Archive | July, 2011

Release your stress – Part 3

18 Jul

Written by Kirri White.  Follow me on twitter or facebook.

You can also contact me by email –  kirri@happymumsathome.com

Relaxing.  A word that evokes tangy cocktails with dainty umbrellas, lay-back lounge chairs and dusky-burnt sunsets as a backdrop.

Do you see that too? Right now?  Yeah, you do.

That’s because for so many of us, the idea of relaxing is something to be saved for dream-time and vacations. The one we were planning on taking the last two years and have been saving for the past three.

Life gets in the way.  We are so busy, busy, busy, and then you add children to the mix and that wonderous visualization becomes an even more distant reality..

Who has time to relax? Relaxation is equated with laziness in a lot of households.

We have mouths to feed, mortgages to pay, homes to beautify and some very important creative projects with looming deadlines don’t cha know?

I don’t have time.

The one sentence used by men and women of all ages and backgrounds but so often espoused by mummies.

Why is that?

Because no one can do our job better than we do. No one is needed as much as we are by our children and our partners and husbands.  Lives would fall apart without us at the steering wheel and therefore we must keep moving and keep being everything to everyone.

Until, the time comes when we find ourselves inhaling a pack of Tim Tams every second night, opening a bottle of wine at 3.30pm (and finishing by 6pm) or walking around with a mammoth ball of anxiety clutched to our chests.

Do we have a people-pleaser in da house?

That’s what women are socialised to be from a very young age.  We become adept at intuiting what people want and need. We aim to keep others as comfortable and content as possible, even if it is to our personal detriment, because we think it gives us more value as human beings.

It’s possible to keep going like this for years, if you want to.  But soon enough, body and mind have a way of collaborating to let you know that there is a price to pay.

The ball of stress that is now the size of an elephant following you around every room and obscuring your happiness.

When a farmer grows a crop for many years on the one field, the crop will decline in quality each year. The farmer must rest the field and replenish the soil periodically. Similarly, relaxation is a way of nurturing and replenishing our minds and bodies so that we can continue to grow and flourish. (Dr Cate Howell and Dr Michele Murphy)

The message is clear.

If you want to continue taking good care of others, you need to take care of yourself.

Every day brings some kind of stress to our lives.  Sometimes the stress moves us forward and other times it wears us down.

Left unchecked, stress can severely impede your abilities to lead a happy healthy life.  It’s therefore, imperative that you have a strategy to deal with stress.

In this three-part series I discussed the use of journalling, list-making and scheduling to avoid overwhelm, mindful thinking, and the importance of regular relaxation.  These three steps can be used as a powerful strategy to manage and prevent stress.

You will no doubt know other tactics that are effective for reducing negative stress.  That’s great!  Do what works for you.

But the most important thing is to make yourself a priority.  Make relaxation an everyday priority.

We all know how to relax really don’t we?

I could give you a list of top relaxation practices that are guaranteed to increase stress resistance and promote dreamy contentment and a gooey-body feeling, but you already have your own.

You just have to start practicing them.   Regularly.

Don’t cha?

~Kirri

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Three and a half is a magic number

13 Jul

Last week a blogging buddy of mine, Grace -fellow mumma of twins and person I have grown to admire, had a bad week.  Make that a sleep deprived with sick, whiny 17-month old twins, at-the-end-of her freakin’-tether kind of week!

Today, they are all doing a whole lot better (thanks for asking) but the anxiety and overwhelm Grace reported feeling brought a lot of ‘raw’ back to my present. I couldn’t help but reflect on how different my life is now that my twins and eldest daughter are all over three and a half years old.

Three and a half is my magic number.

That’s when my girls started to ‘play’ by themselves for more than five minutes without insisting that I remain right next to them. That’s when they had learnt to master the art of self-feeding to the point where the kitchen no longer required an industrial hose and vacuum cleaner to clean up afterwards.

By three and a half, my girls demonstrated empathy and a deeper understanding of human behaviour:

when I hit my sister on the head with the block, her screaming seems to suggest pain and anger, so maybe I will just do it once instead of over and over just to test the validity of my cause and effect experiments.  Plus I can see that mummy is watching and has that ‘no good can come of this’ look on her face.

