Posted by Rachel Sibley and Jason Treuen at January 12 2017, 8:31am
New year, new you, right? It’s always the goal, but often it’s all too easy to fall back into old, unproductive habits as we hurtle through parent life by the seat of our pants.
But life changes don’t have to be giant leaps. You can take baby steps too, with little improvements making a big difference to your family routine. With that in mind, we asked mindfulness coach / author Amy Taylor-Kabbaz and clinical naturopath Emma Sutherland to share their proven tips to achieve more energy, focus and patience on a daily basis.
1. Get an early start and meditate
Mornings can be hectic as we try to get the kids ready and out the door, with all the chaos it entails.
It may sound daunting at first, but Amy suggests one way to mentally prepare for the day is to wake up earlier than everyone else, where possible. “If you are at the stage where you feel you can get up before them, that is a golden time where you can get your mind and spirit ready for the onslaught,” she says.
You can use this time to meditate, which is a great way to start the day and achieve mindful focus and perspective from the get-go.
“[It’s a chance to] actually get your head straight and remind yourself how strong you are to be getting through this time right now,” Amy says. “You give yourself a little pep talk and find something positive to hang on to as your little anchor point to start the day.”
Hear Emma and Amy talk about their morning rituals:
Finding that meditative moment can be as easy as putting away all distractions, being as present as possible and really focussing on one task. “Meditation is simply the focus on one thought at a time and we can do that throughout our whole day if we need to,” says Amy. “You can have a meditation practice around making your children’s breakfast.
2. Consider breakfast carefully
Starting the day right also relies on what you eat as the parent. Emma says that mindfulness can directly apply to food too, “If you eat more mindfully by not multitasking as much, you actually up regulate the absorption of your dietary nutrition… you will absorb more from your food.”
Emma says that a bit of extra protein with your breakfast is always helpful. One easy option is to have a few boiled eggs handy, just peel and pop onto some toast with avocado. “Protein and fats will keep you fuelled for longer and will keep your blood sugar levels more even,” she says.
3. Don’t lose out on lunch
How can you support yourself at work or while looking after the kids?
Food-wise, it’s easy to eat the bare minimum as a parent, only munching on the kids’ leftover meals or snacks. But this doesn’t equate to an adult portion. “Often we’re running on a bit of adrenalin and we’re not fuelling enough, eating enough calories and that is just a recipe for disaster,” says Emma. “We need to think about if we’re actually eating enough.”
Listen to Emma and Amy take on the arvo:
If you’re not, carry healthy snacks with you. Perhaps that’s a bag of unsalted mixed nuts, an apple or banana – some good protein and complex carbs. Be more creative, and bake a bunch of healthy muffins or banana bread, chuck them in the freezer. Often if you’re not organised, you’ll choose snacks that are high in sugar which are the wrong kinds of food for sustenance.
For lunch, have a mix of good fats and protein, like a chicken and avocado sandwich. “It’s about fortifying yourself with a little bit more than just a grab and go,” says Emma.
4. Nourish your mind and soul too
When maintaining your mental wellbeing, Amy says we need to find ‘energy snacks’ throughout the day. “We need a snap lock bag of snack for our mind. To get us through the day, the little fuels to get us through our stress as well.”
If we explode at the end of the day when the tiniest thing happens, it’s because we haven’t done anything for ourselves.
This could be just making sure you stop for a few minutes when the baby goes to sleep, instead of jumping straight into the washing or cooking. Pick up a magazine or sit in the sun for some vitamin D, you need to put yourself first. Amy said that mantras can be really powerful if you truly connect with them. “There has to be a sense of belief in those words that you’re telling yourself,” she says. “Find something that really makes you feel strong again and use that. Don’t go for a lie, find a way to connect to your own truth in that way.”
These can turn into anchors that you grab on to. Just like a muscle, if we connect each day to a positive thought in the times when it’s calm, when it’s chaos and we repeat those words to ourselves, somewhere in the brain remembers that it will all be okay. We’ve got to put the work in so the words will work when we need them.
Both Emma and Amy know that it can be overwhelming and difficult, but they say to take baby steps by starting with one small, achievable thing. Choose something simple to remind yourself that you can do things differently.
5. Don’t leave dinner too late
Having a good night’s sleep starts well before the moment we step into the bedroom. Emma says that the time we have dinner impacts how we sleep. “Your body is spending a lot of energy in this central region, where all the blood is going to the digestive organs,” she says, “We want your body to be relaxed so that you can slip into a more restful sleep.”
Emma recommends having three hours between when you finish dinner and when you start retiring for the bedtime process.
What you eat for dinner also contributes the rest you get at night. “Research shows that it’s important to have some carbohydrates in your dinner,” she says. Emma suggests a healthy carb like sweet potato or brown rice, as these help to support your our sleep hormone, melatonin.
Emma and Amy take you through their evening on Kinderling Conversation:
6. Consciously wind down for a good night’s sleep
After the kids are in bed, Amy insists you should be mindful of how you prepare for bed.
“Our body actually needs wind-down time, we see it in our children and we are actually no different.” If we miss that we’ll still be wired, it might take us ages to fall asleep, we wake up in the middle of the night, or we might not ever get into that deep resting state where our brain is still.
Amy advises at least half an hour to switch off that working brain, through active actions. That means dimming the lights, lighting candles, turning the TV off, no phones in the bedroom or slowly using aromatherapy oil for face washing.
Honour that time of winding down and give it to yourself as a gift. Then when you get into bed it will contribute to a better sleep, as our nervous system really needs that space.
We get so addicted to busyness, so meditating, journaling; something quiet and restful as a mindfulness practice to help finish the day right.
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