April is Stress Awareness Month and if you’re regularly feeling wound up like a kid’s clockwork toy, who you gonna call for help? Family wellbeing expert Dani Binnington is on a mission to help us unwind and de-stress…
Being a maxed-out parent is the norm. Life is hectic enough before we become a mum or dad, so add in the worry for one, two, three or more children and it’s only normal that our stress levels increase dramatically.
But let’s be aware. Children are not born knowing what stress is. It’s something they experience. Children are also not born knowing how to manage stress. It is something that needs to be learnt. And although school can help in some cases, it’s down to us parents to help our children build on their resilience. If we as parents are constantly frazzled, it is much more likely that our children will become that way also. If we however, add simple tools into our life to at least try and de-stress, this is something our offspring can pick up too. In my opinion, achieving a totally stress-free life is neither realistic or necessary, but trying is. It’s important that we live by example and show our children that we are important enough to at least try, to invest in. Just as we service our cars and descale our kettles, we need to give our minds a break to find a moment of calm in what can seem a rather hectic existance.
Here’s my top ten simple happiness hacks to transform your life:
1. Allow yourself to sit down to have a tea or coffee and do nothing else. No need to do your online food shop, or fill in forms at the same time. Teach yourself and show your kids that it’s okay to recharge your batteries for a few minutes in between tasks.
2. Improve your children’s self-worth. Make your chores and mundane jobs part of the whole family’s responsibility. Get your kids and partner to help you prep food, tidy away the dishes and take responsibility for certain areas around the house. I get it, initially it might seem so much quicker for you to do it all by yourself. But give your children a chance, most thrive on responsibility and the sooner your children can help around the house, the better. It feels good to be of use!
3. Create rituals around your weekly routines. Monday nights could be stir fry nights. Tuesday evenings mean a soak in the bath with candles. Wednesday mornings are a walk in the park before the school run. Thursday lunchtime is spent with a friend. Friday evening is ‘the kids cook tea’ and homemade popcorn night with a family movie etc… Children in particular like to know what’s coming next. It makes life simpler and we have more to look forward to.
4. Create special meal times. Every now and then, set the table nicely and if your children are old enough make it their job to help you. Light candles and make it look really nice, perhaps dim the lights in the room. It won’t matter what you serve for tea, but the entire mealtime will feel more special. Talk to another, practise listening and sharing. Needless to say, no tech allowed. By all means this doesn’t need to happen very often. If it’s once a week or once a month – anything is good enough. You will find that this mealtime can feel really special and you’ll end up feeling more grateful for all you have.
5. Create a cut-off time for work and tech in the evenings. Put phones and laptops away and be really strict with yourself. Not only will you lead by example, but our gadgets can often rob us of important time when we are not careful of how to use them. You’ll get to read more, talk to your family and partner more, and increase the sense that you are winding down for the day.
6. Reading with smaller children is a wonderful time spent. But don’t give up that valuable one-to-one time when your children get older. Sit with your child on the sofa, or in their room, allow for space for them to talk or just be. Perhaps talk through the rest of the week with them, or plan fun stuff for the weekend. It makes everyone feel they know what is going on and are part of your ‘team’.
7. Learn one breathing or mindfulness exercise for you and your child. It could be the ten finger breathing technique where you inhale and run your index finger of your right hand to the top of your pinkie on your left hand. On the exhale run your finger down to the base. Inhale onto your ring finger, exhale back to the base. Continue until your thumb and swap sides. It’s a lovely technique resulting in ten calm in and exhales. Children can use this as a strategy to calm down anywhere they are.
8. Create a meaningful conversation. Instead of asking, ‘Did you have a good day?’ and being slightly frustrated at the often monosyllabic ‘yes’ and that being the end of the conversation, I read a great tip a while back. Ask this instead: ‘What did you do to make someone happy today?’ ‘What did someone else do to make you happy today?’ And, ‘What did you learn today?’ It shifts the focus to different values and is a much more fluid way of talking. Give it some time though, these things have to be practised a little until you reap the benefits.
9. Do less, love more. Check your weekly routine and make sure to fully love the activities you plan for yourself and your children. There is no point in making our kids play every sport possible, rushing from one event to the next if we’re not fully loving what we do. Doing less is okay, and doing so wholeheartedly feels fantastic.
10. Talk about how you feel and offer a solution in the same sentence. Children will learn from you that they have control over their wellbeing. You could say, ‘I’m feeling really tired now, so I’ll have a cup of tea and then we’ll carry on playing.’ Or ‘It’s been a busy week for me at work, I’ll try and do a little yoga on Saturday and Sunday.’ It teaches children to become active in their recovery process, that they have a massive input in their overall wellbeing. Finding strategies to recharge ones batteries is key to a balanced life.
Dani Binnington is a yoga practitioner, wellbeing expert and creator of healthywholeme.com which is full of delicious recipes, wellbeing tips and inspiration for a healthy lifestyle.