The twin factor finally becomes a bonus instead of a hindrance – instant playmate, cheer-leader and partner in crime. They may
be more interested in gaining each other’s approval than their parents, but the delights of watching twins interact so closely and intuitively are huge!

Your over-threes will still get sick (especially if they attend some form of pre-school), but lengthy prior experience now ensures you are more adept at dealing.  You will still feel concerned but not so worried that you sleep fitfully on the floor by their cot all night.

For those of you who are struggling through an existence of sleep deprivation, small babies or the extra challenges afforded by twins and multiple kidlets….Hang in there!

Life does get easier or at the very least, it evolves to find you in a more relaxed and familiar space.

A few extra suggestions:

– Join a mothers group as early as possible and get involved.  It’s such an affirming experience to be able to share your parenting journey with a bunch of big and little people going through similar challenges and milestones at exactly the same time.

– Eat healthy and get fit. Your body sucks up extra nutrients and vitamins when stressed and given that sleep deprivation is going to be your long time companion, you will benefit so much from daily exercise and healthy meals.  Looking after yourself ensures you have more energy reserves for those times when mummyhood gets really ugly.

– If you are isolated from close friends and family, join an online parenting community, keep a journal or start a blog.  Record your experiences and share them. You can always garner support and advice when you need it from an online group, and if you blog, you will have a valuable record of your early parenting days to later share with your children.

– Ensure you have a family doctor you like and feel comfortable with. Preferably someone who is also a parent and with whom you can build a history with.  This is particularly important if you are at risk of depression and/or anxiety.

– Take some time out every day just for you.  So many mums wait until they are at breaking point before realizing that they are at breaking point!  Even if it’s a walk around the block, a coffee date sans kids or lounging in bed with a good book and pot of green tea. Make a concerted effort to relax regularly.

And, in the back of your mind, when you think that you really can’t take another day…

Repeat the mantra:

Three and a half is a magic number

~Kirri

Release your stress – Part 2

8 Jul

Written by Kirri White. Follow me on twitter or facebook.

You can also contact me by email – kirri@happymumsathome.com

Interesting fact…I am writing this around 3am in the morning after less than four hours sleep because I have been stressing over a few business matters that are not currently panning out the way I anticipated.  A barrage of ugly, unwanted thoughts looping on instant replay.

You should have finished that last week. You’re an idiot.

Why didn’t you just talk to him about that idea? The opportunity was right in front of you and you totally blew it.

You forgot to give her some money for the play-date…She would have been embarrassed. Ugh, you’re such a crap mum sometimes!

No wonder you can’t sleep…you had coffee and chocolate for breakfast, then green tea and cake tonight….you know that it still has caffeine in it right?…Serves you right. You’re such a pig too.

Welcome to five seconds in my night-time mind!

THIS is one of the reasons I choose to cover the topics that I do. I sometimes have challenges managing my own stress.

I worry, experience tension headaches and on occasion am the princess of nasty self-talk.

I’m not always living the life I want to be living, and some of the things I write are for my own benefit, as much as yours.

Reorganise your mind

One of the first things I do when my brain is on overload is to make a list.

So often, the mind becomes overwhelmed by thoughts of all the things that need to be accomplished. Writing them all down really helps to clear those thoughts, feel assured that you won’t forget something important and enable your mind to relax.

Once you have written everything that is weighing your mind down, categorise tasks into two lists: short-term (things that require action now) and long-term (things that need to be done soon but not immediately), then schedule things into your diary.

If you don’t schedule it, chances are, it won’t get done.

I prefer to schedule by the week – you might be a day-to-day person. Do what suits you and don’t overload yourself with actions.  Also, try to complete one big project before moving on to another – its far more gratifying and helps relieve the possible of burden of having five things on the go at the same time.

Handy hint: Keeping a diary or extra notebook and pen by your bedside is great for times when your mind feels bogged down with details or when you have a flash of inspiration. If possible, I would like someone to please invent a waterproof notebook for my shower!

Mindfulness

There are a number of psychological techniques and therapies recommended to relieve stress.

I’m going to focus on just one – Mindfulness, simply because I believe it is one of the most effective.

So what is mindfulness and how can it help reduce negative self-talk and stress?

Mindfulness is paying purposeful attention to the present moment. It is not just an awareness of what you are doing and thinking but being completely attentive to the finer experiential details without judgement.

