Does the thought of Christmas make you break out in a sweat? Does the sight of mince pies and Advent calendars in the shops start your mind racing even when Christmas is over two months away? It’s hard trying to juggle work, being a mum, and Christmas preparations and Christmas overwhelm and anxiety is real. But, there are three things that you can do to create an awesome Christmas and reduce your stress:
Christmas is part of the year's rhythm, like Spring, birthdays, and the start of the school year. In Spring you start to swap your winter clothes out for lighter dresses and pack your heavier coats away (although not too far away if you live in Melbourne where our seasons tend to ignore their order on the calendar). At the end of the school year, there is space for reflecting on the achievements of the year, celebrating them with concerts, displays of artwork, and reports that provide a potted summary of the blood, sweat, and tears.
And before Christmas you plan, you shop, you get swept into the rhythm of what always happens at Christmas. You may work hard to recreate the magic of your childhood Christmas, or you may work hard to ensure your family experiences the joy you never did. You want to spend quality time with your loved ones, choose the right gifts, make people happy, and create wonderful memories.
Some years it works. And other years there are tears, exhaustion, disappointment, and arguments. The drive to make this ‘the most magical time of the year’ can take its toll, and in the pressure to do everything for everyone, your needs, and your rights, can get lost.
It doesn’t have to be like this.
The drive to make this ‘the most magical time of the year’ can take its toll, and in the pressure to do everything for everyone, your needs, and your rights, can get lost."
Why does Christmas stress you out?
If you’re like me you want to enjoy Christmas and help your kids enjoy it. You want to create opportunities to sit with awe, see smiles and laughter, gather people together, and celebrate hope. But it’s easy for the joy to be sucked out of Christmas.
How does this happen? Why is Christmas bad for your mental health?
Some of the highlights of playing Christmas Bingo. Gingerbread house won't stand up. No-one wants a Santa photo. Someone ate my Advent calendar chocolates. Forgetting where you hid a present. Car Park Rage."
Christmas is particularly difficult if you have mental health difficulties, are struggling with the cost of living, or if you are consistently putting other's people's wishes ahead of your own. If you’re grieving, alone, or experienced a recent family separation, maybe this year is a particularly difficult one.
Maybe it’s time to stop doing what you’ve always done and start exploring new ways of doing things that work for everyone in the family, including you.
Sticking to what you have always done makes sense. Until it doesn’t.
The familiar is predictable and removes some of the burden of decision-making. Following the same pattern as last year can make planning easier and perhaps reduce some anxiety. However, does the pattern you follow include procrastinating, microplanning, or leaving it all to someone else to decide? Does the way you usually celebrate Christmas bring you overwhelm and exhaustion or joy?
The simplest and calmest Christmases are where you don’t stick to tradition mindlessly but combine what is most meaningful from the past with your current needs and wants.
There is power in reflecting. I invite you to take a pause now. Step back from trying to keep up with social media and the pressure to present a perfect Christmas image. Look at the expectations you are trying to live up to so that you can reduce your overwhelm and choose how you want this Christmas to be.
The simplest and calmest Christmases are where you don’t stick to tradition mindlessly but combine what is most meaningful from the past with your current needs and wants.
How to Cope with Christmas Stress
As a mother, you already have enough on your plate. You tend to carry the majority of the day-to-day mental workload. Christmas can tip you into overwhelm, even if you normally cope OK. If you do have anxiety or another mental health condition you are more prone to feeling the weight of Christmas stress.
To achieve calmness and manage your Christmas stress, let’s first look at some of the signs of Christmas stress, then dive into the three main ways of reducing your stress and making a simply awesome Christmas.
15 signs of Christmas stress
You may swing from avoidance to control, as your thoughts and feelings take up more of your mental space and lead you to old habits that have not served you well in the past. Let's get started on what you can do to create a different, calmer, more enjoyable and awesome experience this Christmas.
" By reducing demands and expectations, looking after yourself, taking the time to reflect, and mindfully being present, you are well on your way to creating an awesome Christmas that works for you and your family."
What to do to reduce Christmas Stress
Simplifying as much as possible is a great place to start. You can simplify gift giving, decorations, celebrations and expectations. Following are 6 steps to simplify Christmas expectations.
