We all have a default way of dealing with day to day stresses, but it helps enormously if you can recognise the stresses as they arise and find ways to cope that lessen the chances of a bad mood descending.
Taking time out to ‘recharge your batteries’ also carries no shame. In fact, it’s an important part of parenting to honour and respect your own needs and gives you more energy to create the kind of family times you actually want to share.
So here are ten ways to bring yourself back from the brink and honour your own needs:
1. Create a bookshelf of meaningful books that reassure and uplift you. Seek recommendations from friends for books that validate you on your personal journey.
2. Have a sacred space you can retreat to. In a house full of other people’s things, make a little corner just for you. It might be your bed, a corner of the sofa, an attic, the garden shed. Fill it with a few things that resonate: crystals, books, sketchpad, a special mug. State clearly that you need five minutes there, or, if your children are tiny and can’t be left alone, promise yourself that as soon as you’ve got them down to sleep you’ll honour yourself with time in your sacred space. That might mean simply running a bath – but make it special by lighting candles around the edge. At the risk of sounding like a shampoo advert, you ARE worth it.
3. Try and organise a system with your partner or a friend where you each get a couple of hours a week (fortnight or month) just to be. Whether that’s going for a walk, reading a book, catching up on news with friends, or simply sitting somewhere quiet – put it in the diary and make sure you both keep to your promises.
4. Take some exercise. If you feel stressed, go for a brisk walk or try punching the air for a boxercise style workout. The rush of endorphins you get from exercising is one of the best ways to chase the blues away.
5. Get out the house. When it feels like things are at melting point, get everyone out the house. See if any local friends are around for a quick cuppa – it’s amazing how much seeing friends can defuse stressful situations and help us have a laugh at ourselves.
6. Immerse yourself in beauty. That might mean visiting a local beauty spot, or simply lying in your garden and taking in the wonder of flowers. Perhaps you have a gallery you could visit – failing that, a book of magical photographs or paintings that infuse the spirit with delight.
7. Be creative. So often our frustrations are tangled up in our desire to have a little moment to ourselves. Making something helps us connect to our inner creatrix and reminds us of our deepest selves. Perhaps you’ll join the kids in a sketching session, or get out that knitting project you put to one side….bake a cake or make some soap. Whatever it is, creativity is a balm for the soul.
8. Keep a ‘happiness book’ of your hopes and dreams. Imagine writing a letter to your unhappy self from your happy self – think of ways of lifting yourself out of the darkness into the light. Pack your journal with uplifting quotes and pictures, messages to yourself and joyful reminders to follow your bliss. When you feel that things are overwhelming, reach for your happiness book for a boost.
9. Research shows that writing out your feelings of frustration or unhappiness lessens their hold on the subconscious. Take five minutes to rant and rave on paper and then burn the page. Or try Julia Cameron’s Morning Pages from the book The Artist’s Way – when you first wake up, before doing anything else, write 3 pages of whatever comes into your head…just keep writing. This stream of consciousness writing is great for clarifying your thoughts and releasing emotion.
10. Teach your kids about emotions. Discuss feelings with them and respect theirs. Everyone has days when they don’t feel their best and may need a little quiet time. By honouring this in our children’s lives, we are showing them how to do that for others. Explain gently how you are feeling, that you might need to take things slow and quiet today: by owning our emotions rather than hiding them, we create a culture where it is okay to not feel hunky-dory every day but to ride life’s ups and downs with awareness.