During the pandemic, there has been a lot of advice about slowing down and taking stock of that which we value in our lives, making the most of the slower pace to figure out what brings us joy. My own advice included. During this time, a good friend of mine sent me a post from another mum friend of hers about how it has felt for her internally dealing with the homeschooling, and working from home on top of her usual home life and like a lot of us, it has been more than tough. The post explains how for her, the barrage of thoughts inside her mind of the planning, mental checklists, and conversations she is having with herself means that when her kids ask her for something, she feels frustrated and annoyed with them for the interruption.
I definitely feel the same way, as I too am busy inside. My attention is pulled in so many different directions. Everything from doubting myself as a coach, partner, mum, employee to doing more to save the planet, reducing plastic usage, my political opinions, how social media influences me, oh and remembering to put in my Australian tax returns, return Grace’s library book and what’s the exchange rate doing. The chatter is constant, so it is no wonder that when Grace & Monty ask me for something, it’s not calmness I respond with. When they leave Lego, cars or chopped up paper all over the living room, adding another thing to my to-do list, I don’t ask them in a constructive way to clean it up. I threaten them that it will all go up the vacuum cleaner, or go in the trash. When they ask me for third breakfast, I don’t explain calmly that yes, they can having something once I have eaten my first breakfast. I become exasperated that I’m being asked to do more when I already manage so much. Not particularly grown up behaviour on my part and at their age and maturity, am I really expecting them to have that level of empathy?
So how do we deal with the busy-mind issue? If you google ‘slow a busy mind’ you will come up with articles suggesting everything from standing on one foot to turning off everything that makes a noise. That last one is a little difficult with a 3 and a 5 year old in the house, I haven’t found their off button yet. I have, however, had some success with the following things:
- Is this useful? – when the worries or the negative self-talk are going around and around and it’s just making me stressed, I ask ‘Is this useful?’ I picked this trick up from Dan Harris & Joseph Goldstein. The answer is usually ‘No’. The other thing I ask is ‘Can you do anything about it right now?’ and at 2 am when it’s happening, again the answer is usually ‘No’. These two questions usually help me to break the thought cycles.
- Limit distractions – It’s amazing how much time those little distractions suck up the time you could be using to do the things that are making you feel busy. I’ve removed social media from my phone, I don’t have notifications and badges for email. It helps.
- Have one to do list and decide where – I have one to do list, its on my phone because I usually always have it in the same building as me. I use Keep Notes from Google but use whatever one you prefer, just make sure you only have one and then decide where you are going to complete the task. Picturing ‘where’ will help you to get it out of your head because you have a plan to complete it when you are in that place. For example, my Australian tax returns, I planned to do them at the office when it was dark outside so when I stayed back at the office one night, I got them done.
- Plan time with the kids – it seems counter-productive especially when you’re in the same space with them so much right now but actually setting the time to engage with the kids instead of just being around them helps everyone. Play a game, color together, cook, whatever works for your family.
- Then try some of the other things – go outside, get your heart rate up, read, meditate, sing a song, breathe, delete the non-essential to-dos, say no, clear the clutter…
Good luck and let me know which ones worked well for you!