Take 10-20 minutes and connect with what you feel and what you think about all these expectations that you have created or bought into. What are the thoughts and feelings that come up when you think about Christmas? Find something to write in and listen to what you are saying to yourself. It may look something like this
Note:: If getting in touch with your feelings is difficult there can be a few reasons why that is happening. You can come back to exploring your feelings in the future either with your GP, or mental health therapist, or if this is something you would like help with you are welcome to contact me for an appointment.
Once you’ve named and acknowledged your thoughts and feelings it’s time to reflect on what they might be trying to tell you about what is important to you at Christmas.
Here are some simple guiding reflection questions.
After you have listed what you want and your ideal Christmas, ask everyone else in your house, and/or those you know you want to celebrate Christmas with how they would answer the same questions. It's important to listen with curiosity and openness.
Compare the lists. Circle what there is in common, and those that are doable. Can you identify what matters most to everyone? Any surprises? How do you feel about what they said? It can be enlightening to realise that you don't always know what other people are thinking and that what you perceive isn't always true. Is it time to manage expectations – we’re not going to Disneyland. Sometimes it’s helpful to prompt, why do you want to go to Disneyland – oh, you’d like to get as far away as possible from all the drama that happened last year….
Don't forget - you're after an enjoyable, awesome Christmas, not one you've got through with gritted teeth, and can't wait until Boxing Day when it's all over.
When you strip back your expectations and focus on what really matters it invites calm into your life.
It's decision time. After the brainstorming, now it’s time to make some selections that you think will work best for the people who matter most – you and your family. Depending on the age of your children and who else is involved in your Christmas planning this will look a little different. You could have a family meeting or a family group chat, or perhaps the main parts of the day are decided by one or two people. The important part is that everyone's needs (including yours) are respected. The aim is for everyone to have one non-negotiable thing they will do/have/experience at Christmas. Everything else is a bonus.
The next step in the plan is to put it in place and monitor it as you go. Mark the things that matter on your Calendar and in your diary. Be prepared to be flexible whilst keeping in mind the things that have the greatest priority. Hold your sights firmly on your North Star and hold this plan lightly in your heart. Remember what matters most.
In the past our non-negotiable items in my family have been: Christmas light looking, celebrating Christmas with all the extended family, spending Christmas Day with partner, Midnight Mass, sausage rolls at Christmas lunch, It can be amazing when you strip it right back what the thing is people most remember and care about. Celebrating with others is usually comes up as a priority, although some years having space and time to oneself on the day takes priority, particularly for members who become easily overwhelmed.
When you strip back your expectations and focus on what really matters it invites calm into your life. If you like to listen to podcasts, here is an episode where I talk about creating Christmas calm through managing expectations.
How to create awesome connections at Christmas
Mental health and well-being are strongly linked to how connected you feel to those around you. The centre of this is yourself. Following are suggestions for strengthening connections in each of the four layers of connection: connection with yourself, connecting with your family and friends, connecting with the natural world, and connecting with the transcendental.
1. Connecting with yourself.
The work you’ve just done on identifying what makes Christmas awesome for YOU, and being honest with yourself about your thoughts and feelings around Christmas was a great way of connecting with yourself.
Three other ways to connect with yourself are:
(Note: You may have found this an easy thing to do, but there may have been unexpected things that have popped up. If these reflections increased your stress or anxiety please check in with your GP, or counsellor or contact me for an appointment to help you work through it.)
2. Connecting with friends and family.
Some of the ways to connect with friends and family include:
Beyond your immediate circle of friends and family, there are several ways to connect with the broader community. These can include:
Or on a smaller scale:
Instead of the stress of juggling too many commitments at Christmas, other's find themselves feeling alone. If you’re by yourself at Christmas, there are other options to achieve this sense of connection and reduce loneliness.
3. Connection with the natural world.
Ways to connect with the natural world include:
4. Connection with transcendence.
Ways to connect with the space beyond which you can see include:
Maybe your awesome moment comes in the lull of Christmas Eve when your children are asleep (finally) presents are wrapped, and you take yourself outside and stare up at the sky.
How to Keep Up Your Self-Care at Christmas
Taking care of yourself is not selfish. It's an act of self-love.
