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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

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

Release your stress – Part 1

29 Jun

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

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

Stress is common.

With nothing but bad news everywhere you turn (health scares, the economy, widespread natural disasters), people are smothering under a blanket of stress.

What about parenthood?  Stressful much?  Just a teeny bit?

Yeah. That’s what I thought.

When I’m working kid-free style, I can take a solo coffee break, focus on a task for more than twenty consecutive minutes and generally assume a certain level of quiet. Phone calls go uninterrupted and I even get to venture to the bathroom…alone.

Yay! Going to the bathroom with no little person trying to join me, talking though and/or banging on the door because I am a sudden reminder that they also need to go….desperately!

(Insider tip: It’s fast becoming a contractual condition for all mummies who work at home!)

Mummyhood may be splattered with love and the odd moment of unparalleled joy but the constant demands and oftentimes chaos can easily culminate in persistent stress.

This is why I’ve decided to do a series of posts on minimising and releasing stress.

Over the next few weeks, I will share some stress-busting knowledge and strategies aimed at assisting mums.

I will also be putting this knowledge into practice so you can follow my path while simultaneously carving your own.

It will be like going on a super funsky ski trip together, only not so cold and with an instructor who only takes the jumps they know won’t land you in a pile of face-freeze!

I’m not going to delve into the effects of chronic, long-term stress, such as anxiety and depression.  That would be a book.

Identifying sources of stress in your life, prevention and stress management is where it’s at for me.

My focus, as always is on getting the most out of our lives, right here and now, while raising a happy family.

What is stress?

Stress is the emotional and physical strain caused by our response to pressure.

Stress can sometimes be a friend, spurring you into action and helping you function well.  Orchestrating the school run five days a week, planning birthday parties, family holidays, or meeting work deadlines, are everyday examples.

Without some stress, we may just be prone to fulfilling that old cliché of sitting on the couch, eating bon bons and watching Oprah re-runs all day.

Recognising different types of stress

Several years ago my now-hubby (then boyfriend of sorts), decided to follow me back to Australia from South Korea.

I vividly recall how my body was fizzing with excitement when I met him at Sydney airport.I was sweating a whole lot more than I would have liked….at a time when I was hoping to look and smell my best.  My heart rate was elevated, mouth-dry, cheeks flushed (BONUS) and I was incredibly ‘antsy’, pacing back and forth, both hands flailing at my sides.

Looking stupid AND experiencing positive stress? Check.

A hard-core Zumba class, the elation of watching your child perform in their first dance recital, or the creation of a new project, are all examples of good stress.

It’s all relative though isn’t it?  What feels good to me, may not feel good to you.

Individual personalities dictate how events are perceived and physiologically experienced as good or bad stress.

For me, job interviews have always been a source of negative stress and intense nervousness, even when I know I am going to perform well.  The same scenario can evoke feelings of positive stress and excitement for other freaks individuals.

What’s your personal definition and experience of negative stress?

I feel stressed when I believe I am not able to cope with all the demands on me…from my children all wanting my attention at the same time, the unreasonably high expectations I place on myself in both a professional and personal capacity.  I get to a point of overload where I just wish everyone would leave me alone and a feeling that my head is about to erupt!

Think about your personal definition of stress. What does stress mean to you?

How does it affect your thought patterns, relationships, parenting, and the way you feel within your body?

TAKE A FEW MINUTES TO REFLECT AND RECORD YOUR THOUGHTS.

That’s it for today guys.

If you want to take it a step further, keep a ‘stress’ diary over the next week or so and recording the following:

  • Sources of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ stress in your life right now
  • Personal observations ie, how you are currently managing stress
  • Things that you have found helpful or ineffective for managing your stress

Alternatively, you can record your thoughts, experiences, or any questions you might have in the comments section.

I love feedback!

~Kirri

How being a mum can lead to highly successful habits

24 May

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

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

A couple of weeks ago, I had an Oprah-esque ‘Aha’ moment while watching Australia’s Masterchef.  One of the top 24 contestants, Kate – occupation ‘mum,’ was taking part in a team challenge which involved being woken (after two hours sleep) to bake artisan-worthy bread for eight hours straight.

