HOW TO FIND THE RIGHT TENSION
Stress appears to be the norm for most of us, and for many of us it is chronic. Most parents I know are operating at some level of stress at all times. We try and pull it all together, the work demands, the school forms, tidy rooms, a meal schedule and the list goes on. We feel it in our necks and stomachs, it is visual by the complex schedules listed on the calender, and we hear it with the constant alerts on the phone. The stress can manifest in our moods and how we parent and we fluctuate from smiling and patient to the angry and losing it.
My friend had one such she's come undone day in the car highlighted then by a ditty her daughter started to spontaneously sing about how she has two mothers, one nice and one mean. She felt ill at the lyrics, a virtual tale of two Mommies, but felt she couldn't entirely disagree. We don't want Jeckyll and Hyde parenting but so often we are running on empty and the energy to feel healthy and well enough to keep an even and balanced disposition. My life coach friend Shauna once painted a great picture of balance stating that for a tight rope walker, tension is needed and too much slack would be bad. This is the same with stress and anxiety. A little bit helps us, with motivation, resilience and the protection of ourselves and our family. It is when the tension is always high, we have an issue. This chronic stress can hinder our self regulation and cause a 0-100 reaction in seconds or a slow boil throughout the day. Sometimes you know you are actively worrying and other times your subconscious is doing it all for you (hello teeth grinding!). If you are looking to keep that balance despite what your kids have done to their bedroom, regardless of how late you were at school pick up, and independent of work stress, help is needed.
IN THE MOMENT HACKS:
An easy step is to take a deep breath and unwind! It sounds trite, but it works. It fills your body with a big burst of oxygen and give you that two second break from a hair trigger reaction. Breathing also sends a message to brain that tells your body to calm down and relax which can help you gain perspective.
This sets you up nicely for step two. Before blowing up, take a quick assessment of what is actually bothering you. Think about it, your kids could be up to antics in the back of the car, fighting, teasing, singing an annoying song, and some days you can roll with it. Now add in feeling ill, not getting enough sleep or the distracted stress of thinking about a mistake you made at work and quite understandably, you are more likely to lose your cool. The real things eating away at you have nothing to do with what is going on in the back of the car. If you could tease out what is going on before you erupt or emote, you will no doubt be less reactive.
Are you taking care of yourself? Make sure you are getting enough sleep, exercise, nutrition and enjoyable activities in your schedule. A good nutrition and exercise routine can be powerful. Exercise releases endorphins, and as Elle in Legally Blonde says ,“happy people don't shoot their husbands” or more to the point snap, so readily at their kids. I recently had a client share that her self care was making sure her child had everything ready for school. Although that might have made everyone's day calmer and in turn run smoother, this was certainly not self care. If you are having a hard time thinking of something to do for yourself, make a list of things you once enjoyed or modify things you once did that could still work for you now and be creative.
Our moods can flux, we are human, but taking time to breathe, assess and be proactive about our reactions and moods can be beneficial, not just for our relationships but also for how we feel and view of ourselves. Think about how you can create a more balanced tension in your life.