Tag Archives: stress

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

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

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.

If you are not already on the list to receive free updates from Happy Mums At Home, get on it! 

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

Live more. Stress Less.

27 Jan

What’s important to you? Take a look at my home environment and you would be spot on for believing that apple pie order is a priority for me.  Yeah, I’m a clean freak and my hubby is a neat freak. Match made in heaven as far as I’m concerned. If you visited our house, you would no doubt leave wondering how we manage to keep it looking so spotless and uncluttered, particularly with young kids running round. The dishes are always done, beds made, bathroom disinfected, toys stored in colour-coded boxes and the toilet paper folded into a pretty triangle after every use!  Well, almost.  

It takes a certain level of commitment on a daily basis to live that way but it is high on my list of essentials because it makes me feel calm, collected and like I have my sh*t sorted!  It’s not something I feel compelled to do in order to regain a sense of control in what can sometimes be a very chaotic state of being. Or is it?

Excessive drinking, smoking, shopping, and yes, even cleaning, can be distractions.  They take our focus from one area and move it to another place that offers temporary respite.  These habits are often the things we do unconsciously to fill a gap or get a rush of feel-good endorphins when panic threatens to overwhelm.  Is this a surprise in a modern society that generally values the busiest and seemingly most productive members?  Moreover, am I the only one with kids who feels like daily life is sometimes a battle of epic proportions??  Having one child, let alone three before the age of 30 can be a bit of a challenge.  Just ask my husband!  There are times when you find yourself running around in a blur of ‘doing’ -feeding, bathing, calming, cleaning, playing and screaming. It gets ugly sometimes people!      

Obviously I am far from immune to such distractions, but I’m getting way better at identifying my survival mode and squashing it.  How can I tell when I’m in survival mode? My actions start getting more frantic.  I try and do more in less time and I try and do it all at once.   The stress levels rise, jaw-clenching begins and eventually I get to a point where I am no longer able to think clearly. Sound familiar?

For me, the antidote is a mix of prevention and learning to refocus on the present moment.  It’s the age old saying about having a fence at the top of the cliff, rather than an ambulance waiting at the bottom for someone to fall.  Making time to read, exercise and relax regularly may seem like lofty ideals when you have a family, work and social life to contend with.  However, I have learnt the hard way that they really do help to prevent my stress levels from rising to a furor.  I like to refer to them as my ‘preventative activities’ or things that I choose to do on a regular basis to stop my mean girl coming out. Nuff said.

Learning or attempting something new, with a certain degree of difficulty can also be hugely beneficial.  Doing difficult things helps foster personal confidence and strength. Over time, these challenges lead to a sense of personal mastery and accomplishment that can boost our limits of endurance.  Maybe it’s tackling a foreign language, learning to play an instrument or revisiting a sport that you last played when you were ten. Initially it can be a little uncomfortable and frustrating.  But with time and determination, a little bit of progress can be made each day. In a year or two, your learning and performance in this area will have improved profoundly.  Additionally, you will reap the residual effects of learned persistence.  The activity in question is going to be different for everyone.  Figure out what is meaningful or just plain fun to you and pursue it.  Not half assed but whole-heartedly!

 Choosing to remain in the present moment is another proven stress buster for me.  It’s a habit that I am still practicing but I’m telling you, it works.  Learning to shake off life’s’ inevitable annoyances is not always easy, but it is possible. You can get irritated when your four year old chats loudly and incessantly, wiping yoghurt on her freshly changed top and demanding you watch her every dance move when you are trying to get some work done.  Similarly it can be disconcerting just how slowly small kids walk when you are already running 10 minutes late for school and have a meeting to get to. In situations like this, I try and remind myself that I can choose to react in an irritated manner or I can take a breath, give a little laugh and just go with it.  Ok, maybe not a laugh, but at least a half hearted sigh.  Either way, we can always choose our response and attitude in any potentially stressful situation and make it work for us.

 I’m not saying I have it all down-pat. Far from it (just ask my husband!).  There are times when I fall back into that stressed out survival mode but I try to remain aware of it and take a moment to refocus myself in the present.  Sometimes it just takes a few quiet deep breaths or a second where I can look into the eyes of my girls and experience that deep sense of connection. Other times, I crank up the stereo when I’m driving and sing loudly and unapologetically, while sucking up some of our beautiful Queensland sunshine.  Immediately I am brought back to the present and able to identify with that core that is free and adventurous.   Boo yah – I’m back in the moment and feeling fine!

The point is – this is your life. Design it the way you want to live it.  You can choose to survive (something so easy to fall into when you have little people to look after), or you can choose to LIVE.   You can get by on those to-do lists and endless obligations, struggling to keep up with the Joneses and buying more stuff which frankly, you do not need. Or, you can dwell in the land of small pleasures, powerful intentions and boundless opportunities.  

Live more. Stress less.  That’s what I’m doing today.

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