We hear the words self-care thrown around everywhere these days but we don’t often really think about what this means! Self-care is more than just running a bubble-bath and reading a book! It is about how we think about ourselves and the choices that we make too! Who we invite into our space and what boundaries we have in place!
Set aside time each day when you are able to sit quietly and go within
I often hear parents telling me that they don’t have the time to sit quietly, meditate or re-charge. I know this feeling and would’ve given the same answers not that long ago. However, I found that I was spending so much thinking time in chaos that I was always tired and busy. I started to practice sitting quietly for just ten minutes a day. I would get up an hour earlier than my son and I would make a coffee and sit outside. I started to challenge myself to take a sunrise picture every morning regardless of whether it was cloudy or whether it was the perfect conditions. On colder mornings I would wrap up and sit out, while waiting for the sun to come up. It was so cold sometimes that I would stick the chair, but this became a habit and I still love starting the day quietly.
The more and more I spent time quietly with nature the more at ease I felt about myself in general. I would focus on the birds, the sensations of being outside, the wind or the light rain. If I found my mind wondering and starting to consider my worries or negative thoughts I would gently accept that and would allow my mind to re-focus on the nature around me. This was such freeing practice and I couldn’t go to long without this. Even when it rains, I open the door and place my chair as close to the outside as I can so that I am still in nature for those few minutes.
If you practice this kind of way of being quiet within yourself, you will no doubt start to experience calm and with calmness comes clarity
Solutions become easier to find, compassion feelings for yourself and for your challenging child or children become stronger and an inner strength to cope builds.
This is also the time to open yourself to allow new thoughts and to challenge your thinking patterns. What do I mean about challenging your thinking patterns? As a negative thought or feeling enters your thinking, recognise it, write it down and then actively assert that “although I am aware that you are there, I choose not to give you my attention right now”. Allow this thought to step aside, or be boxed for later. You do not need to worry or focus on this thought as you have written it down or boxed it for later.
So this practice is clearly allowing you to feel, think and experience freely while also encouraging a peaceful time to accept new possibilities. This is a connecting and creative energy which much like a connect the dots activity, can help to prepare for the day ahead and alleviate any unknown anxiety and stress that may be boiling underneath the surface. The more you practice this, the easier it becomes.
While we are exploring this example of finding time to be quiet and go within, it’s also a great way of creating a calming ripple effect within the family. I find that since I have been using essential oils, calming music and modelling quiet time that this has had a positive impact on my families mental health as well.
His extreme anxiety means that when I change my tone of voice, become stressed or use negative body language, that he in turn mirrors this and soon enough we are locking horns and getting nowhere. So if I am in a calm place of peace then so is he. While I am practicing self-care and compassion so is he more likely to do the same.
It wasn’t that long ago that my son and I were still becoming involved in heated arguments. I would find his routine and stubbornness to change so difficult to work with. I would become so upset by his hurtful comments, which by the way were absolutely truthful and hard to swallow, that I would kick doors, cry and before long more than likely find myself face down in the grass outside making grass angels.
This became a standard joke in my family and is still a term I use now when I am feeling upset or angry about something.
I would feel so frustrated that he could not see things my way. I couldn’t understand why he didn’t want to “try to make friends” or why he would say something so “rude” to me in public. He would “choose” not to attend school and give reasons like “because I don’t want to”.
It felt like I was constantly bashing my head against a wall, trying to force him to understand how him not going to school affected me. How my job was at stake and how I would get into trouble by his decisions.
So as I am sure you can guess, sitting quietly with myself and taking the time to really allow myself to feel whatever I needed to feel or think whatever I needed to think really offered me peace and freedom through understanding how my own thinking patterns affected my way of being. This also brought clarity through light-bulb moments which would shed light on how my son was feeling and experiencing his world. It allowed me to start to be more empathic towards him and to look for the meaning behind the words.
I want to give you some examples so let’s break down some of the thoughts and the feelings that I was experiencing above. Let’s look at how sitting quietly and practicing daily self-care allowed me to gain clarity;
“He didn’t want to try to make friends” – I sat with this and put myself in his shoes. I imagined what a day at school was like for him. What would it be like to walk around school?
I now know that he was always alone at school, his friendships were mostly short lived and he was very emotional and exhausted at the end of the school day.
So what could this mean? “Making friends is too hard, I get hurt and I don’t know what to do!” I am not kidding when I say that this new insight came to me like a bomb. It exploded within me and I started to sob.
I felt absolute compassion for him in this moment. I sat outside, listening to the birds, the sunrise coming up and just sobbed.
This clarity helped me to sit with my son and talk this through. Feeling this compassion and looking for the meaning behind the words offered me new insight.
