You’ve just finished a long day of holiday shopping with your kids. Feet are sore and you’re on your last nerve.Suddenly from the back seat you hear your toddler scream and cry. Apparently, your six year old punched the toddler in the shoulder because he stole a piece of candy. Chaos ensues and you are just about ready to come unglued. Before you do something you might regret, here are seven techniques you can choose instead of deciding one of them needs a spanking.
Use the 4-7-8 breathing method
This method takes just a few seconds to complete and it’s an effective way to distress quickly. You can even make it into a game for the kids to join in. First blow all the air out of your lungs, then slowly breathe in and counting for four seconds. Now hold your breath to the count of seven. Finally, slowly let the air out of your lungs while counting to eight. It’s easy to breathe in and slightly easy to hold your breath for seven seconds, but letting your breathe out slowly to make it last for eight seconds takes practice. If the first time doesn’t work to clear your mind, then do it again. Keep doing it until you’ve cleared your mind and de-stressed.
Count to twenty
Most experts say that counting to ten before you do anything. Truthfully, though, counting to twenty works much better and gives you more time to calm down. As you count up to twenty imagine a huge blank screen in your mind and each number is floating across it in different colors. Take few deep breathes as you continue to count. Once you’ve reached twenty, reevaluate yourself. Are you better? If not, then start counting back down from twenty using the same visualization.
Pull over and stretch
If you’re driving, like the example at the beginning, find a safe place to pull over and get out of your car and stretch your body. Simply stretching your arms as far as you can above your head, pretending you’re reaching to heaven, helps increase the blood flow to your brain and helps you clear your mind. Do this at least three or four times before getting back into the vehicle. If you’re adventurous, you can even invite the kids to join you in the stretching exercise. It will help them to calm down also.
Mindfulness is a method you can use to be aware of what’s going on inside your body. When you’re mindful of your physical reactions, it’s easier to redirect them to more positive reactions. For example, if you notice your breathing is shallow, it’s a great indicator that your brain isn’t getting the oxygen you need to think clearly. So, once you recognize this, you can take deeper breaths. Another great example is noticing that you’re gripping the steering wheel tightly. You probably will notice that in addition to this, you’re tense all over your body. You can intentionally relax your muscles. This is a powerful tool to use when you’re in a stressful situation. Being aware of your body’s reaction to the situation and controlling your own body.
Examine your own reasons
Why did you react so much to this outside stimuli? This is an excellent opportunity for you to be able to take a moment to examine your own reasons for being stressed. Obviously, the initial response to screaming is to turn to flight or fight or freeze mentality. But, being able to examine your own reasons for staying stressed once you realized what was going on is a great way to continue to reduce your stress response. Were you already stressed because you were thinking about something else? Perhaps you were remembering the conversation you had with your parent that didn’t go well. And the irony of now having to have a conversation with your own kids that might not go well is a great way to break the cycle. If you’re able review your own reasons, then you can separate out what’s really going on with your response.
Being grateful in moments of stress can greatly reduce your reaction to it. If you’re in the vehicle, like the example above, you may want to consider being grateful that it happened in the confines of your vehicle and not in a very public situation. Or you can express how grateful you are that the children are expressing these emotions and you get the chance to make it into a learning opportunity for them both. Being grateful changes our mindset from one of fear and tenseness to openness to finding a solution. Being grateful can help you teach the children how to learn from their own experiences and get the lesson out of it.
Call a friend or family member
Once you’ve gotten home and realized you’re having difficulty calming down from the stress, pick up your phone and dial a close friend or family member. Chances are, they may have experienced something exactly like what’s just happened to you. This may be what you need to be able to feel as if you’ve been heard and validate what you’re going through. It’s important to be able to share your feelings with someone you trust. Then ask their opinion about your situation. If you value their opinion, that is.
It’s never easy to be a parent and learning good parenting skills takes time and effort. These tips and techniques can help you reduce your stress and stay calm when your children are not behaving at their best.