Towards mindful family living

Mindful Family LivingHappy New Year, my fellow Sanity Savers!

I always love the freshness of a new year. It always feels like the slate can be wiped clean and you can start the year in the way you want your life to be. I know new year resolutions can get a bad rap, but I relish the holiday down time to slow down and make some intentions for the new year. This year is one I know will be different and that’s due to some big changes I made as 2014 drew to a close.

I quit my job

In the dying days of 2014 I walked into my boss’s office and quit my job. I’d love it if it was that simple, that one day I decided that I would resign and marched right in there and did it. However, I am never that decisive so the move followed months of weighing up pros and cons, of planning, budgeting, dreaming and scheming. All the layers of my decision making process intertwined and proved to me beyond reasonable doubt that it was the move I had to make – for myself, for my family and for my career.

The final weeks of 2014 were a flurry of tying up loose ends, farewells and Christmas planning so sitting here now feels very much like a new beginning. While previously I’ve been a freelance writer on the side of my part-time job as a journalist, this year it’s all up to me as to how much money I earn and what my work/life balance looks like. While I’ve been hankering for this kind of freedom for a long while, it also presents a myriad of challenges – how to live an inspired life on less, how to stay motivated when working from home and how to create an organised and distraction free home (as it will now also be my place of business!). 

Towards Mindful Family Living

If I was to sum it all up, my big goal for this year is to create a mindful family life – living with intention and making choices that support our family’s values, aspirations and dreams. A big part of that is continuing to look for ways to stress less and look after myself so that I can be the best mother I can to my boys. I want to introduce systems that tame the chaos of our family life. I want to live adventurously and explore new outdoor activities as a family. I want to make the best use of my time and free myself from frazzled. I want to stick to a budget that allows us the means to plan for our future. I want to make good food choices for myself and my family. And lastly, I want to share how I go about that with you, so you too can start to explore what mindful family living looks like for you.

So, who’s with me? I’d love to hear what the new year holds for you and what changes you want to make to live more mindfully in 2015.

Photograph: Alicia Summer Photography.

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Stress less Christmas #3: stopping the shoulds

How to stop the shoulds this ChristmasAs we hurtle through the last week of November, I thought it might be a good chance to put the brakes on before we hit December and ask … how are you feeling right now? As you sit contemplating the full social calendar, the shopping and planning that needs to be done, alongside all the day to day responsibilities like work, end of school functions and household upkeep … how are you feeling?

If you have time, sit with your feelings for a little while. What’s nagging you? What are you excited about? What would you love to do if only you had the time? Jot a few notes to get those nagging worries out of your head and to establish a few things you could do for yourself to help you get through the next month as calmly as possible.

After my last post on Christmas gift giving, I was starting to freak out that I wasn’t following my own advice and filling out my Christmas Gift Giving printable and getting a wriggle on with my Christmas shopping. Silly, hey? The stress less Christmas advice giver wasn’t taking her own advice! I caught myself getting caught up in these thoughts and instead of letting the inadequacy fester, I decided to print out the damn printable and get the list out of my head and onto paper. I instantly felt better about it and more in control of the situation.

I find that at this time of year, the ‘shoulds’ can sometimes get louder and louder – like you ‘should’ buy all the stuff on the ‘santa’ list, that you ‘should’ accept every end of year function invitation and that you ‘should’ stress yourself silly over making it a magical time of year for your kids, complete with complicated Christmas craft. If you genuinely love and can afford to do these things, then that’s great. However, if you hear yourself saying ‘should’ a lot, it’s time to take a step back and reassess those Christmas values.

I caught myself ‘shoulding’ today when I was out shopping. I had bought a couple of carefully chosen gifts for some loved ones and I was worried, despite spending up to my budget, that they would be considered too ‘small’ a gift. ‘I should get them something else as well’ I said to myself. I caught my thought as it ticked through my head and I realised that I was only considering buying more gifts as the gift itself looked small, even though it wasn’t cheap, and I risked going over my budget just to make the present ‘look’ more expensive or generous. It’s so easy at this time of year to fall into people pleasing habits and doing things just for show.

I was so happy I caught myself and I looked at the gift in my hand and knew that though it looked little, that I’d chosen that gift especially for that person and that hopefully it would bring them happiness. I let go of that should and left it behind in the shop and walked on feeling lighter, budget intact.

