Want to find things to do to relax as a parent.
Because you deserve it.
Parenting is completely undervalued in our society, which is downright weird in my book, as it’s is one of the most challenging (and rewarding) things we’ll ever do.
So we absolutely need to take time out. For our sanity. And for our child’s.
However much we love our kids, if we’re running on empty, we’re simply not being the best we can for them, nor are we respecting our own needs.
Kids are like sponges after all – if we are stressed, they pick up on it and oh so often a meltdown (from parent or child) ensues.
In fact, research is now suggesting our stress levels can directly effect our children’s make up.
Want to find out how?
Check out these recommended resources:
- Kids Pick Up On Everything: How Parental Stress Is Toxic To Kids
- 11 Ways Your Child Loses When You Rush Them from Aha Parenting (a great resource btw!)
I read a wonderful parenting book recently from a mum (or mom!) in the States.
Every morning, once her kids were old enough, she shut the door to her room for one hour. Her kids were not allowed to disturb her unless someone was dying or the house was burning down.
Because she needed that hour to refuel, so she could be the mum she wanted to be (and the mum her children needed her to be).
Whether she read, meditated, did nothing or ate her way through 6 cream cakes doesn’t really matter, but the takeaway does, which is this:
- she got time to refuel
- she showed her kids that she cared about herself.
Whilst it might sound corny, if we appreciate and love ourselves, kids are far more likely to follow suit.
And yes, I know. Realistically, how many of us have the luxury of taking an hour out for ourselves each morning?
But it does illustrates an important point.
Even a salt bath or 30 minutes playing the piano is still taking quality ‘time out’.
Here are my own personal top 7 things to do to relax as a busy parent.
Things To Do To Relax: 7 Simple Solutions I Swear By As A Busy Mum
To do any of these, please can I just say – you need to turn your phone OFF and hide you iPad/tablet (if you have one).
Yes, you can do it. I believe in you!
1 – Watch a Box Set or a Show on Netflix
‘I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book.’ (Groucho Marx)
I don’t disagree! And I also don’t watch much TV. In fact I nearly got rid of my TV set when I had my little lady, but I remembered a close friend saying how she felt like an outcast as a kid, as her parents had no TV and all her friends did. So for me, it’s become more about balance.
I find switching off to a really enjoyable show for an hour that I have intentionally decided to watch, works wonders in moderation. My current top 5 ‘switch off’ shows are:
- The Good Wife – you can’t beat a rip roaring legal drama. And who doesn’t love Julianna Margulies!
- Once Upon A Time – yes it’s daft, but I defy you not to be HOOKED. Fairy tale characters, wicked witches, good vs evil. Classic stuff, brilliantly done.
- Grace and Frankie – cross your legs or seriously you could we your pants! Whoever thought to pair Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin is a genius. Hysterical, but with some depth, sit back and relax as 2 unlikely characters get thrown together when their respective husbands fall in love (with each other).
- Gotham – the story behind Commissioner James Gordon’s rise to prominence in Gotham City in the years before Batman’s arrival is a bit full on at times if you are squeamish, but this is dark, good vs bad, super hero stuff at its very best.
- House of Cards – the US remake of the original UK drama is a masterpiece of storytelling and Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright are both enthralling. An unsettling (but gripping!) glimpse into the world of US politics.
Word of advice: Don’t binge watch, ok! That totally defeats the object and your child will likely not get to school if you are watching ‘just one more quick episode’ of House of Cards at 5.30am.
2 – Read a Good Book
‘So many books, so little time’ (Frank Zappa)
You know, with a real book, with real pages. From a tree.
I know, how old school is that in today’s multimedia armageddon, but I love reading and it really does relax my mind from all the constant chatter in my head.
Alright, so a Kindle is ok, but it’s still a screen. Research has even suggested we absorb less from a Kindle than we do from a traditional book (look the Guardian says so, so it must be true!)
Grab a glass of wine (I said a glass, not a bottle), put your feet up or curl up in bed with your favourite read and you should feel more relaxed in no time. Don’t do the wine bit in bed though – I fell asleep once with a glass of red wine in my hand. Enough said.
Here are 5 great books or authors I love to switch off to:
- The Lord of the Rings Trilogy or The Hobbit – JRR Tolkein
- Anything by Dan Brown (oh I know, but he is a page turner!)
- Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Caroll (technically a kids book, but its brilliant, like absolutely anything by Roald Dahl)
- Harry Potter (JK Rowling) or His Dark Materials Trilogy (Philip Pullman)
- The Girl With A Dragon Tatoo Series – Stieg Larsson (If you can get over how many lattes the main male protagonist drinks, these are a great switch off read!)
Or try Amazon’s best seller book list. I find someone else’s recommendation often takes you on a whole new exciting route of reading.
3 – Enjoy a Salt Bath
‘I think best in a hot bath, with my head tilted back and my feet up high.’ (Elizabeth Jane Howard)
An Epsom Salt (or just an ordinary salt) bath with a few drops of Lavender oil really does work wonders.
I always step out the bath feeling somehow lighter than when I went in (like something has lifted).
Salt is a really good way to clear energetic build ups from the day as well (if you believe in energy stuff, which I do) and lavender oil is a great essential oil for relaxation. Use as pure an oil as you can – organic if possible.
I find 20 minutes is a good time to soak for.
Sip some water afterwards, as the salt can be a bit dehydrating. (Also, don’t do salt bath if you are pregnant or have any health conditions which could be adversely affected by salt, which although cleansing, is also dehydrating by nature). Please use your common sense or ask your doctor if unsure.
4 – Do Some Deep Breathing or Meditate
‘Meditate, Visualize and Create your own reality and the universe will simply reflect back to you.’ (Amit Ray)
I used to shallow breath all the time.
