It being the Easter school holidays (and the first full week here in Wales), I think it’s safe to say that the sugar rush from chocolate and the general truckload of chicken nuggets, chips and beans from dining out, aren’t having the best impact on the mood of parents nor offspring.
It’s always a toss-up, isn’t it, to let your children see mummy ‘a little bit shouty’ and doling out a bit of discipline or to model the behaviour you want to see in your kids by plastering a grin across your face and referring to yourself in the third person. “Mummy’s having a lovely time and you would be too if only you would brush your hair and put those 5 pairs of dirty socks in the wash basket”.
I am on a mission this year to channel my inner calm so that the house is less like a full-on war zone, fuelled by pre-pubescent hormones and menopausal mood swings and to cope more like my husband. Generally, the Husband maintains his equilibrium by leaving the country altogether for some business meeting or other so this may be quite a challenge.
We all need, I think, a self-care toolkit – or rather to know ourselves well enough to be able to quickly access those things which help our mental states and allow us to calm down before we burst a blood vessel or into tears.
Why not take a few moments to write down your own ideas in a pretty notebook or planner (actually buying stationery is one of my top calming activities!) and, over the course of a month or two, see which work best to help you achieve that zen state. (No, I’m not talking about a half bottle of Chardonnay).
Here are the five things that always work for me and are part of my self-care toolkit.
We don’t have a big garden but just sitting out surrounded by plants and birds is always calming. Even better if you can get the kids outside to play (and away from their tablets) while you read a good book.
Or why not take a short while to get the kids weeding or sweeping up leaves? You might need to invest in some proper gardening tools and some protective clothing for both you and the kids but I reckon it’s well worth it.
Did you know, for example, that we all need exposure to sunlight so that our bodies manufacture enough Vitamin D? Without enough of this vitamin, children are at risk of diseases such as Rickets.
And, if we are outside in the fresh air, we are away from the dangers of constant exposure to blue light we get from smartphones, tablets and PCs.
Not everyone has the luxury of a garden, of course, so heading for the nearest green open space, whether that be a nature reserve or a park is a great way of restoring calm to everyone.
Whilst in the course of a normal day you may not be able to drop everything and meditate, you should be able to find 5-10 minutes to focus on your breathing.
In his book, The 4 Pillar Plan, Dr Rangan Chatterjee recommends what he calls 3-4-5 breathing. You simply breathe in for 3 seconds, hold for 4 seconds and exhale for 5 seconds. Doing this for just 2 minutes a day will train you to focus on your breathing and help you access a calmer state when you need to.
Or just bring mindfulness into your day by focusing on whatever activity you are currently doing. A great way to do this is to go for a short walk and to really focus on your walking – feel each foot as it hits the ground. “Be aware of the trees swaying in the breeze. Be mindful and pay attention. It’s a completely different experience from walking whilst texting, sending emails and checking your social media feed”, says Dr Chatterjee. You can read my review of The 4 Pillars Plan here.
Drink green tea
Whilst it’s tempting to wire ourselves with copious amounts of coffee, if you haven’t given green tea a go, it’s certainly worth considering the many health benefits of green tea.
For example, green tea can improve brain function, increases fat burning, contains anti-oxidants which may lower your risk of cancer and, unlike coffee contains L-theanine which increases the activity of neurotransmitter GABA, which has a calming effect.
Snack on the good stuff
When you’re feeling wound up or ‘hangry’, it’s often too easy to placate yourself by snacking on something stuffed full of sugar or additives. You might get the initial sugar rush but, if you’re like me, this will be followed by the guilt – not least because yet again you haven’t modelled healthy eating for the kids!
Obviously, the snacks you choose will depend on your dietary needs and preferences but I like to combine fresh fruit with some nuts and cubes of cheese. I find a little protein helps stabilise the hunger pangs and balances out the sugar from the fruit.
When our kids are playing up, sometimes it’s simply because they are hungry and are unable to process their feelings and explain what they need. A healthy child-friendly snack might be just the thing for all of you.
Sometimes, when tempers are frayed, the best solution is the simplest. Put down whatever you are doing and take a few minutes to reconnect with your kids. A simple hug can often damp down whatever warfare is about to break out and restore the peace. If the kids have been sniping at each other for hours I’ll make them hug each other too and remind them how lucky they are to have each other. (Yes, I’m not expecting this to work particularly well when they’re teens).
Nevertheless, a bit of loving physical contact, acknowledgement and some time listening to them works wonders and teaches them that a family unit is stronger and more precious than any silly argument about Roblox (sigh!), Minecraft (double sigh!) and whether 6 episodes of Power Rangers is a good idea right before bed (God, no!).
What do you do when things are tense at home? Do you have any tips to share? What’s in your self-care toolkit?