Getting in the moment to be who you really are
Saturday afternoons can feel like a really loooong afternoon when you’ve been home all day with younger kids. We don’t have much structure in our house beyond loosely sticking to meal times, nap times and bed times so there isn’t much direction as we navigate the weekends. Constantly looking ahead to what’s next and what is who going to need when.
I’m a planner so I’m always thinking ahead to what can be done when or better because I compare a lot to what has happened in the past and not wanting to deal with that again. This can lead to a short-fused momma because plans don’t work the way we want them too. When you have a 2-year-old and 4-year-old who want things to be done their way and a 6 and 7-year-old who just want to follow the plan – things get a little tense.
This is why I love outside.
There is something about being outside that makes all the craziness of them seem way more doable. Maybe it’s because I’m controlling my emotions better because I can be seen or heard (at least more so than when I’m hiding in my house with the windows closed) or there is just something about nature.
Before I get outside, I feel closed in on – whether it’s the to-do list of chores, or the kids constantly asking for things, or the strong desire to lay on the couch and zone out – it makes me tense and feel overwhelmed. Kids are also loud and when there are walls everywhere for sound to bounce off of, I get very overstimulated quickly too.
After kicking the kids outside, I savor that 5 minutes of complete quiet by staring out the window while breathing sighs of relief. Then I grab myself something to drink and head outside. They usually let me sit and watch them but sometimes the 2-year-old gets a little adventurous and goes out of sight range so up I go – ready for a mindful adventure.
In my therapy practice – I teach clients different styles of mindfulness because it helps regulate emotions and makes your thoughts seem slower and clearer. Mindfulness is the practice of pulling yourself into the present moment and using your senses to really notice what is happening in the now. Most of my parenting day is not in the present moment so my brain gets tired – and when we get tired, we get cranky – so its really important to find time (even 5 minutes) to get that thinking in the present.
Here are some simple steps to make that happen while you are outside – with your kids or not.
1. Take 3 – 5 breathes. Make sure it feels like your stomach is expanding with air – not your lungs! While you breathe, count to 5 while you breathe in, hold it for 6, and breathe out for 7.
2. Now start making your way through your senses – I like to start at the top of my head and make my way down my face so I don’t forget what sense I’m on: eyes, ears, nose, mouth, touch.
3. What do you notice that you see – are the trees blowing? Are there flowers blooming? How many different types of trees do you notice (this one is fun with kids, collecting a different leaf for each type of tree you find!), Does the street seem busier now than other times?
4. What do you notice that you hear – is someone mowing their lawn, any dogs barking, sirens blaring, cars driving by, birds chirping (can you pick out different bird songs?)
5. What do you notice that you smell – did someone just cut their grass, is someone cooking food, did the farmers just lay manure, does it smell like rain.
6. What do you notice that you can taste – this one is great to take a snack or piece of chocolate along with you. If it’s chocolate or fruit, you can take a bite and let it just sit on your tongue to melt. Notice how long it takes to melt on your tongue without you sucking on it. How many chews did it take once you started till it was gone?
7. What do you notice that you can touch – You could either pick something up to feel or you can touch your clothing. Asking yourself things like is it soft or hard, smooth or rough, how much does it seem to weigh, is it cold or warm, does it have some surfaces that feel different than others?
Now don’t over complicate things! I don’t always move through these this systematically – I just let what comes through my awareness as it happens always trying to not engage in any actual thinking beyond what I am experiencing. Most importantly – no judgments! Don’t judge yourself, your kids, your yard, or anything about your neighbors. Take notice of things (the neighbors put in a new tree) but don’t attach any judgement to it (We really need to update our front yard too).
After I do this type of exercise, I feel way more at peace with myself and feel like I am ready to get back to tackling the day – whether at home with the kids or at work. And you know what bonus I noticed too?! My kids were way calmer and more collected too! They seemed to listen way better and were enjoying helping each other notice things or experience things. I think it made me notice more also so I was more attentive to their needs or the needs of my clients! Win-win!!
Until next time…