread? Maybe it is a time of friction and tension- for example getting ready to leave the house. What would life be like if that time was enjoyable?
Sounds crazy doesn't it?
I believe that it all lies in our INTENTION. I really believe that ANYTHING (I am using capitals a lot in this post!) can be a moment to connect if we make the intention to do so.
Here are some examples:
* When helping a young child put on their shoes, sing a song and make eye contact with them while you are doing it.
* When making a meal, consider inviting your child to help, take it as an opportunity to just be together with them.
* Walking to school? Take time to notice things and allow them to notice things too.
Sometimes it's fun to break the rules- last night, we went for a walk around the block with the kids in their pjs and wellies at bedtime. They thought it was amazing!
I believe that we have so many moments in the day that can be mundane or magical. Wouldn't life be so much more fun with less mundane and more magic?
Why not join my group and watch this video where I discuss this on replay? https://www.facebook.com/groups/1167282183616939
Last night I did a little mini training in Julia Hankins Well-Being at Home Group all about anger. It is so important that we remember that anger is usually a warning that there is something going on that is much deeper. Anger can be the first thing you see (and react to) but what is lying beneath?
Some other emotions often masked by anger are: disappointment, embarrassment, guilt, shame, rejection, nervous, worried, hurt, insecure.
If you are seeing anger show up- either for yourself or for someone else, look a little deeper. What is really going on?
Tonight, in my group, I chatted about technology use and how to control it rather than it controlling you!
Here are some tips that you might like to try in your family:
1) Have boundaries that all of you stick to. These should be agreed by everyone in the family and if your children are old enough, they might even help to create them. This is a personal thing that will depend upon your family (and we are all different!). Here are some ideas to get you started:
* Technology free after _____ O'Clock.
* When the device is not in use have a 'home' for it rather than having it out habitually.
* Meal times are technology free.
2) Be intentional- be aware of what you are consumning yourself. Do you have any groups or friends that make you feel negative or icky? Unfollow them!
3) Be respectful of each others use. If your child is playing on a game or watching a program, accept that they won't be able to just turn it off with no warning. Have an agreement with them- Either an amount of time left or when the game or programme is finishes.
4) Join their world. If a child is absorbed in a programme or a game, sit with them and be interested in it, they are more likely to transition out of it if they have that connection with you.
5) Take time each day to connect without technology, even if it is just 15 minutes, make it special.
Simplifying life is something that I think that we could all do with a bit of, for our own mental health and that of the children in our lives too.
Here are my top tips-
Say no more often!
We are in the perfect position to consider what things we usually do as part of our everyday life and which of these things we REALLY want to do. It's easy to get into a habit of always doing the same things and, before you know it, we are super busy, rushing from one thing to another. At the moment (thanks to lockdown 2.0) we are being given the gift (although it may not feel like a gift!) of time to reflect. Is there anything that you or your family usually do that you aren't doing at the moment that you are relieved that you don't have to do? If so, it may be time to drop that thing.
Have a 'sort'!
I don't know about you, but I LOVE a good sort! It usually happens when I am struggling with feelings of anxiety- or if there is a full moon! It's also a good thing to encourage children to do and see the benefits of. So that it doesn't become overwhelming, choose just one area to start with. Sort things into a pile of; broken (to be recycled), no longer needed or used (to be gifted to charity) and things that are still loved. When the sorting is complete, notice how much more the children enjoy the space and actually play with the remainder. Side note- you may want to sort the kids things without them being there as they may find it hard to let go- you may also want to keep things for a while just in case something you perceive as not played with much is actually really important to them!
Make the everyday special with little rituals of things that you do. This makes you really appreciate the small things. Some examples from my own home- Friday night pizza and film night (I'm sure many of you do this) silly songs that accompany 'boring' tasks like going up the stairs, brushing the teeth. Having a special time each day where you are just in each others company without tech- give it a name, in our house it's 'calm time'. Special breakfasts at the weekend....
Plan 'nothing time'
Make sure that each week (even each day) you have time where you plan to do nothing at all. Make it a priority, go with the mood of the moment, say yes to whatever crazy plan the kids want to do (within reason). Let go of your 'agenda' and go with the flow of the moment. If you know that this is what this time is for, it's easier to be flexible.
