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.
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.
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:
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.