While learning about my partial Jewish heritage as a teenager, I received a gift from a friend that changed the way I looked at daily life: A collection of Hebrew prayers read like tiny sacred thank-you notes for mundane tasks like eating, getting dressed and washing hands.
This is the one that stuck with me longest, in loose translation:
<<Thanks Be to the Great Mystery, the One in All, who has blessed us in the good deed of washing hands.>>
Each time I narrated this simple act in a way that had been done for centuries, I lived a trip to the sink as a portal to infinity.
Today's media can pull us off center in different directions all day long, so it is a brave act of self-love to reclaim the body as the home of soul. Paradoxically, awareness and respect of the body are prerequisites for a journey to the limitless realm beyond it. In other words, start where you are.
I do hope you find a pocket of calm in this simple brain-friendly practice! Notice how you feel before and afterward.
Imagine that your hands can see. Focus your on the texture and temperatures you notice as you turn on the tap, soap up, scrub, rinse and dry your hands.
If you like, to yourself at any point, and perhaps repeatedly,
<<These are my hands. They belong to me.>>
"To see a World in a Grain of Sand And a Heaven in a Wild Flower, Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand And Eternity in an hour."
Last month a group of mothers and I got together to find ways to reduce stress at home.
One mother asked an important question that seemed to resonate with all of us:
How do we deal with the time gap with our little ones? My child needs need to take their time, and sometimes that seems to keep us from being on time in the grown-up world!
I consulted Lisa Gale, Director of Beehive, for her take on this. She recommended a two-fold approach to this challenge:
1. Notice the events or times in you family routine that seem to present the biggest challenges. What is it that your child has trouble doing "on time"?
2. Have a family strategy session with your co-parent to plan ahead. Take as many of the time-heavy tasks as possible OUT of your child's hands. Once you and your partner have worked out a solution, bring your young one in on it. Present their new role as your helper in this matter with great care and confidence.
Let's take the example of a child getting their shoes on before leaving the house for school. Would it be possible for you to pack a little shoe bag the night before? Your child can grab the shoe bag before leaving the house, and put on their shoes (and socks if needed) in the car. They may make it all the way to school barefoot, but when they see their friends playing from the car window they will want to get shoes on and join them!
For younger children, chanting can be a great way to motivate in time. Make up simple chants like, "washing my hands," or "putting on my socks" ... If you need to, borrow the melody from a simple song you already know. It doesn't matter what you sing!
Cell Phone ... Don't Steal My Cool!
First of all, if you are reading these words on a mobile, you are not alone. Most parents in today's busy information age rely heavily on cell phones for information and even social connection. Many even use their phones during family events: a recent study by the Boston Medical Center reported that, simply while dining out with their families 73% of parents had their eyes continuously on their cell phones in one way or another.
Parents of young children can miss safeguarding potentially dangerous moments "irl" or "in real life" for their kids while mezmerized by the shiny culprits.
But there is a more pervasive risk of added stress from quick information overload and "screen apnea" or shallow breathing that happens with extended scrolling time. This makes you, as a parent, less emotionally available ALL THE TIME.
With the constant demands to "keep up" with all manner of news from personal to global, how can we keep cell phones from taking our attention off the ones we love the most?
Start NOW with these simple solutions. It may take awhile for you to make a habit of all of them, but the benefits will pay off immeasurably in the long run.
1. Set Your Phone up for Success
"Push notifications" send you a buzz, a flash of light or any other number of distractions any time you receive a text message, a news alert, a change in stock prices, etc ... In your phone's Settings, turn off as many push notifications as possible for you. For example, if you use a text messaging service to keep in touch with your family, you may wish to keep the notifications active there.
Download a blue light filter for your web browser or your entire machine. Make sure it is set to turn on two hours before the earliest bedtime in your home. That way, if a phone does get used during evening family time, it won't mess with any one's sleep cycle.
Put your phone on airplane mode as soon as you get home from work/school. Deactivate only in case of emergency or for shared family phone time (see #4).
2. Stash phones during family time
As variation on the "phone stack" dinner party game, put all of the family phones in a designated place during shared family time. If you have younger children, parents encourage each other with good feedback when you go for hours without checking: "I noticed you left your phone in the fish bowl all evening. Thank you. That really means a lot to me." With older kids who may also have their own phones, set up a penalty for the first person who checks their phone (e.g.: lose screen privileges).