“My job was at stake and I would get into trouble because of his decisions” – Where was this coming from? I hadn’t actually fully assessed this yet. I was reacting from a chaotic emotional and negative place.
I was working in panic mode. Catastrophising the very worst possible scenario. So sitting quietly presented me with other options. How could I support my son to be able to feel safe, happy and calm while also getting an education as well as supporting me to be able to work and earn a living? What were my options? Well at the time I was in a very destructive and unhappy marriage. I liked my job but hated going because of the pain that my son was in.
I was always stressed and very unhappy. I also couldn’t express creatively and truthfully within my work. So was it time for a massive change? I sat with this and assessed what I needed to do to make things feel better for us both.
I challenged where these feelings of fear and anxiety were coming from in my body. My stomach was doing back flips and all of a sudden it was clear. I needed to leave my husband, I needed to move and start fresh, I needed to throw myself in the deep end as this splashing around in the shallow wasn’t working anyway. I looked into what support I could get if I had to leave work and go it alone with my son.
It became clear that it would be tough but it wouldn’t be the hardest decision I will ever have to make. Anyway the now felt worse! So I did it! I left. We moved . I quit my job. I started fresh.
I will never forget driving away from that negative relationship I had become stuck in and driving past the school where he was literally going through hell every single day. I will never forget how the trees looked, as I left and drove the same road that I drove every day.
They looked different, so beautiful and so full of life. I became so exhausted and overwhelmed within minutes of leaving that I ended up stopping at a cheap hotel, grabbing a bottle of wine and toasting to new beginnings. My mom had joined me on this “rescue mission” and life had truly begun for us.
Sitting quietly with yourself and building this into daily practice really opens the doors for trusting and believing in your own feelings and instincts
I find now that I naturally practice “quiet thinking” and am more prone to not react but to consider what is the meaning behind the words? I will practice empathic listening and experiencing by imagining and visualising myself in his shoes.
My son finds it hard to explain himself emotionally and will often come up with very robotic responses like “because I don’t want to go to that restaurant” or “because you said so”. This can be very difficult to process and there is always a deeper meaning.
“Because I don’t want to go to that restaurant” may be expressing something deeper like – because if I do go there then I feel nausea and I’m scared to be sick in public. This might relate to a certain colour on the walls of the restaurant or a previous memory.
Fear for our young people often does not make sense. We have to find a way to openly love and support even when things feel hopeless.
In the past I would’ve become annoyed and feel that my son was trying to control what I do, where I go and who I see. I would feel embarrassed as this would often mean I would have to go into the restaurant and explain to everyone that he was refusing to come in and I would have to go home or we would all have to move restaurant.
I would experience everyone else saying things like “don’t let him rule you”, “you are the parent” etc. and this would cause me even more confusion and frustration.
Now I am calmer and much more confident to express both of our needs and views without worrying about the opinions and view of others.
By expressing in this way I have also noticed that my son has become more open to change and flexibility within his routines. I feel that as I am better able to cope and adapt with his needs that this has built up a deeper trust and bond between us which in turn allows both of us more freedom to challenge ourselves and push our own boundaries.
He now knows that when I say “it’s ok we can leave if you want” that I mean this with absolute truth, with no judgement and with full compassion for his needs and feelings. There is such freedom in this way of being.
So how can you start to change the way that you think and express as a parent?
- Set aside time in each day. If you are one of those parents (as I was not that long ago) who feels that there is no time in the day, trust me, you will start to see just how much time you give to chaos. Even if it is five minutes to start. Find this time and allow yourself this compassion and kindness to be able to free your thinking of negative patterns.
- Write down any thoughts that feel powerful to you, especially if they keep coming back. If something repeats in your thinking or feeling body, then this could be a clear signal and is best not ignored. Ignoring repetitive and powerful signals in the body can lead to stress, anxiety, illness and chaos.
- Apply a “what’s the meaning behind the words” attitude to your thoughts, behaviours and feelings. Really sit back, take quiet time and open your heart to allowing kindness in. Be with nature, listen to the sounds, take note of the smells, touch your surroundings and just be. Allow yourself to experience a deeper understanding. Allow clarity to come to you by accepting which-ever way it comes. You may be watching a bird struggling to get through bigger birds at the feeding station, which in turn may bring clarity to a bullying situation in your child’s life. You might see the clouds forming a shape and find that this represents something that you need in your life. Nature gives us powerful messages as our minds are already working behind the scenes and looking for clarity. As meaning seeking beings, we often ignore the obvious and complicate things based on others perceptions and opinions of ourselves. Open your life to receiving these gifts of clarity in the simplest of ways.
