the power of reflection

I often get told that I am a very calm person. So often of late, that I thought, perhaps I should write about it. Firstly though I just want one thing clear, I am not always calm. I have totally lost my cool with the boys, I have bad days, I have bad nights and I feel permanently sleep deprived and often wonder if I will ever be able to “sleep-in” without interruption ever again.

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You know those people who you see… they might be friends, acquaintances or strangers, and they look physically impressive? And we take one look at them and think wow I wish I looked like that and we go for a jog once for 2 kilometers and are then perplexed that we haven’t achieved a result? Well that’s because those people ACTUALLY WORK REALLY HARD. I am NOT one of these people but I do think that overtime I have become brain-fit for lack of a better term, and there is always room for improvement.

I don’t believe I learnt the profession of being a Psychologist just from four years of study at University. I have learnt it from studying people, every single day. I am fascinated by human interaction. I am very interested in how people behave, speak and use body language to convey messages. I am also incredibly interested by what people don’t do. I listen and observe. I take all of this information and I reflect. I reflect on my own behaviour, my beliefs, my actions and I adjust, acknowledge, maintain or improve.  Which leads me to my main point. The power of reflection. I use positive affirmations a lot in my practice because I believe that if you don’t have positive beliefs that outweigh the negatives then you need a reminder and a tool. But it’s not just about reading them and hoping “yay I feel great”. It’s deeper than that. It’s about reflecting on their meaning, pausing and applying it to a past belief, current belief or how you want your future to unfold. That’s a bit philosophical and you are probably wondering how that all makes me calm. Well it doesn’t. It’s not just one thing. I suppose I am trying to say that it takes practice, just like it does for people who have achieved physical well-being. And, it’s a way of being that I have come to establish over time. Also, I will never claim to know everything and regularly seek advice from people wiser and more knowledgeable than myself. I am always, always open-minded to new and different ways of doing things even if there is not a lot of evidence to support it. It means that I am not closed. I see possibilities, I give things and people chances and above all I keep learning because it’s learning and reflecting on experiences, that helps us grow. I do all of this to improve my mental well-being and so I suppose, it is how I remain generally, calm.

 

Finding quiet time when you feel like a walking jungle

OK, firstly the title explained. I often feel like I have to carry so many things when I leave the house, food, water bottles, wipes, nappy, hats, sunscreen, wallet, phone, keys, a plethora of toys, softies, shoes (as some little people don’t like to leave the house with them on). In fact, slight tangent here. Pre-mum, I judged. Yes, believe it. I would look at mums and think, put some shoes on that child the floor must be filthy. I am now that mum, with shoeless children, because as we know sometimes it truly isn’t worth creating a tornado when instead you can have a shoeless, calm blue ocean. Anyway so back to carrying Noah’s Ark plus Kitchen sink on exit of the house with either one or two children being held, hence the reference to feeling like a jungle with monkeys (I mean children), swinging off you. No wonder I have a permanently sore neck and left hip, just saying.

HappinessSo, in case you are like me and have zero opportunity to take 6 months off life and sit on the side of a mountain, to contemplate, meditate and take in the goodness and greatness of the world – because you have 4 people (sorry 5, forgot my actual self) to look after on a 24/7 basis, of course for me that is two boys, husband and dog….then, this is the book for you!

Last year my focus, when I remembered to practice it, was on feeling grateful. I have shared this with a few close friends and I do believe it is possibly one of the most important skills to attempt to acquire in life, well so I have read 🙂

This year, I am also taking this through with me but am also attempting to take those mindful moments and am using it in my psychological practice as well as day-to-day, for myself and my children. Basically because since becoming a mother I have seen the really not cool side of myself, and I really, really don’t like it. I realised recently that in the past year my stress had built up because I either felt I had no time, or simply I was unable to make time, to take 10 minutes often and quiet the mind. Its hard dammit! when you have little people hanging off you like you are a walking jungle and they are the monkeys, chores, and food prep, nap times (or lack of naps, enter sleep deprivation), school, work, blah blah..the list goes on. Life isn’t getting slower. It feels as though time is going faster and the things we do makes us busy, busy, busy. And in our heavily technological lives it is so important, more than ever, to take a breather and literally stop, and smell the roses.

So here it is. I haven’t finished it but if you are looking for something to help with finding your “inner-zen”, it’s definitely worth a read and for a mere $10 (the cost of two take away coffees).

Go out and get yourself a copy.

Happy mum, happy kids – 6 tips to get through the day!

I was talking to a mum at pre kindy drop off this morning and she (didn’t realise it) but embarked on a huge information dump on the impact of sleep deprivation on her little family, not getting enough “me” time, trying to “train” her son with a grow clock to sleep longer in the morning etc etc. I was nodding. I totally got it. You are all nodding. You totally get it. I tried to alleviate some of her concerns by merely acknowledging how she felt. We have all been there. I also gave her some small but hopefully meaningful tips on how I was trying to cope as a mum, which I thought I would share here with you.

Happy mum, happy kids – now I don’t mean walking around with a ridiculous grin on your face all day. No one feels THAT great all the time. Plus, this is totally unrealistic. But, if you are feeling generally good within yourself this positive energy flows onto your kids. It also helps you to cope better with the small things that on not so great days might otherwise send you into a spin where you snap at your kids and the day spirals out of control.

But how do we achieve this? Who has the time to feel great?