I don't know how it is in other homes, but for us, meals can be a source of stress. Thinking about what to eat can be exhausting! We find it so much easier since we have a basic outline of what we will have. There is nothing special or fancy about it: Monday - pasta of some sort, Tuesday- rice of some sort, Wednesday- some sort of curry or thing in the slow cooker, Thursday- some sort of jacket potato, Friday- pizza, Saturday- something convenient that we can pop in the oven, Sunday - some sort of caserole slow cooker. This outline helps us to have something already in mind and for those weeks when we are in survival mode they can be really basic, but for the weeks when we are firing on all cylinders and feeling creative we can make them more complex.
Be mindful about what you let in.
This one is about news and information, do you automatically hear every news report on the radio? Are you drawn in by 'click bait' articles on facebook or google? What effect do these things have on your mental health? Do they make you increase your to do list or list of worries?
This evening in my group, I talked about a way that we can control our worries and make pro-active choices about where we spend our energy.
The idea of 'Circle of Concern' and 'Circle of Influence' is Stephen Covey's. It is a really useful way of thinking about what we spend our time thinking about.
The circle of concern are the things that we worry about but can't control. These may be things concerning other people, or our future. These things cause us stress.
The things that lie within the circle of influence are matters that bother us, but we can actually take action to improve. Here are some examples:
* Perhaps you worry about your child's reading, you can make a pledge to yourself and them to read with them everyday.
* Maybe you are unhappy about a work situation that involves you, this is something that you could map out some ideas to solve.
I believe that when we are aware of what things lie in our circle of influence and what things lie in the circle of concern, we are better equipped to know how to deal with them.
This evening in my group Well-Being at Home, I talked about out three needs.
This idea comes from McClelland's Human Motivation Theory. The needs described in the theory are; achievement, affiliation and power.
I think that this is really interesting to think about when we are looking at the emotions and behaviour of our children (and even ourselves).
Say, for example, an older child is trying to help a younger child to do something and the younger one hits them. At first glance it can seem like the younger child is being mean when the older one was trying to help. It is likely that the younger child was motivated by the need to achieve- they wanted to be independent and do it themselves!
Or maybe your child is shouting, being rough or giving some attitude after being at school or childcare- exploring deeper, it could be that they have a need for connection with you and don't know how to express this.
Maybe your child is very controlling around food or clothing, it may appear that they are being "fussy" it could also be because they are feeling out of control in other areas of life and are wanting to control the things that they can.
During these very uncertain times, we will all be struggling with these unmet needs: Lockdown rules will impact on how much connection we can have with loved ones, changes in rules make us feel out of control- we feel we have no power! We may also find it hard to achieve things that we want to because of the situation that we are in.
Now is a good time to reflect on our own needs and those of our children. What is behind the behaviour or feeling? Is it a need for power? Connection? Achievement? Can you meet that need in some way?
It has been, again, another intense week in our home and indeed across the world. The news is filled with such serious issues right now and it is very easy to feel overwhelmed.
It is important to be informed, listen, learn and grow.
It is also important to stay connected with yourself, your family and the moment that you are in. Try to be mindful about how much you are 'letting in' and how it is affecting you.
I myself, have found myself drawn into social media more recently. Some of this is healthy and helpful; for example reading up on what I- as a privaleged white person- can do to educate myself and my family. But some of what I have allowed myself to do isn't healthy or helpful for anyone; reading the comments on posts that I know will enrage me, getting annoyed about other people's opinions (even when I don't know that person!). This isn't healthy. Reading all the comments simply to get annoyed by them doesn't help anyone and it negatively impacts on my ability to be present. I wonder if you can relate to this, and if you can, perhaps you might want to decide on some boundaries around social media.
I have created some for myself and mine are;
* Only go on social media at times decided by myself in advance.
* Read posts that are important to read but avoid the comments!
* Notice my feelings after being on social media, allow myself time to process these.
* Unfollow any pages/ people that make me feel more negative than positive.
* Make an effort to follow pages that are positive/ interesting.
I think that social media is definitely a powerful tool, but it can also be the source of a low mood or irritated feeling- and it can suck up time!