A lot of the contestants emerged bleary-eyed and cranky, but not this Mumma!  She cheerily narrated that parenthood had more than prepared her for this type of challenge:

when you are a mum, you get used to having to work hard,
whether you like it or not, whether you feel like it or not.

Damn straight, I thought. This woman’s going to bake some killer bread!

Becoming a mum is fraught with experiences that can lead you to a whole new level of learning. From the very first moment you gingerly claim your newborn …your life is no longer yours.  You are officially ‘owned’, required to be on call 24 /7 and have orders communicated to you in a cacophonous language not yet fully understood by either parties.

Days and nights blend into the same monochrome and for many new parents, the outside world can seem like an alternate universe.

I know that some mums allegedly give birth to “sleepers” *dislike* but for most of us, becoming a parent is an exhausting exercise comparable to the effects of sleep deprivation-torture-tactics used in war-fare.

And no, you don’t get to call in sick….ever.

I have had to lay, vomit bucket at head-level while my three-year olds whined and pulled my hair in an effort to “stop mummy being boring”.  Fortunately, I also had my life-saving five-year old at hand, who was able to make lunch among puddles of juice and vegemite smears.

While many childless couples look forward to engaging in some serious ‘lounging’ on the weekends, mummies have forgotten that it is in fact the weekend.

No down time for you sistah!  It’s business as usual, 365 days a year.

Such is the nature of the unwritten job description.  You may not realise that ‘this’ is exactly what you signed up for but you step up and you do it.

Not to say that it’s all hard work and tears.  There are many positives to having your world shaken sideways by mummyhood. After a while, you catch your groove, and inadvertently find you have adopted a few habits of the ‘highly successful’.

For example:

You now have the permanent built-in alarm of a serious go-getter that wakes you up early no matter what. You may even morph into a healthier version of yourself, given that you no longer go out partying every weekend till 5am.

Establishing routines, organising schedules and planning events are things that have now become second nature. Household supplies and food are dutifully replenished, budgets micro-managed and a multitude of other tasks accomplished every day.

You get used to working diligently without being pushed, asked, thanked…or sometimes even noticed.

The mood of a small child can easily dictate how your day will play out from moment to moment.  As such you learn to adjust plans accordingly.  You become far more resilient and capable at handling the downright ugly and seemingly impossible. Even in public.

As your child’s first role model, you become more adept at building and maintaining positive relationships, promoting perseverance and cooperation.  With kidlet eyes now taking in your every move, you try to emulate ‘goodness’.  You become a leader without a title, far more responsible, self-contained and polite.  You become better at controlling and managing yourself and your emotions….most of the time anyway.

Flippancy to the side…being a mum can lead to strengthening all of the skills you gained as a singleton, with the addition of a few more.  In my humble opinion.

All learning has an emotional base ~Plato

Being a mum may not always educate the intellect but it does educate the heart.  The emotional intelligence I have gained in seven years of parenting remains unparalleled.  Coincidentally, emotional intelligence has been widely reported as one of the strongest indicators for success in life and directly affects ones psychological well-being (ref).

I read somewhere that the brain gives knowledge but the heart gives direction. As a mum even though your heart now moves independent of your body – the sense of purpose, passion and direction you feel can spur you on to achieve greatness in all areas of life.

Sidenote: Some of you may be thinking that this particular blog is biased and a tad dismissive of non-parents or even daddy’s.

I would concur.

But sometimes a mummy needs to hear that she is valued, competent, resourceful and freakin’ fabulous!

She needs to understand that the skills and experiences acquired through parenthood hold relevance in any environment and that she is a successful contributing member of society right here and now.

Nuff said!

~ Kirri

The power of gratitude

13 May

Written by Kirri White.  Follow me on twitter or facebook or email me  kirri@happymumsathome.com

There have been times in my life when I have found it next to impossible to be happy. Dark lonely days, where smiles and hugs from family members failed to penetrate my blanket of despair.  A pervading sense of disconnection, apathy and complete inability to experience gratitude….

Yup, that was me.  I’ve suffered from depression and I’m ok writing and talking about it.

I know I’m not alone.

Depression is the third largest individual health problem in Australia after heart disease
and stroke. (ref)

1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men will experience some form of depression during their life. (ref)

Each year, approximately 1,000,000 adults and 100,000 young people in Australia experience a depressive illness. More than 50% will not seek treatment. (ref)

For me, one of the most challenging facets of this illness is the fact that there are many people who would prefer not to hear about it, or acknowledge it as a real illness.  Depression may not be as taboo as it was twenty years ago but “mental illness” of any sort is still stigmatized.

