Finding the balance between family, keeping fit, work, maintaining friendships, relationships and being the kind of Mum I’d like to be, is definitely an art. Throw kids in the mix and the life-juggle becomes real.
Everybody has 24 hours in a day, 7 days in a week, 52 weeks in a year. So why is that some of us feel there are not enough hours in a day to do everything? And then in our free moments, why do we find it so hard to relax and be present with the little people we love so much?
The answer is complex but once understood, it is quite simple to make some small adjustments that have profound effects on how we feel about ‘time’, or our perceived ‘lack’ of time. All it takes is a little more self-management, rather than time management.
It’s all about how humans accumulate and (don’t) process stress.
Humans are creatures of habit. So if you’ve practiced feeling stressed and overwhelmed for a long time, it becomes easy to go straight to that place when your stress response is triggered.
Stress also comes at us from all angles – work; diet; over-exercise; lack of sleep/poor quality sleep/disrupted sleep (hello parenthood), toxins in environment; relationships and of course; our children. There’s nothing quite as stressful as the raising of a small human/multiple small humans and everything that entails.
To further compound this, we haven’t been taught how to effectively de-stress the body and mind. Binge watching Netflix, alcohol (even in small quantities), and intense over-exercising all place a further strain on our nervous system.
The above factors culminate in far too many of us living in perpetual state of fight or flight and life feels like a hurried mess. When we’re in this state, each day becomes a matter of just-getting-through-it, and it’s almost impossible to slow down and enjoy the smaller details of life.
What does this mean as a parent? For me, when I’m overwhelmed my mind is always elsewhere. I find it tricky to be present with my son, and children force us to slow down and be in the moment. If our nervous systems are jacked up, this slowing down can be torturous as we start to actually notice how we feel – this is called becoming more mindful.
When we start to release and process stress, our lives open up. We have more time in the day and can enjoy the precious moments we have with our loved ones.
So how do we effectively release stress? There are four simple ways:
1. Prioritize your physical health.
This is absolutely essential. Exercise pumps up your endorphins, forces you to become present in your body, elevates you moods and sheds the daily tensions from your body. It is not selfish to want to be healthy. At the end of the day, if you don’t have your health, what do you have? It will make you better at everything you do.
2. De-clutter your life
Think about what is important to you and start to say no to anything that is unhealthy. Take activities off your plate that you know will be detrimental to your mental and physical health. Do the same with spaces you spend a lot of time in – a spring clean is so good for the mind and the soul.
3. Have earlier nights
It’s that simple. Sleep is up there with meditation as the most effective way to rejuvenate your mind and body. Earlier nights, and potentially earlier mornings so that you can start a grounding, morning routine.
It’s not as daunting as it sounds. When taught properly and practiced consistently this will have the most profound influence on your stress levels and ability to move through life’s challenges with grace. You can start with two minutes of conscious breathing twice a day, sitting somewhere comfortable with your eyes closed, simply noticing your breath and letting the thoughts drift through your mind.
When we start to un-stress the nervous system, we begin to sharpen our ability to prioritize without agonizing over decisions. As soon as we start to do this, our lives will open up and become more spacious.
Most importantly, we’ll begin to enjoy the little things again and life will become more joyful. No one will benefit more from this than our children as we start enjoying being with them as they play, learn and grow.
Claire Robbie has been teaching meditation and yoga for over 10 years. She is the meditation coach to some of New Zealand’s leading business people, entrepreneurs and sports people. She also focuses on teaching busy parents how to be a little more present. You can learn more about her courses here: @clairerobbie or www.clairerobbie.co