Christmas demands can challenge your existing self-care routines, whilst also providing some unique opportunities for enhancement. All the stressors outlined earlier can undermine existing self-care routines, especially if they are newly established. And Christmas also effects the routine and habits of others around you. You may find you're down a walking buddy, that Christmas treats are suddenly in your eyeline everytime you go shopping, that your loved ones are feeling broke or isolated. It's a shifting milieu.
This is where fierce self-care becomes important, especially if you are prone to Christmas stress and anxiety. Self-care is so much more than bubble baths and treating yourself. Taking care of yourself is not selfish. It's an act of self-love. It encompasses everything you do to maintain and enhance your ability to function well in your day-to-day life and these actions are often talked about as healthy habits. Here's a quick overview of the five foundations of self-care.
The five foundations of self-care:
Mindfulness practices heighten your senses, and intensity your experiences, and are a gateway to awe.
Three questions to ask yourself repeatedly over Christmas
1. Is this what I need most? To avoid Christmas burnout, check in with your needs before saying yes. Does that social engagement provide connection opportunities that you are needing? Or do you have enough and need a break?
2. Will this help fill my self-care bucket or poke another hole in it? Running it past the five foundations list is a good rule of thumb. Even better if it's an activity that ticks more than one of the five foundations. Walking is great for this.
3. Is this something I know helps me? Remind yourself of the benefits of your normal routine, of your why. Prioritise the things you know work: keep walking, eating your veggies, journalling, meditating, talking with friends, doing your yoga, etc.
Opportunities to cultivate awe through mindfulness
Lean into mindfulness, which just happens to be one of the most powerful forms of self-care and takes very little time, because it is about the how of what you do, not the what. Mindfulness practices heighten your senses, and intensity your experiences, and are a gateway to awe. At Christmas mindful opportunities abound, including:
A quick reminder in any situation is to use your senses to bring you back to the moment of what is actually happening.
How simplifying, reducing expectations and prioritising activities; practicing connection and engaging in fierce self-care work together to help you make a simply awesome Christmas.
By reducing demands and expectations, looking after yourself, taking the time to reflect, and mindfully being present, you are well on your way to creating an awesome Christmas that works for you and your family. Along the way you may face some difficult challenges in letting things go, saying no, setting boundaries, maintaining self-care, and getting through the season.
If you would like support with any of this I am happy to help. Positive Young Minds is open up until the 22nd of December and then closed for Christmas Week.
By reducing demands and expectations, looking after yourself, taking the time to reflect, and mindfully being present, you are well on your way to creating an awesome Christmas that works for you and your family."
For over 17 years, I have combined research and the experience of working with 1000s of children, adolescents and parents to help them understand and manage big emotions and create calmer homes. Homes where big feelings are understood, needs are met so that Christmas can be celebrated, not dreaded.
You are welcome to book an appointment to discuss your concerns and your goals and work with me to make the change you are looking for.
PS. If you enjoyed this blog, then come over and join the Sprinkles of Wisdom for Wonderful Women Newsletter Club. You'll receive regular letters from me where I share insights, inspiration, reflections, support and do-able strategies on how you can create and integrate more calm, connection and confidence into your life without running away to Bali.
A reminder this blog is for general information and advice only. It is not designed to replace therapy in any way. For some people Christmas is not just stressful, it is also traumatic. The above advice is not meant to address Christmas trauma. If you are experiencing trauma, overwhelming Christmas anxiety, depression, or any other mental health concern please see your GP, or your mental health therapist, or see if you think I may be a good fit for you .
If you are looking for fun ways to make walking more interesting, change it up a little. The Walking is Awesome bingo card is for you.
(Note: This blog was first released as a podcast if you'd prefer to listen. Although I've tidied up some of the wording, I did use the transcription form the podcast to create this blog. Now that I've explained why some of the wording may seem a little casual, let's dive in.)
Walking can see like the world's dullest form of activity. You know it's good for you, just like eating vegetables, brushing your teeth and making your bed. I get it, I'm not a runner, or bushwalker, or in anyway athletic. Which leaves walking by the process of elimination. And yes you can walk to improve mental health and boost mood, but the challenge remains about how to make walking more engaging a so that you want to keep doing it. A sustainable habit needs to be practical, doable and yes inherently motivating - ie enjoyable. Knowing that for me it meant I needed to be able to walk out the door, not drive to a spot and walk, I explored various ways of making the everyday route I walk something I looked forward to.