How bad does it feel when you attempt to share your pain, only to be told over
and over –

You’ll be ok, you just have to try harder.

Don’t cry – we don’t have to talk about it anymore, ok?

Come on, snap out of it! Think about how this might be affecting your babies!

Helpful, no.  Hurtful, yes.  Understandable?  Yeah, I get it.  If you’re depressed, you are a definite fun-assassin!

But that was then and this is now.  That part of me has faded into the background and a newer version emerged – genuinely smiling, appreciative and happy.

Most of the time.

So what if that black dog comes round for another visit!  I’m far more resourceful and resilient now and the knowledge that I have beaten depression before is both comforting and empowering.

 

The power of gratitude

Believe it or not, expressing gratitude on a daily basis was one of the most effective weapons in my arsenal for defeating depression.

I was fortunate that even in my most depressed state – I never gave up. I knew that I could fight my way back to wellness even when the actual experience of being happy seemed as far away as the moon.

I took to recording my ugliest thoughts and fears on paper, in a hopeful effort to have them disintegrate into the harried scrawls of ink.

I also began a daily gratitude journal.  Maybe I couldn’t feel those sunshine thoughts, but surely I could find a few things to be grateful for?

Writing one or two sentences every day was something I knew I could commit to.

Some days it was being thankful for nothing more than a great cup of coffee or a two-hour stint of uninterrupted sleep.  Other days, observing the melodic babbling of my babies or the stoic way my Canadian family braved the brutal winter elements; were enough to keep my feet planted in the realm of possibility.

I also noticed that the act of recording gratitude accumulated to the point where I could soon find five things instead of just one to be genuinely thankful for.  My list began to grow and flow with ease and eventually I started to feel the gratitude rather than just write about it.

After six months of committing to this practice and combined with counselling, exercise, medication and the loving support of a few family members and friends – I was able to reclaim my passion for life.  Damn, it felt good!

I’m not saying that this daily practice of being grateful was a cure for my depression but I do believe it was a crucial factor for recovery.

How can gratitude increase happiness?              

The power of gratitude and its positive effect on mood and well-being has been widely documented (see here).

Being grateful moves your focus from a mindset of scarcity to abundance.

Appreciating and noticing the small blessings leads to a focal point of more – more positive things to take note of and a heightened awareness of the miniscule details that bring pleasure.

Moreover, like many habits – the longer you do it, the easier it becomes and the more powerful the effects can be.  Gratitude helps you maintain a more positive outlook and contributes to emotional well-being.

It also has social benefits – we all prefer to hang with positive people, right?

Creating an atmosphere of gratitude in your home

It can be challenging trying to instill an ‘attitude of gratitude’ in your home.   Children are notoriously self-centred and unappreciative, particularly when it comes to their own family members.

I have found that the most effective way to increase an appreciative atmosphere is to model the behavior.  Children get annoyed when you constantly tell them to thank every person they meet but if they notice you always make a point of giving thanks when called for, they are sure to follow suit…eventually.

Writing small notes or sending emails of Thanks in a timely manner is also an effective way to teach gratitude.  Thanking
Grandma on Skype for a birthday gift, or writing a note to a teacher for a fun lesson well taught are recent examples of gratitude my girls have initiated.

Nature provides endless opportunities and spectacles for inquisitive minds to marvel at. A rainbow or butterfly on your walk to the park.  Eating lush tropical fruit on a hot summer’s day.   Observing natures gifts together is not only fun for kids but also reminds us big kids to take note of the things that we so often take for granted due to years of familiarity.

My favourite, most effective display of appreciation in our household is the ‘Gratitude Prayer’.

We take turns at dinner time to have a prayer of gratitude – a practice that the girls enjoy and add their own flavour to –

I’m thankful that my hair was pretty today and I got to see ‘Barbie in a Fashion Fairytale’.

I really liked the chocolate easter egg I ate and I hope I get some more tomorrow.

Every now and then they also delight with their thoughtfulness and an inkling that they are beginning to grasp the power of gratitude-

Thank you for my daddy who works so hard….my sister who is an angel from the sky cos she plays with me at school…. and my uncle who I miss lots and lots.