3. Get together in person with YOUR friends.
On play dates with your own friends or parents of your childrens' friends, your phones aside. Point out to the kids how much fun you are having with each other, person to person. Make regular phone dates with those you care about, no matter how short, WITHOUT video chat. Do this in a way that your children can watch you have at least part of each conversation, and notice what you hear in your friend or families' voices across the phone line.
Reinforce the idea, through your actions, that "people are more important than machines, ALWAYS."
4. Let the phone SERVE your family.
Have a sacrosanct list of apps or programs that your family uses together. Sparkle Stories is a great one for parents looking to tell bedtime stories without the "one more book!" drama ... Their stories also reference important self-regulation and social skills. You may have educational or entertainment programs that you use together as a family. Make sure that for every amount of time you spend paying attention to the device together, you BALANCE it with an equal amount of time discussing what you learned, noticed, or heard.
Give every family member input into which apps can be shared, and whenever possible create discussion around what is important to you as a familiy in the time you spend together. This will foster personal responsibility in your children. Knowing that you trust them to form their own opinions and influence family decision will teach them to take initiative in other areas of life.
If these four steps seem a lot for now, do one step every week this month. When you start sleeping better, and feel more connected your family, you will be glad you made the effort.
For more tips on stress-relief in your busy parenting life, visit www.dailycalm.net/book
If you have taken a yoga class or any kind of coaching seminar lately, you may be familiar. A common perception of deep breathing is a "tanking up" on air. To breathe deeply, simply take a deep breath in and let the rest take care of itself.
Well, this is only part of the story.
Your brain actually responds directly to the length of your breath to either ENERGIZE or CALM the body. A LONG EXHALE is what can calm you down faster than almost anything. If you have a healthy heart and are curious as to what this feels like, check out Andrew Weill's famed 4-7-8 breath here.
And although you may not remember to do this as often as you might like, you can take the simple act of speaking, and turn it into a calming exercise. How?
Try to get as many words in, at a steady, relaxed pace, before your next breath in. Allow your throat to open slightly, as though yawning, as you catch your breath, and go again: do your best to speak as many words as possible between breaths.
An ideal training time for this is while reading to yourself out loud, or reading to your young ones before bed. You may also practice while singing.
Let me know how this works for you! I would love to hear about it! Click here to leave me your comment on our Facebook page.
How many times have you done something and wished you had done it differently? At Daily Calm we see life as a learning journey.
Everything in life that I do is either:
Something I have learned
Something I have not learned
Something I am still learning
Every day has unique challenges. Getting enough rest, nourishment and loving attention all help us to experience life with ease and comfort.
However, when we do not get one or more of these basic needs met, the brain kicks into "lower gear," giving us fewer tools to work with than usual. So that time when you think you "could have done better" ... you DID THE BEST YOU COULD with all the resources you had available. Given all the sleep, nourishment, love you had in that moment, and any social stressors you may have been under, YOU DID YOUR BEST.
As 2017 gets off to a busy start, can you take a moment to notice something you did today, to celebrate it, knowing you did your best? It could be a simple office or household chore. It could be a way you took care of yourself.
Let me know what you come up with! I would love to hear about it! Click here to leave me your comment on our Facebook page.
One of my movement mentors Helen Terry says often in her dance classes, "speed is the illusion of mastery." Often in today's hectic world it can be easy to move so quickly that we may not even realize what we are doing while we are doing it!
Here's the thing: we are dynamic human beings, learning from everything we do. And the brain, a key part of our mind-body system, needs TIME to process our experiences. This means that sometimes simply SLOWING DOWN can make the difference between a surviving and thriving.
At Daily Calm, we make Attention, Breath & Cheer (encouragement) part of every healing session. In just a few minutes, you can bring these elements into your daily life too. Start by SLOWING DOWN enough to notice your surroundings. Notice the details of what is around you. See if you can take 20 seconds to look at one thing in detail. Notice its shape, color, size, texture.
When you simply SLOW DOWN, you can bring more calm, vitality, and even more energy to your day.
Want some support slowing down? Read the new self-care book for busy grownups Generous Attention: For Stressed-out Grownups who Love their Kids.
This short, 50-page guidebook to Daily Calm can reduce the stress you experience from your daily life as you learn to notice and appreciate your own strengths. Find it on Amazon, or download it here.