by Sarah Liversidge
A lot of what I thought I knew has been upturned over the past couple of months; my pre-determined trajectory has been modified and I find myself in a new world. It’s been a stressful time and, most significantly, I am now a single parent of my two children. I realised that as life was becoming more complicated and exhausting, I might topple over and just plain lose it if I was not careful. Being present has become more important than ever.
As the only grown-up around to take care of things, I knew I had to get down to business and cope and in order to right the good ship (that’s me, I’m the good ship), I needed effective strategies to steam ahead with my life – little kiddies in tow.
I am not a zen kind of person. I don’t meditate or really enjoy yoga and when I hear women talk about self care, I imagine long lazy mani/pedi afternoons, solo movie experiences (that don’t include any kind of CGI animation) and dinners with friends full of laughter – all of which I just don’t have any spare time for. Right now, my life is a race, on a unicycle while juggling several balls. So what can I do to unwind?
I’ve worked out a few things that really help to keep me grounded everyday:
- I stop for just a moment to feel the sun on my face. It’s my version of “smelling the roses”. I imagine the sun is giving me energy to continue on. I’ve got into the habit of this particularly when hanging out the washing – the briefest moment in my domestic Sun Salute has me feeling calm and happy.
- Instead of reaching for caffeine, sugar or any other pick-me-up, I nourish myself with herbal tea. It’s my ritual – this is something small I can do when I am feeling overwhelmed. It’s even better if I can find a chair in the sun to sit in while I sip.
- As much as possible, I sit down to eat breakfast and read. It takes 15 minutes out of my day but this practice is the gift that keeps giving. For one, I am well-fed and, while nourishing my body, I am reading something other than my to-do list or thinking about the kids’ many emotional and physical needs. I am distracted from the day-to-day, and I feel like I’m improving myself.
- Play music to loosen the mood. I am constantly amazed at what an energy-lifter music is. I put it on loud in the mornings to rouse my kids into the day, and we dance and sing our way through the boring routines.
- Recognise when you’re panicking – I often talk to myself (oh yeah, out loud and everything). Acknowledging where I am and what I’m feeling can give me great insights as to what you need in that moment.
- I try to fill my cup first and let it flow over to support and love the ones around me. This is kind of the reverse of where I started as a parent. I would find my reserve quickly depleted by the needs of my family. When I put them in front, I would be more inclined to grumpiness and melancholy. I have now learned that the most effective way to take care of my children is to first take good care of myself.
Being nice to oneself takes a special kind of organisation, particularly on the days when everything is thrown at you. There are some practicalities that I use to make sure it’s as smooth sailing as can be:
- Have some healthy prepared food in your freezer for those crazy afternoons when you can’t cook fresh. Right now, in my freezer I have couple of serves of bolognaise sauce, chicken soup, some curries and raw homemade pizza dough – all of which I can turn into hearty meals in a flash.
- I play to my strengths as much as I can. I’m a pretty organised Type A personality and so, when I’m stressed, giving myself practical “list ticking” activities can be really grounding and beneficial. Treating the day like a project gives me a good start, middle and end. How do you get organised for the onslaught?
- I use a lot of technology to help me. Be it Skype meetings, working or shopping online, or my daily newspapers delivered to my tablet. I am a stickler for switching them all off, though, when it’s time to play in the park or relax. Technology is a blessing if you use it right, and a curse if you let it take over your mind.
Happiness Central is a wonderful resource for mindfulness in a practical world. They have a smart phone app that sends me clever, happy thoughts at 10am every morning. The quotes are annoyingly spot-on sometimes, and are yet another reminder to stop, consider and accept where you are and strive to do better.
No one sat me down when I became a parent and shared their secrets of how to get through the tough times. The mums I know are fantastic at juggling their family’s needs and pretty poor at meeting their own.
What do you do to take care?