Here are 6 things that I have found helpful:

  1. Be KIND to yourself – it is critical to your general well being as a mother to prioritise break time – even if it’s 10 minutes. I have always been of the opinion that “the washing can wait’. Basically my rule of thumb is if you need a coffee or a tea or a glass of water and to read one chapter of a book or literally sit outside and just “be” with the universe while you don’t have someone demanding food or hanging off your leg, then the list of chores can wait. The washing isn’t going to look after your kids for the rest of the day. You are. Sometimes (actually quite often) you can’t schedule this break time, so you have to go with the moment and take the moment of peace when you can.
  2. ACCEPT the things you cannot change. The biggest one for me is the early rising. After four years of early wake ups (at its worst, 4am but usually in the 5am somewhere) I still personally struggle with this as I have never been an early riser (by choice). I am sorry to be the bearer of bad news but if your little ones are up at the crack of dawn or before this it is not going to miraculously change tomorrow. When you hear that voice from their bedroom cry out for you and you roll over and look at the clock and see a time starting with a 5 (and you want to cry), just remember, your kids have probably had a solid 10 hours at least and they are happy and ready for their day!
  3. Be CONSISTENT with your messages – little people respond very well to routines, in fact its quite important for their development. It gives them a sense of safety and security when they know what to expect. I find the night time routine the most important for our day as it achieves two very important things. The kids are in bed at a time developmentally appropriate for their age (under four should be before 7pm) and you and your husband/ partner get quality time together that is often rare when you have little children.
  4. Go for a WALK – I haven’t said exercise here because I think sometimes we look at that word and think “urgh, WHEN am I going to get the time to do that!”. I also think that we tend to place too much emphasis on the length of time to exercise rather than just doing something. Walking around the block helps to clear your head. Preferably this is done on your own but if not, load up the pram with food and water and take the kids. You will all benefit.
  5. CONNECT with nature – I know it sounds totally hippie of me but the benefits of being outside, breathing the fresh air and taking in the scenery is not only great for you, it’s excellent for your kids as well. If you can feel the household getting difficult ie everyone is cranky and world war three is about to break out –  pack a bag, pack a snack box and GET OUT of the house. Go for a drive and play at the beach, the river or a park.
  6. Take your TIME – we often feel incredibly rushed as mothers to get things done. The list is endless. There is always something to do. But, when you know you don’t have to be somewhere by X time just Try, TRY, to take your time. And by this I mean, allowing you kids to dawdle without rushing them out of the house, taking the time to pack your bag even if it means it takes an hour to get out of the house, not wrapping up an activity that your kids are enjoying because you have a pressing agenda to do something else. Walking slower. Slowing down takes considerable conscious effort so it takes some practice to be aware that you need to slow down and be in the moment.

I hope you find this list useful. We can’t achieve all of these things, all of the time but certainly I have noticed that even the smallest of changes can have huge positive impacts.

🙂

Dear Mums, you are doing a great job

To the just newborn mums. You are amazing. You just delivered the most precious gift on earth. You don’t have a magical book to tell you what to do, you just do it. You fumble with almost everything, you navigate through the first days of feeding, you feel like you have no idea what you are doing but you do it. You cry, you laugh and you pray you will get through it. And you do. You are doing a great job. To the first time mum. You are amazing. You are doing everything for the first time. You try things and you get it right. You try things and they don’t work. But, it’s OK. You sing nursery rhymes that are drawn on from the deep recesses of your brain, that you forgot were there but somehow appear when you need them the most. You make up your own songs when you are desperate. You rock, you sway. You suddenly take the long way home, because your babe is sleeping. You don’t sleep. But, you keep on going. You take an hour to leave the house and you carry more than one bag. You forget. You have baby spew on your top but you don’t know that until you are already at the shops. Your washing has doubled, you haven’t vacuumed and you have forgotten the iron exists. But it’s OK. You are doing great job. To the second time mums. You are amazing. You have just delivered another precious gift to the planet, and, to your family. You enjoy moments that you missed the first time in your sleep deprived haze. But, you are busy. You are incredibly busy, raising your little family. And, just because you have done it before, doesn’t mean you know everything. You fumble, you sing nursery rhymes, you sway, you rock. You run to toilets, one child hanging off each arm. You have food on your clothes. Your washing is endless. You haven’t mopped. It’s toast for dinner. But, it’s OK. It’s really OK and you are doing a great job.

Dear Mums, you are all doing a great job.

the seasons – a little poem

When you spend a lot of time at home you become very aware of your surroundings. Well, I do. I like to marvel at how quickly the year passes by the state of a tree in our front yard which, is affectionately known, as fluffy tree. This particular tree is deciduous and so it is my marker for the seasons changing.

I know when it’s spring

the flowers come out

the birds sing

and life begins.

When it’s summer the sunshine warms your heart

the water cools your skin

and everybody plays until it’s late and time to come in.

When Autumn starts, the leaves change colour and fall from the trees.

It starts to get cool.

In Winter, it’s cold and you get all rugged up from head to toe.

It’s nice to stay inside all warm and cosy and

when the rain stops, we play outside in the puddles

then come inside for hot chocolate, a change of clothes and warm cuddles.

I know when it’s spring

the flowers come out

the birds sing

and life begins,

again.

Speaking of change I would like to share a little quote with you. Every year I like to buy a diary because no matter how hard I try I much prefer things to be written down with pen and paper than using my phone as a diary and for reminders. It just doesn’t work for me. And besides, part of the fun is to source just the right diary with nice pictures and quotes. This was my favourite quote from my 2014 diary (no author mentioned). When I have time I would like to find a picture of a sailing boat, print the quote underneath it and hang it above the entry door to our home. I think it is a nice little reminder as you leave the house…….

“You cannot change the wind, but you can adjust your sails”.