That’s it from me today.

Let me know in the comments how you like to ‘get your grateful on’?

~Kirri

And the winner is….Me!

21 Apr

I woke up this morning to find out I have been honoured with the Versatile Blogger Award by fellow blogger – LifeAsMummyMax from daddy, mummy and kiddie max.   Just so you know – I had never heard of her prior to this auspicious occasion and no money has exchanged hands….But of course I think she totally rocks!

Have to say, that along with my early morning caffeine, I’m feeling super hyped and happy right now.  Funny how an unexpected dose of acknowledgement from a complete stranger can do that.

The rules are that I have to share seven somewhat unknown and presumably interesting facts about myself and also pay it forward by nominating 15 other newly discovered bloggers for the same award.

So, seven random facts about me….mmmm….tricky:

  • You know how you read about those weird little kids with imaginary friends who actually believe they are real, talk to them and have a place set next to them at the table?  Yup, that was me.  Her name was Jane and she was my side-kick for approximately two years of my life.  She was cute, funny and way more kick-ass than me.  Jane helped me through some of my more awkward moments from the ages of 5-7.  I still think of her fondly sometimes.
  • I am always puzzled by people who arrange their drinking glasses ‘rim down’ in the cupboard.  Ok…more than puzzled. I do not like. Think about it – you may clean your glasses every day after use but then you put them rim down in a cupboard that most likely has not been cleaned in 6 months??  Just stop it and let me breathe again.
  • I’ve visited many countries and enjoyed living in New Zealand, Canada, England and South Korea but I’ve always been fiercely in love with Australia.  The burnt landscape, endless beaches, crazy unaffected people and resounding buzz of cicadas are deeply entrenched in my heart.  I just love my country.
  • I’ve always liked my feet.  They’re small, strong, nicely shaped and for the amount of dancing and high-heels they have endured; they remain suprisingly soft and un-calloused.
  • Okay, speaking of attractive body parts…While all my friends were checking out boys with sparkling eyes and bulging biceps, my eyes gravitated to an area much lower…no not that low – to the HANDS…(tsk tsk)!  If you were to see my hubbys’ hands…you would understand exactly why I married him.  Nuff said.
  • I never wanted to get married or have kids – especially the kids part.  My first baby girl was an “accident” and I now view her birth as a serendipitous event.   She gave me a reason to keep living when my dad died, the opportunity to discover that I could be a great parent and the desire to have more babies.  Lucky me!
  • Finally…..I’m a firm follower of ‘less is more’ and ‘quality over quantity’. I will always prefer one cup of freshly brewed coffee than 3 instant; one row of handmade quality chocolate over a whole bar of factory made. You can put me in any store and by pure chance, my favourite item is usually going to be the most expensive. Champagne tastes on beer money?  That’s me folks 🙂

Now the extra fun part –  to pass the award on to 15 other newly discovered (to me at least), deserving bloggers.  They include mummy bloggers, photography and style fanatics, eco-conscious devotees and people with a huge social conscience.  Check them out!

  1. My green picket fence
  2. Nicole Hastings Photoblogging
  3. Axxentor
  4. Gina Smith Photography
  5. Ofthenow
  6. A buddhaful journey
  7. An Aussie Mums Guide to Eco-friendly Babies
  8. The Grasshopper Foundation
  9. Maid in Australia
  10. Sunny Mummy
  11. Seven Cherubs
  12. Romantic Flair Original
  13. Styling You
  14. Martyr-hood
  15. Planning with Kids

Thanks again LifeAsMummyMax!

~Kirri

Is it the pursuit of excellence or the journey that matters most?

12 Apr

Written by Kirri White

When I received my first report of straight A’s at the tender age of eight – I recall my dad reacting with pride and jubilance.  In some way, the diminutive column of letters reflected his own achievement and were unanimous proof that I had been listening to all of his routine pep talks:

“Practice makes perfect.”

“The early bird gets the worm.”

“Whatever the mind can conceive, man can achieve.”

“Never give up.  Embrace the positive.  Whatever you resist will persist.”

“No matter what, you are a survivor.”