The way your car handles a bend in the road, the physical sensation of sitting in the driver’s seat and the placement of your hands on the steering wheel….This is mindful driving (as long as you are also paying attention to the road!).

The idea is, that left to wander, the mind indulges in many thoughts and emotions which are often negative. These thoughts are then reinforced by our thinking of them, which leads to more stress and suffering.

Mindfulness is a powerful tool for stress release because it directs awareness away from your negative thoughts and towards an “anchor” – something that brings your awareness back to the present.  It creates a space between your anxious thoughts and feelings and this can be enough to halt spiraling into stress and help promote a peaceful mind.

How can I increase mindfulness in my life?

Sometimes thoughts are hard to control or change so we need to focus on action instead

~Dr. Cate Howell and Dr. Michele Murphy

Practicing the art of mindfulness can be done almost anytime and anywhere.  Whether you are doing the dishes or walking to the mailbox – focus on the activity, engage the senses and be fully present.

Mindful breathing is equally important and something that can be done alone or even with kids.

Yup, we all like to get a little bit Zen together – not such a silly, hippieish thing if you consider that so many of us breathe fast and shallow (especially when stressed).

We all sit cross-legged on the floor with our best ‘ballerina’ posture and inhale/exhale slowly and powerfully.  Sometimes it turns into a giggle-fest but just doing this 3-5 times a day, whether together or sitting in front of the lap top is a guaranteed mini-break and stress-deterrent.

It’s also the most basic form of meditation and I feel sure that it will benefit my girls in the years ahead.

 So today I challenge you to get some of those negative thoughts out on paper, organise your to-do lists and practice living a more mindful life.

Don’t forget to come back next week for the final post of my ‘Release your stress” series.    I will be focusing on the importance of relaxation, specifically targeted to those parents who fail to make themselves a priority in their own lives.

Have a Happy day and please share your experiences and thoughts in the comments section below.  We can all learn from one another and you will make me giddy with excitement!

~Kirri

Why you should never compare yourself to anyone (especially your husband!)

2 Jul

Some of you already know that in early September, I am competing in the Bridge to Brisbane fun run this year. I am NOT a runner. I love to dance, zumba, box and pump it.  Running, not so much.

However, I enjoy challenging my personal fitness goals in an effort to stay motivated and shake things up.  Running, even 5 or 10km, is that challenge.

I have been training over the past month or so and steadily increasing my P.B (that’s ‘Personal Best’ for you non-running folk).

What you may not know is that hubby is also competing, but until yesterday, had not run anywhere other than from the car to the beer store.

So…given it was his first time, I hoped expected him to suffer and thought I would need to take it easy on him.

So not the case. At all.

He killed it out there! His basket-baller limbs propelled him forward effortlessly while I ran alongside like the proverbial energizer bunny on speed. I kept pace but only just, and by the end of our run, I was beet-faced and breathing ragged.

He looked like he was just warming up. (He sucks, right?)

At that moment, standing by his side – I felt quite disheartened and a little aggravated.

It didn’t matter to me that he plays soccer and is younger with a 6ft.1” stride compared to my (almost) 5.6”

I had worked hard to be able to run that far and there he was blitzing it on his first go.

It was a slapping reminder why it is never good to compare yourself to others.

Caz Makepeace from Mojito Mother recently did an in-depth podcast on the subject.  She surmises that we should be comparing our achievements to our own personal goals  rather than the successes of other people.

  • Comparisons only shed light on what is lacking in your life.
  • Comparing your own achievements to others can make you feel unhappy, less than, or resentful.
  • Every time you do it, you are automatically highlighting your shortcomings

In summary –

No matter what you do or how long you learn or master a new skill – there is always going to be someone who can do it better.  Furthermore, you are at risk of comparing your whole worth with their one superior skill-set.

No good can come of this!

Instead of comparing yourself to others, focus on yourself

  • Look at your own personal strengths and values. Appreciate them.
  • Increase your own game.  Compare yourself to yourself.
  • Love yourself with all your imperfections.

As long as you are doing your best – your best is good enough. What more can you do?

*Finally, if all else fails…run twice as hard and twice as often and put itching powder in your opponents shoes in the day of the race.

~Kirri

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