Mums need time out too

Some days I feel overwhelmed.

By the things I’ve got to do, by the kids acting up, by the conflicts I’ve got to manage and resolve. Some days it just gets a little too heavy to bear.

And I start to react.

I start to scream. In my head or out loud.

I start to feel like my world is caving in.

That’s when I know I need to call for time-out.

I’d send an SOS message to the hubby. It’d read something like, “I’m feeling damn crappy, I need to get out of here.”

And (during the moments when I don’t feel out of control) I’d try to communicate to the kids too. “Vera, JJ, mummy is feeling mad. I’m going to go downstairs, get a cup of coffee and calm down.”

That’s the better scenario. Often, I would have screamed and let it all go already.

…I’ve learnt that feeling overwhelmed isn’t necessarily an evil thing.

If we listen to our bodies, it’s signaling to us how it’s doing every day.

You’re tired – get some rest.
Your mind is bogged down by work – relax, go for a walk, write down the things you have to do, and prioritise them.
You’re upset at the kids for not listening to your instructions – see if you can do things differently, instead of saying it louder, use a softer voice to make them pay attention, let them feel the consequence of their actions, rather than keep nagging at them.

Often when I feel overwhelmed, I send out SOS-es to my hubby or girlfriends, asking for prayers.

I share with someone who will listen without judging.

I check my schedule and cut down on things that can wait.

By doing these things, I’m telling myself that I care for ME. I need to take care of my needs and sanity, before I can tackle the rest of my responsibilities.

Most of all, overwhelmed is a big sign, telling me to STOP. Reminding me to sit and find rest at His feet.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed today, take time out, seek Him, and He will give you rest.

(PS. Here’s a line from a song that I’ve been listening to.)

foot of the cross

“Bye, woman.” On wellness and self-care

I told the kids “bye, guys” one morning as they headed off to class. Vera promptly turned and said “bye, woman.”

She thought she was cheeky, and I must admit I laughed. (I only hope I remember this incident years down the road if and when the kids use this reference not so innocently.)

As I spent the last week or so reflecting on my journey and reviewing my goals and plans, I realise that I often forget about my own needs as a woman.

A woman needs love and affection. She is cheered on by words of encouragement and affirmation from the people close to her heart. She loves to be pampered, desires to dream and to realise those dreams, seeks time to rejuvenate herself, time to rest and feed her soul.

She needs to know that she is worth fighting for and protecting, that her thoughts, feelings and ideas are worthy of a listening ear. She dreams big, gives of herself to worthy causes, fights for the things and people she believes in and loves. She nurtures her clan ferociously.

As “mum”, I often neglect the other aspects of womanhood. I don’t dedicate time to care for myself. Exercise and grooming gets relegated to “when I have a minute.”

Many needs vy for my attention, and it can get pretty overwhelming on some days. (Now and then, I feel like locking myself in a quiet room and sitting alone in the stillness for five minutes. And occasionally, I actually do.)

This is where I collect myself; the million pieces of me that have been spread thin like butter on toast.

There, when the sky feels like it’s falling and when my heart is so noisy and worry-filled, I’m able to focus on the promises of God. He often reminds me that He is the one holding it up for us.

I feel lately I’ve been buzzing around without a clear purpose. It’s time to re-focus on the things that matter to me, not just as Mum, but as Woman.

When I became a mum in 2009, I launched into motherhood – mad, glorious motherhood. Now, ironically, being a mum has taught me that I cannot simply mother all day long and neglect my own needs as a woman. This quote says it well:

The quality of a person’s inner being – the body, mind and spirit – affect the quality of his/her outward expressions – the ability to maintain healthy relationships with others, produce quality work, etc. One’s inner wellness is, hence, not an option, but a necessity. Every individual, especially women who tend to sacrifice themselves for their loved ones, must unwind and pamper his/herself to achieve that inner balance and well-being. – Esther Lee

As much as my children mean to me, being a better person for them means stepping away from them, to re-fuel my tank.

Ways to re-fuel

  • Keep fit and healthy (through good food and exercise).
  • Regular me-time (coffee dates work well for me, and the occasional coffee retreat).
  • Catch up with good friends.
  • Invest in personal development, give voice to your dreams.
  • Creative pursuits and fun relaxing activities, like picking up a new hobby or catching a play (not a kiddy one)
  • Nourish your soul by feeding on God’s word daily.
  • Date your spouse. Find new ways to show your love.
  • Create mental white space or thinking space (this should involve stealing away from the noisy world of technology and social media) to reflect on the past, learn lessons, and plan for the future. (This often helps me to gain new energy and perspective. When I take a step back, I often catch a glimpse of the bigger picture.)