These are just some of the quotations that my dad used to regularly impart to me and my three siblings from a very young age. Sometimes they would come off the back of something celebratory such as when my older sister won a school cross-country run and dad firmly decided that she was now a professional athlete in the making.  Occasionally, they would also come when one of us had a less than stellar performance and were in need of assurance or a virtual shove to persevere.

Most of the time, I soaked up these references with the typical adulation of a true daddys’ girl.  As a teen, I occasionally resented them.  Whatever the case, I soon had his favourites firmly committed to memory and used to find it extremely amusing to mimic them back in silly voices (in my head only of course!)

From what I could ascertain, my fathers’ sayings seemed to follow a similar vein.

Life was all about striving to do your best, reaching for the stars, and never ever giving up.  I learned early on, at least in the metaphysical sense that I could excel at just about anything through sheer hard work and determination.

The problem lay with my dad being equally fond of referencing quotes that were fixed at the opposite end of the spectrum

“Life is all about the journey.”

“It’s the journey that matters, not the destination.”

“This is your journey and you will carve your own path.  Just don’t forget to notice the signs and rainbows along the way.”

It all got to be a little bemusing after a while.  I felt like he was telling me to strive for excellence but to also ensure my life was one big yoga retreat!

This philosophical puzzle was further compounded by my reading. Some books would have messages about giving life your all, reaching for the stars and striving to be your best and then others would recommend slowing down to smell the roses and living life purely for the moment.

So which one is it?
Is life, in essence, the dogged pursuit of achievement and self-actualised potential?  Or is it about the meandering trail of memories and special moments that we, as individuals are required to pause and suck up?

Robin Sharma, who speaks on success and leadership refers to ‘“ambidextrous leadership” as a way of explaining the need to effectively balance the sometimes opposing roles of a leader.

For example – A great leader is rational and logical, making sound and sometimes difficult decisions. But a champion leader is also a humanitarian – someone who understands and celebrates the heart of people.

Sharma espouses the same approach to life.

The essence of life lies not in the execution but in the balance.

Now, maybe I’m a bit of a slow learner, but this was my ‘Ya-ha’ moment for the week.

Life is all about balance and the complex symmetry of making it happen with letting it happen.

How do we balance work with family?  How do we strive to afford ourselves and our families the material luxuries in life while also living lives with greater connection and meaning?

How do we be the best that we can be while at the same time appreciating each step on our climb?

How do we counter moments of playfulness and frivolity with the seemingly endless and often burdensome responsibilities of being an adult and a parent?

How about the desire to be a decent and dare I say ‘nice’ person, without being taken advantage of or seen as lesser or weaker than?

My message for today and the advice my dad was trying to instill in me all those years is simple –

Make your plans, strive to achieve all your goals but don’t be so busy striving that you miss out on the climb.  Work hard AND play hard.

Always give it your best shot but don’t forget to capture those precious Kodak moments.

Play your best game and have fun doing it.

Be nice but firm.

Be someone your kids want to hang with but also know how to instill boundaries and make some of the less popular decisions.

Look at your life and aim for balance.  I know, it’s not particularly profound but often the beauty really does lie in the simplicity.

My only wish is that I had the opportunity to tell my dad that I finally get it.

He was a legend.

What valuable lessons have you learned from your parents?

How do you practice achieving balance in your life?

~ Kirri

The dangers of multi-tasking (or how to be less crazy and more productive!)

1 Apr

Written by Kirri White – Follow me on twitter

I’m going to go out on a limb today and assume that most readers are familiar with the meaning of the term “multi-tasking’ and also with the general consensus, that women are more effective multi-taskers than men.

However, I wonder how many of us view multi-tasking as a necessity for modern living? Is it something that you employ in your daily routine to ensure you get as much done in as little time possible?  Furthermore, just how effective is it?

I used to pride myself on being a fabulous multi-tasker and becoming a mum is what pushed me into this seemingly fine habit.  I would whip up a double batch of muffins while making breakfast, so that I only needed to do the dishes once.  Then, I would start the dishes with the telephone on speaker or cradled awkwardly between neck and shoulder, attempting to catch up with a friend or family member.  In the background, the washing machine would be whirring its way through the first load of many and my then twin babies and toddler would all be vying for my attention – frantically clapping, choir-screaming or cleverly foraging for breakables and potential choking hazards.

Fun times indeed.