Therefore you'll see a range of activities on the Walking is Awesome Bingo Card. There are some things that make doing this bingo card a little bit different. Yes, there are elements of counting steps and measuring length of time, but also some strategies that you might think, why would I be doing that?
And I'm going to tell you why, because the key components of walking and creating a habit are to do with enjoying the process, right?
How to enjoy walking
So many people will say, oh, I know I should walk, or, I haven't got time for walk or walking is so boring, and I get it. Life can be super chaotic, and it takes time to walk. The difference between going for a five K run and going for a five K walk is quite significant. Mind you, the last time I went for a five K run, it probably took me about as long as a 5K walk. I'm not a natural runner, so I stick to the walking, but it's like I have to walk for like an hour a day.
I mean, I haven't got an hour in the day. I don't want to walk for an hour in the day. It's boring.
So, we break it up.
I don't walk an hour at a time. I walk roughly an hour all up, but it's spaced, right?
You don't have to do it all at once.
The ideas I have in this bingo card are bite-sized. Some of them are little and they're based on, yes, movement, but there is a strong emphasis on connection. There's suggestions about playing with and managing your discomfort and anxiety. And there's quite a few mindful walking exercises, including connecting with your thoughts, feelings and experiences and connecting with your environment, connecting with your neighbourhood, connecting with yourself.
So, let's look more closely at a couple of the things.
Start with 4000 steps.
I'm going to firstly talk through what's there. There's 25 different squares with a range of suggestions, and you can choose to do a square a day. You might do a couple of squares on a day over different walks. There might be some gaps between gaps, whichever. There's no timeline on this. So, the first one, walk 4,000 steps. 4,000 tends to be around half an hour, depending on how quickly you walk. It might take a bit longer; it might take you less time. And it's a real like first base. So, for me, my morning walk is roughly 4,000 steps, and then I'll do some more later.
Try walking alone.
So that's the next one on the card, walking by yourself.
For some people that's all they do. Walk by themselves. For others they walk with a partner or walk the kids to school, or they walk with other people. Because walking by yourself can be a significant anxiety hurdle to overcome. You may feel less safe walking by yourself. Notice, I don't put a time limit or a step limit around this. Whatever you can do. If you haven't walked by yourself before and that's a big obstacle, start by walking to the letter box. Or walk around the block, walk somewhere that feels quite safe for you to walk.
I don't mean walk in an isolated place. I do not recommend doing that.
How to connect with your environment
Take a photo of something red, which is square number three. This is a practice of tuning into your environment, connecting with what's around you and narrowing your focus to one thing. Once you start thinking about something, you will see it everywhere. This phenomenon, known as the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon, or selective attention bias, occurs when you start to become more aware of something you hadn’t noticed before.
I'm curious, when you make the decision to look for red, what you notice that you haven't noticed before. You know whether you are noticing all these red things around you or not. So have a play with that. See what happens.
How to practice gratitude when walking
Think about what you're grateful for. Hmm. We're tapping into gratitude, right? So, gratitude is one of the things associated with leading a more fulfilling, happier life. You don't, we talk about gratitude journals and that's wonderful. They're there, you can use them, but you can also just think it. So, while you are walking, you are getting a, a double value. You know? So not only getting your physical exercise: you are practicing your mental health skills.
You may choose to focus on one thing you're grateful for and think quite deeply about that. It might be a person or an experience or an ability that you have, or you might choose to go through a list. A quick tip here is to be as specific as possible. We can be grateful for being alive, but that kind of covers a lot, doesn't it? what within that are you specifically grateful for? Are you grateful for being able to be awake when the sun rises? And to take the time to observe the process of this going on? Are you grateful that you are wearing a scarf that someone knitted you because it's cold outside? And this is keeping your neck on?
Are you grateful that your body can move you freely without pain? Or are you grateful that you can still move with pain? Make it as specific to you as possible.
