If you are reading this blog things must be desperate, but lets not make light of the overwhelm or some new age strategies for chillaxing/coping you may have ordinarily dismissed. If your are reading this, the door is open, take a peak in.
If you are a parent with one or more children in today’s manic society you are more than likely on the spectrum of ‘overwhelm’. You may go from wailing banshee in the morning coaxing small people to eat, dress and leave the house through to death metal throat growling in the afternoon when the tiredness of the day turn your offspring into feral food-refusers.
Being overwhelmed is a very personal thing and my overwhelm may be different to your overwhelm so it can feel very lonely when you are there. It can happen at key stages like the new born stage or the childcare and back to work stage or it can be cumulative just notching up with every daily task. Often there is a tipping point and your body feels the result of the emotions or stress and it comes out in a physical symptom like migraine, virus or an ulcer to help you slow down. But many of us parents press the override button at this point, the keep pushing and can operate in what seems a constant state of overwhelm.
When things get desperate we always look outward, away from our life for something extra to bring in. Often it’s the small incremental stages that prevent overwhelm from choices and commitments to saying ‘no’ a bit more. This not so ‘new’ new age s*!t Below are age old techniques tried and tested to help slow down, breathe and become aware. You don’t have to buy fisherman pants and rope your neighbours into Friday night chanting having returned from 3 weeks of silence and meditation with your guru in a Nepalese ashram. These are entry level ideas you have to try more than once to feel the change. One involves chocolate so read on….
Essentially it’s giving a task your full attention, it’s not meditation. I am no more in the zone and ‘present’ than when Miss 3 busts out, “you’re a poo bum mummy” in the local Post Office. Thanks big brother for all your wise teachings! What I don’t do is cut the circuit and become aware of my reaction, I just have mindfulness ‘L’ plates.
We are constantly pushed to distraction by email alerts, calendar reminders, phone calls, text messages, and tagged status updates.Ever forget where you have put the keys 2.5 seconds after putting them down? Should have been more mindful of my actions but I was We have almost been conditioned (only recently) to multi-task and feel we are not doing enough by doing one job at one time. We need to be answering phones, writing an email and drinking a coffee. None of these things will achieve optimal productivity, we can switch tasks quickly but we actually can’t do two things at once and focus on those two things.
Mindfulness is a way to bring focus to the task at hand and become aware of how busy the mind can be if left to it’s own devices…yup, me too. This is one of the reasons to develop the skills to be more mindful. So how can you make the change? Be attentive, sounds easy? Hell no! Attention is a fixed capacity we don’t have a lot to give. Try tuning in to certain tasks. You won’t be mindful about everything you do. You can help develop the skills through the ‘chocolate experiment’. And as this is a research experiment so it’s for science and means it’s for the greater good.
Challenge 1 So take a block of chocolate, take your time to open it. Look at it, smell it, bite it, taste it. Enjoy! Keep you full focus on that one task for at least 4 cubes. I prescribe this mindful exercise 3 times a week or until the block is finished in an emergency ‘hit’. Mindfulness is a technique you can develop over time and won’t be something you master straight away so don’t be hard on yourself if you keep getting distracted, but be aware how many things you are trying to manage at the same time and see if you can cut back or just do one task at one time for 10 minutes per day. Then you can become my guru.
Swap Screen Time for Green Time
“Disconnect to connect”. This is a growing movement. We are more and more connected to our screens and devices 24/7 and that is changing the way we move, interact and connect with others and our environment. Take a lunchtime walk to some green space, without your device. Take a weekend away without your device. Be aware of how dependent you are on your device. I know if I forget my phone it’s like I’ve lost an arm. I’m flapping around, feeling unsettled, feeling guilty about feeling dependent on a little electronic device, repeat, repeat. Green time is great for the kids it’s a playground to develop their imagination and create play through the resources they have available. It’s great for your creativity and focus.
Challenge 2 Find some green space and walk, sit or just breathe in the air. When was the last time you went for a walk in the bush?
Myth buster: You are not required to be as flexible as a Russian gymnast. You are not required to wear LuLulemon or Lorna Jane lycra pants, in fact, lycra isn’t required at all. You are not required to choose an spirit animal or chant ‘Om’ to your children when they are undergoing art therapy.
Yoga is all about moving and breathing. Often in moving your body the mind has to concentrate on the activity at hand and can briefly decrease a wondering mind. Add breathing on top of that and it can bring down your heart rate, help you sleep better and break your daily body patterns of sitting and standing in the same positions day after day. Yoga helps you become aware of the imbalances in the body and work with them. It’s often said there is no such thing as a yoga injury. That would mean your ego has taken over and you have stopped listening to your body or because some 50 year old guy next to you is doing a hip opener with running shorts and mesh undies (this actually happened!). There is heaps of free yoga classes online so it’s good idea to start at a beginners level. Try Hatha yoga which is just breathing and movement. There are many types of yoga styles, philosophies, teachers and studios. Start simple and build. My favourite ‘stress-less’ technique is Yoga Nidra which is a little meditation which helps visualise different parts of your body.
Check out a gentle yoga online session of about 15 minutes through YouTube as a taste test.
Try our three challenges this week and see if you feel a change? It’s a challenge not because of the activity, but because you need to make time for it. We can be dismissive of this new age ‘s*!t or we can pop another headache pill, developed a stress-related illness or just keep feeling overwhelmed. The choice is yours.