Being a new parent is stressful, dare to disagree. But we are so lucky to have such an amazing support system available for new Mamas and Papas in New Zealand. From pregnancy through to the first 6 weeks of life with your newborn, many of us are graced with visits from friends and family adorned with tiny clothes and lactation cookies and midwife check-ups to help navigate your chapped nipples. You even have a bunch of extra happy hormones flying around your body.
But, like, what about after that? It’s as if once your baby hits the 6-week mark you’re on your own. Off you go, your stitches have healed up, you’ve had your first shower and inhaled a cold piece of toast - you’re ready to rock?!
Don’t get me wrong this is such a beautiful and special time, but sometimes equally stressful and scary for some.
Right now, I am finding life with my 18-month bubba far more challenging than when she was first born. I have had anxiety, tears, moments of distress and despair and major sleep deprivation over the last couple of months, but it’s something we don’t really talk about. Some days you show up to work feeling like a corpse that’s been dug from the grave and nobody knows you’ve been up all night for the last week; you still have to be on your game and interact in the world as ‘normal’. We are told ‘it’s normal’ and expected to suck it up and get on with it.
On top of that, as your little angel/devil begins to grow and change, the issues you’ve just spent the last 2 months tearing your hair out to resolve have disappeared overnight only to be replaced by new ones. Moreover, as our children blossom into their own little people and develop their sense of independence, new challenges are always arising; depending on the circumstances, this can be extremely stressful for parents and children too. So here I am, acknowledging that some days SUCK and that’s okay. It’s okay to have down days and crappy mental health days. But there is hope!
You might notice stress is always labelled as a bad thing, when in actual fact, some stress is healthy - we actually need a certain amount of stress to survive, to motivate us and prevent us from falling into procrastination and depression. But when stress is consistently present for a long period of time, your body is constantly releasing cortisol which can have negative impacts on mental, physical and emotional well-being. If we are always rushing, too busy to press pause, slow down and give our minds time to rest and reset, it starts to take a serious toll and we end up living in what’s known as ‘chronic low-grade stress’, without even realising - it just becomes the norm. So, what next? If you find yourself sending your little ones to time-out and wondering how you can get some time out of your own, this is a message for you.
Breath is the most underrated tool which we are all equiped with. Breathing mechanics are directly linked to the nervous system and when we learn how to tap into this, we can begin to counterbalance daily stress.
Here are some simple tools and techniques for parents and children to help manage emotions, tackle tired tantrums and build resilience and connection as a family unit. Introducing small pieces of mindfulness into your day will nurture qualities of patience, kindness, inner-calm, relaxation and communication.
1. Bedtime Body Scan ‘The Cloud’
Say goodnight by guiding your little one through a relaxing head-to-toe body scan. How it works: Describe each body part and how it has done its job for the day and it is now safe for that body part to relax into the big soft cloud. You can make it your own by using your knowledge of your child and their day. Some examples would be:
‘Can you feel your head resting on your big soft pillow? Your head has had lots of amazing thoughts today and maybe had some worries too, but now it’s time to relax into the cloud’ ‘Your clever hands have been so creative today drawing pictures, now they can relax into the cloud’ ‘Your strong feet have done so much walking and running today, now they can relax into the cloud.'
2. A Mindful Snack - Sit down for a quick snack together (prepare it together if you can/have time) and take turns at describing the food in detail. I.e. ‘This raisin is so small! It looks wrinkly, it feels hard but it’s soft in my mouth and tastes very sweet’ ‘This cracker is brown, it’s a circle shape and it feels crispy, when I bite it, it makes a ‘crunch’ sound’. Tuning into simple pleasures in the here and now is a naturally calming and bonding experience.
3. Stop, Breathe & Think is a fantastic source of ideas and is available as an App too!
4. Look out for my Kids Yoga Classes starting up in Term 3! Em K Yoga and Yoga Tamariki are teaming up to bring our Hamilton Community some special kids classes held after school for ages 5-7 and 8-12. Check out my website or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
1. Set an alarm on your phone at intervals throughout the day - when the alarm sounds, stop what you’re doing and just be fully present in the moment. Notice what you see, what sounds can you hear right now? What can you feel, a cool breeze? A soft jumper? A hard chair? A headache? Are there any smells? Tastes? Tune into your senses and get descriptive and detailed, then bring to mind something you are grateful for, big or small.
2. 10 Minute Breath Meditation
3. 15 Minute De-stress Stretch
4. Check out Insight Timer, a free meditation App with over 45,000 free guided meditations!
Originally from England, Emily is a mum and yoga instructor currently living and teaching in Hamilton, NZ. With a degree in psychology and a diploma in nutrition, she is passionate about helping people find balance amongst life's chaos, tapping in to mental and physical potential and providing guidance towards optimum health and happiness. Thank you for sharing with us, Emily!