How to be outrageous on a walk
And the last one on this line is wear something outrageous and you're like, okay, so we're tapping into anxiety. Here we are tapping into a social fear that people are going to look at you and they're going to think you're ridiculous. A, for walking; B for walking by yourself; C for I'm too old to be doing this, or I'm too unfit or I'm too whatever. So, if you are experiencing social phobia, if you are experiencing fear of judgment, this might be a box you are not going to tick. Taking your anxiety for a walk is difficult. I get it, it's something I support clients with on a regular basis.
I encourage you though, to think about that outrageousness as a personal challenge. And for you, outrageousness might be wearing two different types of socks or shoes. I've done that before. Come back from a walk, looked at my feet, realized I was wearing a right sneaker from one pair of shoes and a left sneaker from another. Mm-Hmm.
Outrageous. Outrageous without intentionally being outrageous. Think about what your outrageous outrageousness could be. On another line I've got wear a hat. It can be any sort of hat. Okay, so I don't know what I'm going to wear yet for something outrageous. Approach this task with a sense of fun, This homage of wearing something outrageous is not about tipping you into extreme social discomfort, but encouraging a bit of prodding and challenging inherent fear of social judgement.
I don't expect you to walk out there in a bikini, if you're not comfortable with that, however, I'm curious about where you'd like to take it and what you'd like to do it. But, if you're saying, no, that's just really weird. I'm not doing that, that's okay, the beauty about Bingo is you only need to complete one line.
Other creative ways to make walking more enjoyable
Taking a selfie in front of a tree, or walk with a family member may or may not be challenging. Walk five days in a row. Doesn't matter for how long or how far. practice journaling after walking. What comes up?
Walking gives you the opportunity to breathe, to pause, to make space in your day. We know that regular movement helps with clarity and productivity. And if you can, have a break every so often for physical health benefits. Try moving after 30 minutes of sitting still. Five minutes of movement and then we can come back and refocus, which you can try.
Everyone's a little bit different. I encourage you to experiment about when that peak break for you is going to be. Taking a break not only means you move your body, but you need breaks to help you clear your mind and provide space for dynamic calm, giving yourself the opportunity to reset your physiology and kickstart creativity and clarity.
I'll frequently make notes - dictate to myself when I'm walking because the rhythm and the movement and all of a sudden ideas rush in, thoughts rush in. It's like, oh, here we go. Because it's what your mind likes to do. It likes to just sit there and cogitate in the background. And then where there's some space and clarity it goes, oh, I can answer all those questions. Now I've got some ideas for now. How about you do this? And you're like, Oh, I'm walking. I have no pen or paper! So, the phone comes in very handy.
So, a couple more. Not going through the whole 25 of them, if you're interested, download it. Have a look, do the challenge.
Encourage creativity by letting your mind wonder. This naturally leads into doing the journaling, in that we are not actively problem solving. We're not actively being grateful. We're not actively doing anything but giving over into our mind.
If doing this causes you distress due to an underlying mental health condition, well then don't, okay? Get some help. Speak to your psychologist, make an appointment. Do whatever is going to help you, but perhaps don't choose that one.
What’s best to wear walking shoes or sneakers?
I've got my walking shoes. And I'll tell you why. I've walked for many years. I've had some lulls and then I've come back to it. And walking without a doubt is a necessary baseline for my mental and physical health. Without it, I ache. I ache both in my joints and I ache in my heart. It's necessary for me to walk. And I usually just wear sneakers. The ones that fit me best, they're the ones that have helped my knees. They're so comfortable. The problem with sneakers is you wear through them quickly and they get wet.
And walking in wet feet, if you can avoid it, is something I really recommend. So, I decided I would bite the bullet and buy some proper light walking shoes and be water or the shower proof. So, if I step in puddle, I don't automatically get soaking wet. If it's showering raining a bit, I don't get wet at all. And I have a thicker tread. So, they're lasting me a long time and they're giving me more grip.
The other day I almost fell down the back step because I slipped on a mat. After I slipped, I realized I was wearing sneakers, and my old sneakers didn't have the tread. And I've become so used to the tread. So, it's a safety thing. If you have the resources, look at investing in some walking shoes; my walking shoes were cheaper than my sneakers.
