There is no denying that children age you! I have evidence. You know when you start getting older and you wish for your twenty-year-old body, that you totally despised at the time, but actually, now, looking back, it wasn’t so bad? Well my evidence is similar to that. I had professional pictures done of myself and my two when they were about 9 months old and 2 years old and then again when they were 2 and 3½. Even in that short space of time there was a noticeable difference in the lines engraved on my face!
Parenting is one of the hardest jobs we choose to do, there is no manual, no formal qualifications, it’s just you trying to find your way. Amazingly we do find our way, we learn from the things that didn’t quite work out how we’d have liked and we try again. And then we repeat. And we repeat again!
As well as dealing with how children age you, we also have to deal with the different challenges they bring during their development. I won’t note them, because if you are a parent you will know what they are! It’s a fact that you won’t always know the best way to deal with issues, and maybe you won’t agree with the outcome. But trying to keep your head in these situations will be better all round.
For me keeping calm just on a day to day basis with my children, my partner and life’s demands is helped by exercise. The physical benefits of exercise are well known, and they are mostly what we, as a population, strive for when we do exercise. “I want a six-pack” “I want to lose my wobbly thighs” “ I want to get my body beach ready” “I’m going to a wedding and I want to wear this dress” You get the picture. But what about the effects that exercise has on the mind?
Studies have shown that regular exercise can alleviate symptoms among the clinically depressed. In some cases exercise can be as effective as taking anti-depressants. Doctors often advise those suffering with depression or anxiety or stress symptoms to pencil in exercise time.
Exercise releases various chemicals that have a positive impact on the mind. Endorphins are the ones you have probably heard of. They increase feelings of happiness and euphoria. Another chemical produced when you are exercising moderates the brains response to stress, so improving your ability to deal with stress.
It makes sense then, from the evidence above, that if you are regularly exercising you may be able to keep calm in the storm. I’m not for one minute saying that when your two year old is having a tantrum (or your 14 year old for that matter) that you will nonchalantly ignore it. But it might just help you cope a little better in the moment.
As well as exercise, meditation can be really effective in helping you keep things together. It does take practise and perseverance to get the benefits though. Once you master it, meditation can take you away from daily stressors, quieten the mind and give you clarity. I practise meditation, although not as often as I should. I went through a phase of practising daily for about two months; I really noticed a positive difference in my being. My daughters noticed it to; a comment of “why are you so calm? It’s weird” from one of my daughters when I’d maybe, usually react to her outbursts in a more fiery way, proved that! Linking back to the age thing; my meditation teacher did not look her age, she looked much younger! Just in case you need another reason to try meditation! But it makes sense that if you are calm; there will be no frowning or tension on your face!!
One last thing before I sign off. My point in this months article is that using meditation and exercise to help you deal better with the parenting demands can definitely work. It can also help the children as well. Introducing them to a life that includes exercise, mediation and mindfulness will teach them how to deal with stress and help them look after their mental health. It’s hard to find definite stats for the actual increase in children’s mental ill-health, but one thing is for sure; it is on the increase. If we can help our children deal with stress, and encourage calm by the simple introduction of exercise and mindfulness, then we should do it!
Have a good month x