In a way, this blog is my way of investing in myself; an expression of my desires to write and create, and to encourage other parents who are going through similar struggles.

It is also a small step towards achieving my dream to be a writer.

Yes, it’s hard to peel away. Yes, it’s hard to find the time. But if it’s something important and close to your heart, you will choose to do it, even if it means saying “no” to other things. This is for you, and for the family too.

Parenthood isn’t an excuse for you to shelf your dreams and needs for personal fulfilment away. Instead, allow parenthood to inspire and motivate you to go beyond what you ever imagined, and to invest in those needs in a different, perhaps more creative, way.

From now on, I’m committing myself to not run on empty, and to re-fuel on love, God’s word, and good company. For the month of July, I’ll be focusing on the theme of self-care. (If you have an idea to share with me, do drop me a note!)

“Hello, woman.”

self-care quote

Do you struggle to meet your own needs and desires too?

How do you find ways to recharge and refuel?

Anger Management 102: Coping strategies and self-care

In my earlier post on anger management, I shared a bit about anger management and its effects on children. Today, I will be touching on the two main ingredients of anger: stress and trigger thoughts, and how to manage them. (Information courtesy of the NUH Women’s Emotional Health Service’s anger management workshop.)

stress

Stress predisposes us to anger. It sets the scene for anger. Ever wonder why sometimes you react differently towards the same behaviour in your child? Stress is the main reason. Your state of mind, or more specifically, how stressed you feel at the time is a key determining factor.

A trigger thought is the automatic thought that pops into your head, interpreting the situation. It happens in a split second, and often you don’t even know you’re thinking it until you sit down and reflect after the incident.

That thought (usually something about your child) sets off an angry response, converting that internal stress into something expressed externally: anger / frustration / crying / yelling / hitting.

If we want to better manage our emotions, we need to deal with both fronts.

Self-care for Stress

To help keep stress levels in check, take care of your needs. Self-care is important, especially as a modern, multi-tasker mum. Watch over your basic needs; have sufficient rest, exercise, maintain a healthy diet. Also, watch your emotional needs. Keep communication lines open with your spouse, schedule couple time, and even some me-time. Go ahead, you deserve it.

Basically, anything that can help you be in the best state of mind, is beneficial to your family too.

Talk back to trigger thoughts

In my earlier post, some of the readers already identified the thoughts that were in their minds at the point of an angry outburst. These could be: ‘You never listen’ or ‘You’re being difficult’, or ‘He’s driving me crazy!’

One way to combat these negative and often extreme thoughts is to talk back to them. Try these talk-back thoughts instead:

  • It’s just a stage. Kids have to go through these stages.
  • This is how he’s coping with his feelings and needs. It’s not about me.
  • I can cope with this. I don’t have to get angry.

These thoughts help to offer a more realistic view of the situation and your child, as opposed to than the emotional-charged trigger thoughts. The next time you find yourself in a tense situation, take a step back and see what is going through your head at the moment, and then try and see if you can come up with your own talk-back thought. I know it helps because I’ve tried it too, though it might take a while to get used to, and changes may not occur overnight.

Here are some other ideas that I took home from the workshop:

  • Understand your child’s developmental stage – certain traits can be expected at different developmental stages, and it’s helpful to understand what these are before concluding that the child is deliberately misbehaving. For example, around age 2-3 years old, a child tends to blur fantasy and reality, so when she says something that is untrue, it’s not that she’s trying to lie to you.
  • Anticipate your child’s needs – for instance, he may need food, water, rest, sleep, security, attention, etc, so if you can see it coming, then try to prepare what you can to avoid potential tantrums and crankiness.
  • Practise calming techniques – such as deep breathing, walking off your anger, and telling yourself “I can calm down”, etc
  • Communicate assertively – Use “I feel ____ when you _____”, e.g., “I feel frustrated when you don’t listen to me.” Then set clear boundaries for behaviour, such as “I want you to pick up your toys every evening before bedtime.”

I’ve found some of these coping strategies useful in helping me to stay calm in tense situations. And I certainly hope they work for you too.

What’s a common issue that you face with your child, at his/her current development stage? How do you manage your emotions when conflict arises? 

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