So that gives you a little bit of an overview of the Walking is Awesome Bingo card. If you're up for a challenge download it. Do something different. Put a bit pep in your step. That's what we are doing.
We are moving, walking from boring to awesome. And it is a vehicle whereby you can practice almost any mental health strategy you can think of.
It can help combat loneliness, it can help combat anxiety, it can help combat ah, clarity. It can help you with clarity of thinking, reduce the overwhelm that happens, okay?. And you know what I'm going to do after I finish this? I'm going for a walk because I'm due for one.
If you've downloaded your Bingo Card and are ready for more, or would like to start with some individual support you can make an appointment, or go on the waiting list for the soon to be released online Walking is Awesome program.
Learning how to pay attention to your thoughts, feelings and experiences in a mindful non judgemental way, may be the key to all the changes you wish to make.
How do you move from overwhelm to calm?
It can feel so daunting.
All the steps, the time and energy involved. It's all just too much.
Yes, there are many steps.
Yes, any change requires time and energy, discipline and commitment.
And yes, the thought of all these things is often enough to stop you from doing anything.
what if you were to focus on mastering just one skill?
Whether you want to reduce overwhelm, increase your health, increase calm, improve your confidence, deepen connections, or create more sustainable work habits, it all starts with this one thing.
The power of paying attention.
If paying attention is so powerful, why don't we do it?
If you're like me, (and everyone else!), you probably do things that take you away from paying attention.
Things like binge watching, gaming, reading, gambling, drinking, scrolling, eating.
You engage in avoidance behaviour because it's safe, it offers comfort, it's easy. Binge watching or playing Candy Crush feel great. That chocolate, mmmmm; the thrill of winning; the pleasure of escaping into fantasy.
These activities give you short hits of dopamine, they balance your central nervous system.
And this can be extremely useful. Especially in the short term.
Because life is stressful. Feelings are hard. People are tricky. Managing competing demands is demanding.
There's reasons why you are drawn to fun, simple, easy.
And any behaviour that takes you away from what you are feeling, thinking, experiencing can be helpful. After dipping into the soothing and relaxing you can return to the demanding feeling refreshed. Well that's the plan.
But what happens when you spend too much time in the safe bubble?
Journaling can help you find and connect with your authentic self.
Have you ever felt lost?
Like me, have you felt that somewhere along the way you took a wrong turn, veered of the path, or just became bamboozled with what life threw at you?
It can feel like a battle to create your own space in a world that is often driven by consumerism, material success and 'progress'.
However, there is a growing movement of people who know that tapping into personal and universal energy can create a sense of oneness and wholeness that transcends the artificial.
Welcome to my corner of the world, where you can find practical ways to claim your own space.
And you don’t have to claim this space in a huge way with lots of trumpets blaring.
Confidence can be found in the quiet determination and focus actively connect with and pursue what is important to you, erect your boundaries and live your calm.
When you actively move to discover what is most important to you and live a life of integrity and authenticity, you become part of the movement that is aiming to heal the world.
Now, that’s exciting.
There are many ways to actively connect and pursue what is important to you. Counselling, coaching, manifesting, prayer, meditation, visualisation, goal setting, intention setting, to name a few.
One way of reconnecting with your authentic self is through writing, or journaling. If you have never tried tapping into the thoughts and emotions inside you in this way, I encourage you to give it a go.
However, many people find there is a slight problem with this.
Maybe you have experienced putting aside the time, sitting down to write....and then
....your mind goes blank.
You know that your mind isn't actually blank. In fact you have 10's of 1,000s of thoughts each day.
What is probably stopping you is not getting it right.
Maybe you're worried about your spelling, or handwriting. Maybe you think that what you have to say is not important. Maybe when you were at school you were criticised for your writing.
I encourage you to write whatever comes into your mind. Even if it is 'I can't think of anything to write', or your shopping list, what you dreamt last night, your school memories, what you would do if you won tattslotto, Set yourself a timer of 5 minutes and keep writing until it comes off.
The most important thing when you first start is to create the habit of writing.
To help you get started, I have created a 14 day Self-Connection journal, specifically to kickstart your journaling process.
Your 14 day Self-Connection journal contains a carefully selected quote and complementary prompt for each day.