It’s a trap I find myself falling into with the kids, especially. Buying ‘just one more thing’ so that the stocking is adequately stuffed, ensuring the right level of wide-eyed wonder come Christmas Day, but at the end of the day, it’s just stuff. Stuff you don’t have room for when the boxes are cleared and the novelty wears off.

Do you suffer from an attack of the ‘shoulds’ at this time of year? I’d love to hear how you combat them! 

A return to stressing less and the Bupa Health influencer blog awards

stressless-christmas

Can you believe November is here already? It’s the point where the silly season starts to hit full steam, but I’ve decided that this year will be different. So next Wednesday, I’d love you to come and join in the Save Mum’s Sanity #stresslessxmas.

I think as mothers we sometimes bear the brunt of the silliness of this time of year – organising the social gatherings, buying the gifts, endless food prep and we can easily start feeling the stress building in a time of year that should be enjoyable and about sharing love with our family.

I personally put alot of pressure on myself to provide the perfect christmas experience and it always leaves me feeling strung out. I figure what my family really needs at Christmas is not a strung out, hung up mother, but a peaceful, relaxed and happy one who’s not worrying about the details so much as the time spent together.

So that’s my aim this year, and I’d love if it was yours too!

Next Wednesday’s post will have some details about how to get involved and what to expect – I promise not to bombard you with lots of Christmas Stress Less posts, as it will kind of defeat the purpose! I’m aiming for once a week with some social media check ins to see how everything is going. I’m planning on ressurrecting Save Mum’s Sanity Weekly, which will be full of #stresslessxmas tips so if you’re not signed up, you can do so on the side bar.

The other exciting news I’d like to share is that Save Mum’s Sanity has been announced as a finalist in the Bupa Health Influencer Blog Awards 2014. I was so shocked to be a finalist I danced around my house saying ‘OMG’ for about an hour. I’m a finalist in the Family Time category, so feel free to pop over and put in a vote for me and have a look at all the other wonderful finalists.

Save-Mum's-Sanity_postcard

It’s really heartening to be recognised as a blog aiming to change to the way we think about health and wellbeing. I’m really passionate about mothers looking after their own needs as a priority, rather than sticking their goals, dreams, sanity and wellbeing on the shelf in the sake of their family. It’s not what your family want or need from you – there’s no such thing as a perfect mother, but lots of amazing, different ways to be a perfectly good one. This is what I want to celebrate and what I want for you.

Thanks so much for reading and being here. Feel free to tell your friends, so we can stress less and save our sanity together. Much love x

Stress less wrap up and continuing the journey

Stress less wrap upHow are your stress levels today?

If you’ve been following along for the last month, I’ve covered the topic of stressing less from a number of angles and it’s made me realise a couple of key things – that stress will always be a part of life, but there are ways to stress less about the things that we can’t control.

While writing about stress, the universe decided to chuck a few unexpected things my way: my son was diagnosed with Global Developmental Delay and we had to rethink his therapies, which has been stressful from a time and money standpoint, and it threw a big stressful question mark over the future and more specifically our plan of attack for starting prep next year. Also, last week my mum got quite sick unexpectedly and I had to race down to see her in hospital, all the while stressing that the worst could happen. Thankfully she is now on the mend, but if those two major experiences have taught me anything is that yes, truly stressful events do occur – often unexpectedly – and in many ways they actually can bring your life into greater focus if you let them. They give you a jolt of action towards the things that really matter and those little things that we tend to stress about that never amount to anything just tend to slide away.

By starting my stress less action plan, specifically around my stress about Jarvis’s diagnosis, I am happy to report we’re making headway with his new therapies and after visiting some schools, we’re still going ahead towards Prep next year, unless something major pops up to persuade us otherwise. His little gains make me proud every day and I know that whatever the future holds, he’s going to be OK. I’ve got a new budget in action and although the intense therapies are costing us a bit, and there’s very little left after all the bills are paid, I’m no longer stressing so much about this as I know that we can cover all our expenses and that this money is going towards something so completely worthwhile.

I’ve also added a daily meditation practice into my life as a ongoing stress less measure – I find by doing a guided meditation every day I am more able to cope with what life decides to throw at me, without completely losing my sanity. It’s also my little piece of me time that I crave after the busyness of the day.

The other unexpected side-effect of writing about stress for the past month is that it’s helped me to reflect on the stresses that the motherhood journey has thrown up thus far and helped me be a little bit kinder to myself, rather than always kicking myself when I’m down. I feel somehow lighter – I don’t have to do it all, just do the things that matter with great love.