- Introduce sensory calm environments at home – Explore bringing calming music, essential oils and peaceful sounds to yours and your child’s life. Chimes that resonate with the both of you, fresh air through open windows, fans if your child is looking for stimulation, lighting that is natural and calming. A quiet area dedicated to meditation and quiet exploration.
- If nothing else, be kind to yourself and take note! What do I mean by this? Your body is expressing always. We all actually know what we need but our environments, our history, our early attachments to others and our experiences mean that we adapt to fit roles. We are conditioned to value our worth depending on the opinions, needs and wants of others. Our own self-worth is often affected by how we perceive others to think and feel about us. We run around like headless chickens trying to be perfect. We try to mold our families to fit the values that we place on family life. We are built to please others in most cases. Phew I get tired just writing that.
Be honest with yourself. If you could choose right now to be flown with your child to a beautiful island somewhere, to your dream home and with no fears for your future. You had everything that you needed and wanted. Education was no longer a must but more of a choice because you would never need anything. You and your child would have everything.
Who else would you take with you and why? Would you still want your child to attend a school? What would be different in the way that you parent?
If you are truly honest with yourself throughout the exercise above, I would imagine that you have now noticed that many of your decisions as a parent are based on fear and anxiety about the future, about being independent, being safe, being valued and being a good parent.
Now imagine that you applied the same principles into your life now. If money is a worry then ask yourself, who is in my life because of money? If being a good parent is a worry, then ask yourself who do I need to impress most? If leaving a relationship and being alone is an issue, then what is the worst that can happen? Where have I experienced being alone before? What was that like?
By exploring your feelings and emotions fully you are able to be honest with yourself, to apply more mindful practice in your life. To give more weight and importance to finding peace in the chaos and to offer yourself and your child a more loving and authentic lifestyle which will ultimately improve your confidence as a parent and strengthen the bond between you.
We often choose our path based on a fear of lack
The lack of love, health, money, career, family, status in the community!
Now going back to the island exercise. Would these fears be the same if no one was watching?
Have you come across the saying “dance like no one’s watching?”
How perfect in this moment. Fast forward ten years and I bet you will look back and wish you hadn’t spent that many years worrying about what others think of you. I’m already doing this and my son is only 17.
Self-Control / Self-Regulation:
When is self-control even harder?
When our mood is low:
When we are in this place, everything feels harder and more of a challenge. We feel easily exhausted and our minds are often not thinking clearly. If you find yourself struggling and are feeling low, then one of the best ways to deal with this mindfully is to allow and accept what is happening within your body.
How many times have you heard someone telling you to “pick yourself up”, “stop being moody” or “c’mon be positive”? We know that this can often make things worse.
Not only do we feel low, but now someone is adding guilt and pressure to the whole experience.
Try being gentle with yourself. Just allow yourself to have space and be annoyed or upset or sad. It’s all a part of normal human emotions.
When we over indulge or binge on something:
Well we are definitely not being mindful if we are binging on anything. Every experience you have could be a mindful one. Let’s use taking a shower mindfully as an example. This would mean that you are aware of the feeling of the temperature of the water, you are aware that you are practicing self-care, you are nourishing your physical body.
You are in the moment and aware of how the body wash feels and smells, the sounds of the water, the feeling of it as it trickles down your face. You could take any experience that you would usually take for granted and flip it.
It could become a mindful experience which reconnects your feelings, thoughts, emotions and physical sensations.
When we feel overwhelmed:
It is much harder to be mindful when we are feeling overwhelmed as it all “feels to much”. I personally find this to be the best time for me. I have worked out that I can go one of two ways when I am feeling overwhelmed. I can either become extremely worried and start to feel quite low and physically ill or I can take time out, get out into nature and neutralise my thoughts. I do this by finding somewhere in nature, which is usually my garden as I’m lucky to have that space. I will close my eyes, focus on my breathing and connect with the awareness of the sounds that are happening around me. I will also often become aware of any smells and sensations. This small time out now is usually enough to bring me back to balance. I will often feel just enough of a change to get back to making healthier choices.
When we are acting impulsively:
I think this is the hardest one for me to master. Our impulses start to develop right back from when we are a child. Some people actually say that our impulses are also influenced by genetic links in our history and when we are in the womb. This also includes our fight, flight and freeze responses to the world around us.
I want to also say here that we can experience the same fight, flight or freeze response with emotions too.
Keep an eye on your trigger points for stress and anxiety as these can have a massive impact on reacting impulsively.
When we act impulsively we can almost step outside of ourselves for a minute and not be mindful or aware of what we are doing. This is often followed by feelings of guilt or worry. So check this out and just bring your attention to how you are feeling in that moment. What just happened for you? What’s happening in your environment right now?