Positive Young Minds combines evidence backed knowledge and the experience of working with 1000s of children, adolescents, and parents for over 17 years when working with you and/or or your child.
You are welcome to book a private consultation where I can work with your to support your own wellbeing as a way to avoid parental burnout.
Child Psychologist, Fierce Self-Care Advocate and Founder of Positive Young Minds
I was looking at old home videos today, and I noticed I really miss those days when my children were little and just wanted to be with me.
And, I also remember how isolating many of those days were. How hard it can be responding to unrelenting love and need for attention.
I'm not going to tell you that one day you'll look on those demanding days and miss them, because it doesn't help.
You're smart, you know this, but right now in this moment, when you just ache for some time for yourself without the guilt you feel as your youngest child runs down the driveway telling you to come back because they miss you... now is not the time to tell you you'll miss it.
What I can do is help you not carry that guilt that is trying to follow you down the driveway...
Having a child cry that they want you to come back, does not make you a bad mother. Having a child scream that they hate you, does not make you a bad mother. Having a child kick out at you because they don't want to be in their car seat, does not make you a bad mother. Having a child refuse to go to school, does not make you a bad mother.
It sure has heck feels like it sometimes though....
I'll let you in on a secret, well it's not really a secret, but it does seem to be something that people don't talk about much.
Some children are more difficult to look after than others. They're the ones who don't want to go to sleep, who don't want to eat the food you make, who are quick to anger or cry.
It doesn't make you love them any less, but they are harder work. And it's OK to accept this fact.
You may even find that letting go of the idea that it is your fault your children are difficult and accepting what is, helps lessen the feeling of guilt that is following you around.
If this is something you struggle with, we are here to help.
Simply call us or email to book a parenting consultation and let us help you move from overwhelm to calm.
It’s not called the ‘weight’ of expectations for nothing!
Expectations are 'rules' we grow up with.
They create boundaries and provide guidance.
For example you are expected to walk before the age of 12-15 months otherwise this is a clear sign of a problem with development.
You are expected to do your homework, obey the teacher, eat your dinner etc….
Society and families create many expectations to encourage behaviour and growth; for the good of your development and that of the broader community. The general aim is for you to become a functional human being who makes a positive contribution to society.
Then there are individual family differences of expectations based on culture, religion, family structure, birth order, personality etc.
As you entered adolescence you probably rebelled at many/some of these expectations, but you probably also carried many of them into adulthood.
Then you become an adult, and on top of family of origin and society expectations you now have expectations from your work place and expectations from your partner, and maybe your children.
Then comes expectations from schools, sporting clubs, after school activities. The more you are immersed in society, the bigger collection of expectations you are exposed to.
And, if that’s not enough you also have the thick layer of consumer ‘expectations’. In a world where economic growth is still valued above all else we seem to have really internalised the ‘greed is good’ doctrine in our society. You are encouraged to buy, to have more, to be good consumers. It is an insidious expectation.
So, what happens when you step back, when you become the observer, when you listen to your noticing self and see the reality of your expectations?
You can see the ‘shoulds’ and ‘have tos’ for what they really are; they aren’t rules by which you HAVE to live by, they aren’t absolute truths, they are just THOUGHTS AND BELIEFS your mind is holding on to.
By seeing this you can you can CHOOSE to let go of expectations that have no meaning or value for you.
Knowing this you can choose.
You CAN choose to participate in activities that you value, whilst saying NO to things you don’t.
You CAN choose to do things that bring joy to your heart and that of your family.
You CAN choose activities that focus on kindness, gratitude, togetherness.
There is a lot of freedom that comes with being an adult and having so many choices to make.
We might feel the heavy weight of expectations, but when we lose that weight it is not just freeing, it also exposes us and makes it vulnerable.
That is one reason why deciding to choose which expectations you will meet, and which you will leave behind is difficult.
It is your journey.
What expectations weigh on you?
Where do you find enforcing boundaries difficult?
What is most important to you in this world?
* These articles are provided by Kim Ross, Psychologist for general information and education . They are not designed to be used for therapy.. If you are experiencing stress please contact your GP or mental health professional.
Kim Ross is an Online Psychologist and Founder of Positive Young Minds and Private Practice Sustainability.