This week, I will be trying to reduce the amount of time that I am on it... wish me luck, I am a complete facebook addict!
Happy bank holiday to you - although to us everyday has merged into one and it doesn't make any difference in our house that it is a bank holiday! This week would have been half term for us, I thought I'd still send some activities though, as I know that some of you are finding the ideas useful to connect with your children. We ALWAYS needs connection, even if it's a holiday!
Today I want to chat / write about anger. I know this is something that we have seen more of in our house (and not just the kids!) I've also had chats with friends experiencing the same. I just wanted to reassure you that it is normal and I wanted to share an image that I find really helpful to understand anger a bit more. It is taken from The Gottman Institute Dr John and Dr Julie Gottman are clinical psychologists and have dedicated their life's work to relationship health research.
If you have a quick look at the other emotions that can surface as anger, you can see so many underlying emotions that are being caused by the current situation; scared, overwhelmed, grief, trapped, nervous, anger, trauma, anxious, unsure, disappointed... goodness, I could go on all day. My point is that what we are experiencing, is causing all sorts of emotions to bubble under the surface and this can make us react quicker and perhaps more aggressively than normal.
You may be able to explain this to your children (if they are old enough) too. They may find it helpful to understand their outbursts which can sometimes make them scared. For example, today, I was walking while my eldest rode her bike. As she tried to turn it, the handle bars spun quickly and she was launched forwards. She wasn't hurt but she jumped off it an kicked the bike and shouted "Stupid bike, I almost fell on some glass!" I could have (and probably sometimes in other similar situations have done) told her off for kicking her bike and told her to calm down. Luckily, I caught myself quickly enough to realise that she was acting out of fear, the situation had scared her and her way of responding was with anger. I explained to her why she had kicked the bike and that although she was angry, she was acting out of fear. We talked about the anger iceberg (I've shown her the image before) and she could understand her own behaviour. Instead of the situation escalating (as it has many times before and probably many more to come! No one ever said parenting was easy!) it was actually a really lovely opportunity for connecting. We chatted about times when I've been scared and have acted angrily and how human it is.
I guess what I'm trying to say is, try to find the reason behind the anger. They may not know themselves, you may need to do a bit of detective work, perhaps what they say when they are angry will give you a clue. Also, try to validate their feelings, (I wrote about this a few weeks ago, if you didn't catch it, you can read it here) For example: "Ah that's frustrating, you flipped off your bike, that must have been scary. Sometimes when we are scared, it can make us angry, I remember a time when I was scared about ..... and it made me ....." When we feel seen and understood and loved we find it a lot easier to calm down.
So, here are my top tips for dealing with anger:
This week in the Well Being at Home Group, I'll be focusing on ideas to support dealing with anger. If you'd like to join the lovely friendly community and free group, please go here!
Hope you have a wonderfully calm week! Stay safe!
I don't know about you, but I'm starting to feel the stresses of the situation physically now. I can feel a big knot of tension in my left shoulder and I've had two migraines recently... my body telling me that something is up! If I'm honest, I have spent too much time hunched over a computer and not enough time moving my body - I imagine for those of you trying to juggle working - this is the same for you too.
There is a greater intensity to work at the moment, I feel like I HAVE to make the most of the time that I have working while the children are happily occupied, because I know that at any minute- the kids could burst in the room and I would need to stop. Every. Minute. Counts. But holding my breath and typing like a crazy person takes it's toll on the body! So it was timely then to chat with Nichola on Tuesday!
Nichola Day is a yoga teacher and we talked about how the body stores stress and how yoga can help to release that stress, if you'd like to see that chat, please go here.
If you like yoga and feel like your body needs some, why not check out what Nichola offers here nicholaday.co.uk if you sign up to her newsletter, you can receive a wonderful free neck and shoulder sequence.
Here are Nichola's top tips for reducing stress. I have definitely being ignoring the first two this week! Even though I know this is what I need!
I'm excited that this weekend I have launched two online courses that you can do in your own time.
If you'd like to learn some strategies for practising yoga and mindfulness at home with your child, why not check them out? They are currently just £27 while schools are closed (after that, they will be £45) Visit my online school (fancy!) here
In my blog, I reflect honestly about my experiences of trying to enhance the well-being of my own children.