Not only it is unhealthy, as the air can’t get fully into your lungs, it’s been linked to fatigue and even low self esteem (if we shallow breath, we are not ‘fully’ taking life in).
Learning to breathe consciously, with full awareness can be a great tool in helping to restore some balance into your life – even if you simply use it to centre yourself when you start to feel your stress levels rising in the local supermarket as a toddler scoots over your toes!
Researchers have long documented the benefits of deep breathing and these include:
- Lower/stabilized blood pressure
- Increased energy levels
- Muscle relaxation
- Decreased feelings of stress and overwhelm
Here’s a really simple deep breathing technique I use, which you can do anywhere:
- Place one hand on your belly, relax your tummy muscles and slowly inhale through your nose, bringing air into the bottom of your lungs (you should feel your abdomen rise).
- Continue to inhale and feel your rib cage expand outwards
- Once you have fully inhaled, pause for a moment, then exhale gently from the top of your lungs through to the bottom
- Once you have fully exhaled, contract your tummy muscles slightly to push any remaining air out of the bottom of your lungs
- Pause for another moment, then start again
- Repeat 10 times or as much as required. (Don’t overdo it, if this is new to you, as you may become a bit light headed with all the extra oxygen going into your lungs!)
Meditation is also a great tool.
It doesn’t have to be all wind chimes and joss sticks (although it can be if you want it to!) – again, it’s a proven way to take time out and just quieten your mind.
There are a million meditation techniques out there and it’s easy to get overwhelmed (more overwhelm is not the aim here!), so or starters, I’d recommend simply sitting cross legged (or on a chair) with your back straight and either meditating on the light of a candle flame for 5-10 minutes or closing your eyes and just focusing on your breath.
If your mind wanders, don’t beat yourself up, just accept your thoughts, let them go and return to your breath.
Set a timer and do this for 5-15 minutes initially.
If you want to try meditation with your child, try:
5 – Learn to Play an Instrument
‘I play a musical instrument a little, but only for my own amazement.’ (Fred Allen)
It might sound like yet another thing to do, but when I take the time to play my acoustic guitar for even 20 minutes, I feel like I’ve really achieved something for ‘me’. Plus it’s medatitive too.
A neighbour plays the banjo and sets up a monthly banjo jam with friends. Keep in mind, you don’t have to be any good. That’s not the point here. It’s about doing something for you. Something that helps you switch off and relax.
YouTube is also full of great video tutorials for a whole range of instruments, so you learn for free too, once you’ve invested in an instrument.
Or you can get invest in good How To Play tutorial book on Amazon for your chosen instrument!
5 – Start a New Hobby
‘My personal hobbies are reading, listening to music, and silence.’ (Edith Sitwell)
A friend started sewing recently. She started small and has progressed really quickly to dresses and fiddly curved neck things I don’t understand. But she loves it.
Another friend started baking cakes and within long discovered she had a real talent for chocolate art. The key is to find what rocks your boat and then have fun with it – not try and emulate what others are doing on Pinterest and then get depressed because yours does’t look the same.Starter sewing machines are pretty cheap now on Amazon and Pinterest is without doubt a fantastic resource to find a zillion tutorials on everything from how to make a make your own soap to a raft of inspirational baking ideas. All for free too.
I recently found a fantastic sewing tutorial on how to make a baby carrier for your child’s baby doll (no, I’m serious). And yes, I am yet to make it. But I’ve got the material, ok, so I’m making progress…
I use a micro sewing machine, which are great value and brilliant starter machines if you are new to sewing. You generally can’t go wrong with a Brother sewing machines, some of which are priced well under £100 (or dollars!) for the more mini, budget machines.
6 – Take a Walk by the Sea or in Nature
‘Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.’ (Albert Einstein)
If you’re fortunate enough to live near the sea like I do, take advantage of it!
Research has shown that the hypnotic sound of sea waves actually changes the wave patterns of our brain, quickly putting us into a more relaxed state of mind.
I remember camping by the beach in NZ and waking up to the sound of crashing waves. The feeling of relaxation and calm was mesmerising.
And if you’ve ever spent a day by the sea, you probably recall how great you felt and also how well you sleep that night.
Ever wondered why?
Basically, sea air is charged with healthy negative ions that quicken our ability to absorb oxygen, making us more alert. Negative ions also balance levels of seratonin – the body chemical linked with mood and stress. So sea air really is all round re-juvenator.
If you don’t live near the sea though, a walk in nature can be just as effective at quietening our mind, even if it’s just a stroll in your local park, away from the general hubbub.
7 – Listen to Some Music
‘One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain.’ (Bob Marley)
How many times do you sit and really listen to music, without doing anything else?
Or if I sense a good cathartic cry could be in order, the more ballady tunes of Kate Bush seems to have an uncanny knack at reducing me to a blubbering wreck. I particularly love her recent Director’s Cut album.
Classical music is great too, but it’s not everyones thing. If it is, try a Classical Music for Babies album– they include accessible tracks, plus it’s great relaxing music to play in the background if you have a baby or small child.
Research even suggests classical music is good for your babies brain!
Failing that, just bash on something energetic and let some steam out dancing wildly round the room. No one can see you and if you look like an idiot, who cares!
As a last resort, there’s also always the screaming into a pillow approach. It works wonders at letting out a bit of stress.
If I’m feeling particularly at odds with the world, I imagine I’m floating, weightless, in outer space, roaring like a lion at the whole universe.
Yes, I know it’s weird, but it seems to work.
Do please feel free to share any of your own relaxation tips below. I’d love to hear them.
Feel like there just isn’t time to find that hour to relax? You might like my tongue in cheek, motherly rant: The Hour (Or Why I Can’t Seem To Bloody Well Chill Out Dammit).
Remember, you are a great parent. Even when it doesn’t always feel that way.