Today I’m sharing a topic that has been coming up a lot in conversations with my superstar mum clients: how can we respond to situations rather than react? You know the drill – you’ve had a terrible night’s sleep, your to-do list seems never-ending and you’ve skipped breakfast. Enter a small person “Can I watch the 15th episode of Spirit the wonder horse!?” Boom. Trigger. “NO! YOU CAN’T!”
This is a really common theme amongst so many mums, including myself. I definitely speak from experience here. The overwhelm of life keeps you teetering on the edge and the smallest things push you into the abyss. Anger, shouting and knee jerk reactions can leave you feeling stressed, overwhelmed, guilty and exhausted. The process of reacting is so exhausting in itself – from a biochemical point of view it activates the stress response and once the cycle has caught you, it can be really hard to get off that wagon. And the longer you are stuck in the stress response, the more things will start to become triggers. It could be as simple as seeing something on social media that upsets you, often unconsciously. Once you’ve been triggered, how often have you felt that you’re stuck in that mindset, struggling to get out of the cycle?
Luckily there are some amazingly powerful tools that we can focus on in that moment when we are about to snap. Tools to help you regain control and break the cycle. It’s not the emotion that needs to be controlled (we’re all only human after all) but what we do with that emotion is what’s important. Anger in itself is not a bad thing, it’s an emotion and an opportunity – the trick is to understand where it’s coming from and learn how to channel it in a different way.
- A bad night’s sleep?
- Overload. Consider also where this comes from – in addition to your motherload, have you overcommitted to please others around you?
- Inflammation. Remember that inflammation is an evolutionary tool to keep us alive – bumping into that metaphorical tiger on our way to the shops, inflammation kicks in along with an immune system activation to prime you for survival and give you the boost of adrenaline to react quickly.
- Blood sugar imbalance. This is probably not always at the front of your mind but it can masquerade as anxiety, irritability and erratic energy.
- The moon. There may not be the science to back this up but the moon can have a huge effect on your emotional and hormonal wellbeing.
One of the things we talk about a lot in my Energised Mother programme is that we see things as we are, not as they are. So if you feel stressed, exhausted and overwhelmed, it’s much easier to see your environment through that lens. The question is how to change your emotional state to then change our perception?
The first step to change is awareness. What are the things in your environment that make you react?
So let’s put this into context – you’re on your period, the moon is full, you’re exhausted, you haven’t been eating well and generally haven’t had a chance to look after yourself recently. To get through your to-do list you’re reaching for sugar and caffeine. It’s the perfect storm. If the scene is set and you’re primed to fight or flight from that metaphorical lion, the smallest things will set you off.
So how can we manage this?
You might not be able to magically change your night to 8-9 hours of uninterrupted sleep but there are other things you do have control over to help you prime your body for relaxation and calm.
- Wear blue light glasses in the evenings to support good quality sleep
- Have a magnesium bath before bed to relax and calm yourself
- Talk to your partner or a friend about your day and offload your troubles so you don’t take the stresses of the day into the night
- Consider starting a gratitude journal
- Avoid skipping meals and try not to have coffee first thing as this will set off adrenaline
- Don’t overcommit at weekends and stressful times. Ask for space.
- Recognise a pattern of emotional stress throughout your cycle and focus on anti-inflammatory foods, particularly during those times
Priming yourself for relaxation and calm is great but let’s be realistic – sometimes that’s just not possible. This is where breathwork comes in to help you activate your calming, parasympathetic nervous system and respond from your resources rather than flying off the handle.
The double exhale breath (breathing in through the nose to the count of 4 and breathing out through pursed lips to the count of 8) has an instant calming effect and is a great tool in stressful situations. The connected breath (cyclical deep breathing through the nose, in to the count of 8 and out to the count of 8 with no breaks) is another great tool to calm your mind and allow you to respond to triggering situations. But remember, breathwork takes some practice, aim for 3 minutes per day.
And don’t underestimate the impact of movement – our psychology and physiology are interconnected. This means that you can shift your mindset and perceptions by moving your body – go for a walk, run up and down the stairs, do a silly dance!
Health isn’t just a diet plan, it’s a personal growth adventure. One of my favourite quotes is “Life will present you with people and situations to show you where you are not free” – in reality there will always be triggers and often there is very little you can control about this but what we can control completely is how we set the scene of our perceptions and how we respond to these triggers.
Prefer to watch a video? I covered all of this and more in my recent MotherTime Live! You can watch the replay here.