Raising children, toddlers in particular, can be an exhausting process. They can be loud, demanding, energetic and curious. This is not to say that the myriad rewards they offer don't more than counter the above-mentioned points, they do.
There is nothing like the love they bring. Toddlers are so full of genuine emotion and passion for life, and it is contagious. A thing of beauty, it is the calm before - and after - the storm.
There are ways to weather that storm, with not only grace, but also with a positive energy that leaves you feeling revitalized, rather than depleted.
As a full-time mom of a toddler, and a busy work-at-home writer/editor, I have to extract every available second of time I can in any given day. To balance that frantic pace, I have also discovered a few ways to create what I like to call ‘Accidental Zen.’
By one definition, Zen is a meditative state that emphasizes experiential wisdom to further one's enlightenment. To a busy mom or dad, Zen might just be finding five minutes to themselves within the chaotic whirlwind of a toddler who is rushing, dancing, laughing, and singing - sometimes one after the other - and sometimes all at once.
Here are my Top 10 Ways to Help You Find Your Zen:
1. Wake up 15 minutes earlier each day so that you can sit and sip your morning coffee and relax before getting yourself and the little ones ready. While you are lying in bed, contemplating hitting the snooze button, you may succeed in talking yourself out of it and into the extra 15 minutes of slumber. However, if you do get up and you go sit in the quiet house and sip that coffee and contemplate your day instead, you will likely go through the rest of the day feeling more centered and more productive. It's worth it.
2. Implement some biofeedback techniques. Place little sticky note flags around your environment and start to associate them with relaxing. Make a point of releasing tension by deep breathing five times and dropping your shoulders down every time you notice one. Eventually, it will become habit.
3. If you have a toddler, then you are likely working on potty training, or will be soon. Put two books in the bathroom. One, for your child to look at to pass the seemingly endless time it sometimes takes, and another for you. You may only read a few pages at a time, but eventually you will finish that book you have been meaning to read. An added bonus is that it will keep at bay any stress or impatience you may be feeling, which will help your toddler relax, too.
4. Fill your soap dispenser with lavender scented baby bath gel and place a bottle of matching baby lotion beside it. Every time you wash your hands, you will be rewarded with a little burst of relaxing lavender.
5. A portable DVD player is a worthwhile investment. If you want to have a shower that lasts more than five uninterrupted minutes, set your toddler up in their highchair, outside or inside the bathroom door, depending on how much room you have. Give them something to play with and pop their favorite movie into the portable DVD player or your laptop computer. It can be a bit of a process getting it all organized, but it is well worth it. You may even get to lather, rinse and repeat.
6. Not all Zen moments need to be planned. Some of the best ones are spontaneous. If you notice that your toddler is unexpectedly engaged in an activity, take advantage. Put your feet up, lean back and just watch them build the best castle ever or take care of their baby doll. You get to relax for a few moments and you get to enjoy the sight of a curious mind developing. It is in these quiet, spontaneous moments where you can really see your child's personality emerging.
7. Promise yourself you will take at least 15 minutes for yourself during their naptime, and follow through. The chores can wait. As much as I want to go and write, clean the house or put in a load of laundry while my toddler is napping, some days I find I am much more in need of my own nap, and I will lay down with him and rest my eyes, even if it's just for 15 minutes, but sometimes I actually sleep. I may get slightly less accomplished, but I will feel better doing it.
8. Make chores more enjoyable. Whether you are folding towels, making the beds or bathing the little one, add some nice relaxing music to the background and scent the air with lavender or chamomile. These things will naturally bring your mind and spirit into a calmer place.
9. If you are so inclined, pour yourself a glass of wine while you prepare supper. If not inclined, a cup of herbal tea will work wonders, too. If your child is restless at that time of day and is putting all of that energy into distracting you, set them up at the table or in their highchair and give them a coloring book and crayons or a piece of paper and some stickers to put on it. They will entertain themselves while being close to you and that should make both of you happy.
10. Finish the day in a similar way to how you started it. Take another 15, or more, minutes to yourself at the end of the day. Have a cup of tea, write in a gratitude journal or meditate, even if you just contemplate what happened today and what you expect for tomorrow that is good, too.
These moments do not have to be epic. In fact, by nature, Zen moments should be the antithesis of epic. Another advantage is they do add up and they do perpetuate themselves.
So, go now. Get up, and go do... absolutely nothing.
Lisa is a freelance writer/editor pursuing her dreams, writing two novels, blogging and raising a feisty toddler. Her short story, Dragonfly Landing, is soon to be published in The Memory Eater Anthology. For more information about Lisa and her writing, visit www.lisadawnmartinez.com, www.facebook.com/LisaDawnMartinez.Writer or follow on Twitter @LisaDMartinez.
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