This topic has become really dear to my heart as I really want to help you find some peace in your life as a mother, so expect a bit more on this topic as the months roll by!

I would love to hear how you’re going on your journey to stress less … What things are helping you? What are you still struggling with?

 

How to stress less about parenting

Copy of Stress and postnatal depressionDespite all its wonder, weirdness and blessings, parenting is one of the most stressful things I’ve ever done. For someone who up until this point in life has struggled to keep a plant alive, the responsibility of nurturing a real live human can feel huge sometimes. And the job of parenting these days is further complicated by the amount of literature about different parenting methods,  food dos and don’ts, how we are failing our kids if we don’t sign them up to every structured, play-based learning opportunity, the list continues. Sometimes amongst all that noise it’s hard to hear the steady beat of  your own parenting drum.

And that, I think, is the key to stressing less about parenting. Forget what Aunt Mildred, your mother, whatever parenting expert everyone says you should read says – what is your heart telling you about raising your children?

I found it hard to block out the noise – and for the first couple of years of parenting just felt the uncomfortable bind of trying to do it all, without giving much thought about what was most important to me and my family. My activities consisted of a steady stream of ‘shoulds’ from the potentially perfect parenting handbook and as much as my hard work paid off in raising healthy and seemingly well-adjusted kids, I was on an endless treadmill of things that I should be doing. It was exhausting and more than a little debilitating. So, I stopped doing all of the things and slowed down. I stopped planning activities for every day I was at home and just made space to be with my children, I listened to the times I felt at ease and my kids felt at ease and decided to do more of that and less of the things that left us feeling strung out. All those little moments of peace led to more little moments of peace and so on until I felt more at ease in general with the parenting decisions I made.

So, if you’re feeling a bit stuck on the treadmill of perfect parenthood – switch it off! And start slowing walking towards the parent you’re meant to be.

1. Listen to your heart: What’s right for one parent, may not be right for the next. When making a parenting decision, stop and listen to what matters to you. Try and block out the noise of family, friends and popular opinion and ask yourself what truly matters to you and your family. The answer is always there.

2. Don’t feel the need to overschedule: At what times do you feel most at peace (yes, you’re allowed to say when the kids are asleep!!) What kind of activities do you enjoy doing with your kids. What activities do they enjoy most? You might find that there is a similarity between the two. There’s such a push towards organised activities that I always felt I was failing my kids by not enrolling them in this and that, so when we were at home I’d feel a bit of guilt creep in. However, what I found was that both my kids and I thrive with having at least one day to ourselves pottering around the house or neighbourhood. 

3. Leave time to amble: I find that rushing really stresses me out, so by following the tip above I have a bit more space in my day to take my time and enjoy getting from point A to point B without shouting ‘hurry up’ ‘c’mon’ and ‘mum has to get to work’. It doesn’t always work, but I find if I’m able to leave more time, I feel a lot less stressed.

4. Stop judging yourself: If you’re anything like me, you are your harshest critic. So, you had a bad day and yelled at the kids a lot and served them up maccas for dinner because you were so exhausted? Don’t sweat it, tomorrow’s a new day! Let your focus be on the greater good and allow yourself moments of human failings. Nobody is perfect.

5. Don’t listen to the ‘shoulds’: The ‘shoulds’ will take over your parenting life if you let them and before you know it, you’re spending all your time on all the things you don’t enjoy but feel like you should do, while the enjoyable moments slip past unnoticed. Notice what follows a ‘should’ – is it something you even need to be doing? Can it wait, until you play with your kids, walk around your neighbourhood or go have a well-needed nap. Start prioritising your ‘I’d love tos’!

I’d love to hear what you think of these simple steps towards stress less parenting – have they worked for you? What are your top tips?

Stress and the unspoken truth of postnatal depression

Stress and postnatal depressionSometimes stress hides a great unspoken. Unspoken truths that rattle around in our heads that we may only share with our partner or a trusted friend, or maybe no-one at all. Many times since becoming a mother I’ve stood in my living room surrounded by chaos and screaming children and felt like a total and utter failure, while feeling exhaustion down to my bones. Rationally, I know this is a feeling that most mothers have felt and rarely shared, but at that very moment I felt so completely incompetent and alone. As mothers, the message we’re fed is to ‘suck it up’, ‘get on with it’, ‘don’t complain’ and ‘surely you knew what you were getting yourself into?’ Is it any wonder that depression among mothers is so rife? An Australian study released this week found the highest rate of depression reported by mothers is four years after having their first child. Four years. As someone who has struggled with anxiety and depression in varying degrees since having my first child 4 and half years ago, this hit me like a lightning bolt.