It wasn’t until two or more years of living this way that I noticed Ms. Multi-tasker was not the benign smiley faced companion I had initially thought.  Bouncing between doing five things at once had its drawbacks – valuable snippets of conversation missed or forgotten, white clothing items permanently stained pink, important mail thrown into the rubbish and ultimately, scrambled eggs for brains!

My attention to detail was compromised, thought processes scattered and ultimately I seemed to be changing from one task to another and not completing anything in a manner I was satisfied with.  Did I also mention that it was damned stressful at times!

What happens when we multi-task?      

The impact of everyday multi-tasking on performance has been explored in numerous studies.

Findings indicate that multi-tasking may impair short-term memory and concentration, elevate levels of stress hormones and reduce our social skills, creativity and overall sense of wellbeing. (Silvercloud consulting, 2009).

Spend three or more hours with a baby or small child, attending to the immediacy of their physical and emotional needs and I would argue that there will be days (many days!) where you experience complete mental exhaustion.  You may find it difficult to follow adult conversation, feel overwhelmed by dealing with daily bouts of crying and temper tantrums, or be confused and fatigued from having to change task mid-way ten times in one hour.

The bottom line is that while we may think that heaping as many things possible into our day creates more ‘free time’, there is pretty good evidence to indicate we are actually less productive, less effective, less healthy and certainly much less fun to be around.

So, what to do?

As a mum of three young children, I’m not sure if it is possible to completely eradicate the need for multi-tasking. However, it is possible to reduce the negative side-effects of doing too many things at once.  Try employing some of the following strategies when you find yourself careening towards multitasking mayhem:

1)       The first step is to be aware of your multi-tasking habits and ask yourself if what you are doing right now is really necessary.  Focus on managing and directing your energy more effectively and keeping energy renewed rather than focusing solely on ‘clock’ time.  Use your internal ‘stress-o-meter’ as an indicator to whether you are tackling too many things at once.

2)      Complete one task at a time. You can achieve much more in a 30 minute chunk of time if you are completely committed to task, than when you are attempting to cram in as many things as possible into the same time frame.  Choose one task and concentrate on completing it in full before you put your mind to anything else.

3)      Do difficult tasks first.  If you have something that requires a certain level of concentration – do it first thing in the morning when you are relatively well rested and alert.  You will gain a sense of accomplishment that will set a positive light on the rest of your day.  Additionally, if things start to go pear-shaped (which happens from time to time with kiddlywinks) – you will have completed at least one important job that day.

4)      Learn to ignore unnecessary distractions.  Turn off all electronic distractions when not in use. Don’t answer the phone if you are in the middle of making dinner and when you do answer the phone, concentrate on your conversation rather than trying to browse the internet or fold the laundry at the same time.

5)      Set some boundaries and guidelines for your children so that they learn there are times when it is not ok to interrupt.  As rude as it may sound, in our house when we hold up one finger (no, not the middle one!) – the girls know that means that they have to remain quiet for a minute or two, until we are off the phone or finished our conversation.  We started doing this when they were about two years old and they started adhering around three.  It works like a dream now! 

6)      If you are running an online business from home you may want to allocate specific time intervals in which you deal with emails or paperwork.  File electronic or paper mail immediately after you have finished rather than shuffling bits of paper to and fro and having an overloaded inbox.  I check my emails once in the morning and again in the afternoon, responding to emails immediately wherever possible, then filing or deleting old emails so that everything is dealt with then and there. The same applies for all forms of social media  (facebook, twitter etc) – check them once a day at the most.

7)      If you are returning to the paid workforce or starting your own business and find that an addiction to multi-tasking has impacted your ability to concentrate on one task for long – consider some ‘brain exercise’ such as crosswords, Sudoku or, my personal fave –  luminosity.   Such games are hugely beneficial for improving memory, concentration and agility and I’m not embarassed to admit that I have needed a lot of help in this area!!  I can also personally attest to the benefits of regular exercise and taking quality marine oil capsules.

Final thoughts….

Practice being ‘present’ in your daily life.  Stop reacting to every demand for your attention – be more aware and choose what you will attend to right there and then and if it is really necessary to do so.

If, like me, you can’t quite kick Ms. Multi-tasker to the kerb, you may at least be able to effectively micro-manage her before she deals you a punch to the shins!

