I'm on vacation this week (WOO HOO!), so it's a great time to have a few guest blog posts. Up first, a wonderful post from Lara Morris, a local mom and life coach, on finding balance as a parent. (My tip? Go on vacation! Hah, yes, I'm a little excited.)
Parenting with a sense of balance is just like the yoga tree posture – when you stand on one foot and tune into sensations, you notice the constant little adjustments that must be made to avoid falling over. Try it on a Monday and it will feel different than on Friday.
Balance is fluid. You know when you have it. There’s a sense of well-being and a feeling of being able to meet the various demands of your day – kids, work, errands, or other responsibilities. You feel healthy on all levels – physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.
You're probably also aware of when you're not in balance. Those unbalanced days are when you feel overwhelmed, out of control, or kind of stuck – when it seems like you have no choices or can’t get anything done. These experiences have a negative impact on your health, especially if they leave you feeling chronically stressed.
Working towards your own unique sense of balance is important. This will look different for everyone. Some people multi-task on a daily basis. They are most content when there’s a load of laundry on the line, they’re baking cookies with their toddlers, while simultaneously trying a new recipe for dinner and talking to their mother-in-law on the phone! For others, that level of activity in one day would send them under covers – literally. What’s important to remember is that we’re all different and so is our experience of balance.
With all the demands in our lives, how can you develop more of a sense of balance? Here are a few tips:
Become self-aware: What does balance mean to you? Are you the kind of person who likes focusing on one experience at a time or do you thrive on multi-tasking? What gives you a sense of peace in your life? What are the day-to-day events that are pleasing to you? What’s frustrating? As you get to know yourself, it will be easier to make healthy choices on a daily basis.
Be conscious that you have a choice: Our sense of being overwhelmed is often related to believing we have no choices – the housework has to get done or today's the day you always call your sister. Be conscious of what choices you are making on a daily basis. What can wait? Sometimes it’s about your own perspective. A mound of dishes may seem overwhelming when I’ve had a full day with my daughter, but they seem welcome when I think of getting some quiet time for myself.
Get out of your head, and into your body: My friend Shelley Wallace runs a business called BodyLingo. I love her tag line – “Surprise, there’s a body attached to your head.” It reminds me how important it is to move around to get energy flowing. Parenting can be so fun, and so frustrating. If you’re feeling overwhelmed in your head, try some physical activity to move yourself back to a more balanced place.
Say No: Wherever and whenever you can. As a society, it feels like we are adrenaline junkies, always on to the next thing – whether it’s a work commitment, volunteering, or responding to someone else’s call for help. You can maintain a strong work ethic and still say no. Focus on what you’re saying yes to so you remember how much you’re already giving.
Don’t judge yourself or others: Everyone does things, including parenting, in their own unique way. When we appreciate how different we all are, it’s easier to focus on making good choices for yourself and your family.
Make healthy choices: It’s hard to be a good girl or good boy all the time, but healthier choices about food, sleep, and physical activity make it easier to get that sense of balance. While I refuse to give up my daily dose of chocolate, and red wine is still regularly on the “grocery” list, I know the choice to eat nutritional whole foods and lots of vegetables increases energy and helps reduce those feelings of overwhelm. If you’re uncertain about what kinds of food would best suit you, ask your doctor for a referral to a nutritionist or see a naturopath.
Rest: When, you say? Whenever you can! I’m not sure I’ve ever fully recovered from the sleep deprivation that came with my daughter’s birth. I have felt tired for about four years! If the only time you sit down is on the toilet, it might be time to question if you’re resting enough. Unwind a night to make sure you get your best sleep too – have a bath, do a little reading or just take some slow deep breaths to prepare yourself for sleep.
Make a plan for the day, and let it go: Having a plan may help you feel less overwhelmed. The trick is to be flexible, so deviations from the plan don’t make things worse!
Ask for help: And trust people will say no when they need to. It’s easier to ask for and accept help when you’re focused on your needs, rather than someone else’s reaction. Help can mean many things – having someone care for your children so you’re freed up for something else, hosting a potluck instead of a dinner party so you only have to prepare part of a meal, going with a friend to the grocery store so you have a ride home with your groceries. Getting help may give you some breathing room and help you regain a sense of balance. What would most help you right now?
Stop aiming for perfection: Sometimes I truly bemoan all those gold stars on spelling tests! There is no perfect parent. There is only you, working to be your best each day. Play to your strengths and work on your challenges.
Accept some days are wacky and out of balance: Balance will probably not happen every day. And that’s OK. It’s the general sense of well-being you’re aiming for. When you experience it, note the circumstances. What would give you more days like that?
By Lara Morris, BA, LLB, CPCC, CYT. Lara brings over 20 years of diverse experiences and skills to her role as a coach, facilitator, and trainer. Offering a solid reputation, an inquisitive spirit, and proven methods for helping motivate and inspire, Lara helps individuals, organizations, and workplaces make lasting change. Lara also teaches yoga to children and adults. Her monthly family yoga classes are profiled on the HRM Parent site, www.hrmparent.ca. She lives in Halifax with her partner and four year old daughter. For more information, see www.laramorris.ca, call 422-4096 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.