Peace in the Midst of Chaos


 Four easy and effective stress management techniques for busy stay-at-home parents.

Whether you are the parent of an infant and are dealing with lack of sleep or you have toddlers or preschoolers running around the house wreaking havoc on your nerves, or teenagers driving you insane, it is still possible for you to find peace in the midst of chaos.
One of the biggest challenges for stay-at-home parents is not being able to get away. Believe me I know, I raised seven kids and at some point I had all different ages at home, from infant to teenagers all around the house. All different demands and degrees of need all crying for help and problem resolution, sometimes all at the same time. There were many times when I thought I was going to pull my hair out, pack my suitcase and head towards some unknown road screaming and crying, "I am NOT coming back!"Maybe I did at some point, I don't remember.
The truth is that as much as you love your children and they love you, they have an innate ability to tap into your center of sanity and rip it apart. This is especially true when you are dealing with ages newborn to 5 years old, but teens are no exception, and they too have special verbal tools that create enough inner chaos to make Mother Theresa and every other saint commit regrettable acts of violence.
As impossible as it may seem on those long summer vacation days when they all want to kill each other and make it look like you did it; or during cold, boring, endless winter days, there's help and hope.
Here's what you do.
If you're caring for an infant, your window of opportunity where you can step away from mayhem is very small. Sometimes the only thing you can do to fetch a few moments of solitude is take advantage of their naps. If you have 2-5 year olds and the only place they won't follow you is the bathroom, go for it. Older children are able to understand and respect rules a little better. So tell them this is your "time out" and their time to do something quiet for 20 minutes. If they say, "like what, there's nothing to do," give suggestion. Tell them what time out means to you. For me it was no phone calls and no interruptions unless there's an emergency. I even made them use the potty before I went to retreat.
Now go to your room or bathroom (walking closets work too, by the way) and LOCK the door. Remember this is YOUR time and it is OK to have it.

Disconnect. Pull the plug from whatever is going on outside your door. Sit down comfortably and close your eyes. Very slowly, listen to your heart beats. You don't have to count them or analyze them, just feel them. Remember your heart is the center of your emotions. Next, focus on your mind. Let all thoughts pass without judging them, remember they are just thoughts. If this has been a truly overwhelming day, this process might take a while. Give your mind the time to purge as many thoughts as possible. You will soon begin to breathe more slowly and a sensation of calmness will begin to fill your whole body. Totally let go and just be. In a few more minutes you'll feel refreshed and life won't seem so big anymore. Try to take the entire 20 minutes to do this exercise.

Visualize Pick a place where you have experienced relaxation and peace in the past and immerse yourself completely in that experience. Some people choose a pleasurable moment. For me is eating an ice cream sundae. Recreate in your mind the whole experience. See the colors, taste flavors and smell scents. Feel the textures and recall your feelings associated with that particular experience. Smile as you feel pleasure and relaxation.

Breath Breathing is extremely important to bring about the relaxation response. Most of us don't know how to breathe properly. Fully focus your attention on your breathing for a few minutes and observe your body as you do so. Is your breathing shallow? Are only your chest and shoulders moving up and down? This is how most people breath.This is how you continue to hold stress in your body. Now make a conscious effort to breath at a deeper level. Take a really deep breath, one in which your diaphragm (the membrane between your ribs and your stomach) is fully raised. Exhale and relax all your muscles to the best of your abilities. Your stomach should be going up and down. Do this for 5 to 10 times inhaling for a count of 4 and exhaling for a count of 4. Notice how much better you feel now from the time you started.

Stretch. If you have a favorite stretching routine of DVD go for it. If not I recommend some fabulous Yoga moves that will open your heart and mind and increase your blood flow throughout your body. A few of these moves are child's pose, cat stretch, cobra, up dog, and shavasana. You can hold each pose for about five breaths and then relax. These poses are relatively easy and very beneficial. Any Yoga book or website can assist you with your practice. Feel free to repeat a particular sequence as many times as you need to.
The more stress and responsibility you handle, the more you need these relaxation techniques. As your children begin to notice the positive changes in you, they will begin to respect and appreciate your time outs and you'll be glad to slowly feel more in control during your most challenging times of the day.

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