Often, the postnatal depression we hear about is the sudden and abrupt kind. While this is a very real and a particularly tragic form of postnatal depression, there’s another kind. The creeping, destabilising force that undermines your confidence, that whispers words of failure in your ears, that paralyses your decision making with its anxiety, while you carry on doing your best, mothering, working, with an unpleasant truth nipping at your heels. Its insidious and when not dealt with, only continues. This has been my experience and, as this study shows, that of a lot of other women.

It’s only in hindsight that I realise how badly I was in its grips after the birth of both my boys, but particularly after my first child. Both experiences were different , but were nonetheless coloured by that very first experience of motherhood where I struggled and struggled, felt misunderstood and alone. Now I know I should’ve reached out and asked for help, rather than swallowed the belief that motherhood is hard and that I just should struggle on and get used to it. Maybe the following years may have been a bit easier in some ways if I’d been able to do that. So, if you’re out there right now feeling like you’re struggling, I’d encourage you to reach out and tell someone you know will understand how you are feeling. Someone who will take your feelings seriously and help you get the help you need.

While I can’t change what I chose back then, I can change how I face today and tomorrow and help you to do the same. I can ask for help and say it’s OK for you to ask too. I can speak about this great unspoken and encourage you to do the same. In doing so I believe we can change the dialogue. If we can be kinder to ourselves, we’ll end up being kinder to each other and maybe then the societal message to mothers will be ‘let it out’, ‘you’re not a failure’, ‘there’s no right way’ and ‘you never know what you’re getting into, but you can do it’. Maybe we can change the unspoken truth?

If you feel like you’re struggling contact the Post and Antenatal Depression Association (PANDA) helpline on 1300 726 306.

Is balance an achievable goal?

is balance an achievable goal

One of the things I’m constantly struggling with as a mother is whether I’m getting the balance right. Getting some sort of perfect balance between work, life and family is something I’ve always strived for, but the further I get along the motherhood journey, the more I realise that the pursuit of perfect balance is somewhat futile. With all the competing demands in our lives, is true balance ever fully attainable? Are we ever really going to feel that all our ducks are in a row and our time is evenly split between all the things in our lives that require attention? Or does this goal in fact leave us always searching for the ever-elusive magic balance land, grappling for extra time to distribute to the things that we just never get a chance to get on top of. I’m finding that if I shift my thinking towards priorities rather than balance that it becomes easier to take care of the things that I need and want to do.

My children and family are always on the top of my list of priorities, so when it comes down to decision making about any of the other areas of my life they are my first consideration. This has sometimes meant that I’ve had to turn down or miss out on things that I would have loved to be able to do, which if I’m trying to achieve balance makes me feel completely askew and resentful, but if I focus on them as my priority I feel like I’m honouring my personal values and stage of life, rather than fighting against it. It gives me a greater feeling of peace, I guess.

While work is a necessity for me and I’m lucky to enjoy the work I do, both in my paid work and here on the blog, for the season of life I’m in right now, it definitely has to come second to my personal life. And that’s OK. That doesn’t make me any less capable or ambitious, it just means that the decisions I make regarding work are always made with my family situation in mind.

When I was trying to balance it all, I thought working from home was the answer to evenly split my time between work and family. But what actually happened was that I was always trying to do both at the same time, which left me completely stressed and burnt out. What I found was that I couldn’t switch off from work while I was with my kids and I couldn’t switch off the nagging sense there was housework to do or I should be with my kids while I was working. It seems that I’m not alone in feeling that working from home may not be the answer to work-life balance. By letting go of the idea of perfect balance, I can just enjoy life as it is now in it’s sometimes chaotic form. It means I turn off the computer completely when I’m playing with my kids, that I’m present at the park without checking my emails or putting a sneaky update on facebook. When I’m at work I’m at work and I plan out certain days and times to work on my writing and bl0g that work for my family and work for me. In doing it this way, I feel less stressed and by having my main priorities as my guiding lights means that sometimes hard decisions are easier to make. And biggest of all, by letting go of the idea of balance means that I’m allowed to step off the tight rope and drop a couple of balls I’m juggling if they are just not my priorities … and that’s totally OK.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. Do you think that life balance is totally achievable or are you more a priorities girl like me and realise that something’s got to give? I’d love to hear what works for you!