What’s your take on multi-tasking?  Share with us in the comments.

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A special shout out to all my loyal subscribers!  I really appreciate your support and will do my best to keep learning and sharing work that leads to a more balanced, successful and happy life for us all!

Have a Happy Day

~Kirri

The importance of filling your bucket

9 Mar

My identical twin daughters turned five years old on Sunday and I’m sitting here wondering how on earth that happened?

It really was just yesterday that they appeared surgically, as bundled up baby rats in the operating theatre. I know – comparing them to vermin is pretty harsh, right?  It’s just that they were super tiny, with little body-fat and skin that was transparent in certain areas. They looked like they needed more time before they could be considered ‘fully cooked’ and yet, at 38 weeks, they were apparently perfectly Al dente – just slightly scrawny.

Still…I learned to love them, feed them and teach them cool stuff and now…. they are five.  

The twins recently started attending prep year at school and after a somewhat shaky start, have been making friends, learning new skills and becoming more independent.  It’s an observation that, for me, is both encouraging and alarming.

One day last week they had their first encounter with a substitute teacher and when hubby and I picked them up after school, she approached us and said:

“These are your girls?  They were wonderful today.  You’re very lucky. You won’t have any problems with these two.  I see many happy years ahead in the future – for all of you”

With her tight braids, chocolate-brown shiny skin, and commanding voice – she reminded me of Mama Odie from “The Princess and a Frog”.  Yes, it is sad that I now use Disney Princess movies as frames of reference, but I’m telling you there was something majestic and magical about her!    

Of course, her kind words mirrored back what I often think to myself anyway. I love my girls and am the same as any other parent who thinks their children are special and fabulous and every other adjective likened to wonderful.   But when a virtual stranger affirms these biased thoughts, it is very edifying.

The substitute teacher may have already forgotten that she offered these words of acknowledgement, but I carried them round for several days like precious stones in my pocket.  Those words, I will never forget.

Then, a few days ago, I received a profound and heart-felt email from a friend, thanking me for my support during a particularly dark time in their lives.  He noted that while I must already know how much it had meant to him, he wanted to remind, and thank me again.

Funnily enough, until that exact moment, I did not know for certain, how significant my actions had been.   Sure, I believed our friendship was real and meaningful, but we haven’t seen each other in many years and recent contact has been sporadic.  I was unsure if the value of our friendship and esteem was felt on a mutual level and to have that confirmed, was both reassuring and touching.

On both aforementioned occasions, the emotional impact of words was considerable. I felt acknowledged and assured that my actions mattered – that I mattered. I also noticed that for the rest of the day, my general demeanour was lighter and brighter!

It made me think – How often do we hold back from offering words of acknowledgement or thanks to the people we share this planet with?   How many times have I failed to thank, or taken for granted, my friends, family and connections?  More than I would like to admit.

In 2004, Donald Clifton and Tom Rath published a book titled “How full is your bucket”.

Based on more than 50 years of research in the area of Positive Psychology, they employed a simple metaphor of a bucket and dipper to explain how our daily interactions either improve or diminish other people’s lives.  The basic premise is that saying something positive to another person can fill someones ‘bucket’, resulting in renewed energy and a positive outlook for both parties.  Conversely, negative comments undermine, sap energy and lower the levels in our emotional buckets. 

The book effectively illustrates the important choice we are faced with every day – to fill someone’s bucket with positive words or say and do things that dip from another’s bucket, thereby diminishing their lives and our own. 

My thought is this…let people know that they matter, remind them of their good points, thank them for their efforts; acknowledge them for their time.   Our connections and relationships have the power to join hearts, minds and countries together in a collective consciousness of unity.

I can’t tell you how much my heart leapt with love and pride when that teacher took the time to acknowledge my girls.  Similarly, when my friend contacted me, it really bought home how a small display of gratitude and affection can effectively impact someone’s day from miles away.

My little girls are now one year older. They are far from being babies or even toddlers and are old enough to remember every sentiment that falls carelessly from my mouth.  I intend on ensuring, every day, that they will also be showered with love, smiles and affirmations. 

They may not listen to me as much as I would like, but I figure that if I make more time to fill the emotional reservoirs of others, they will learn by modelling and become fabulous bucket-fillers by the time they reach adulthood.

Happy Birthday beautiful girls!

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