I’m not typically a news watcher, but Mother Nature has been putting on quite a show and I’ve been fairly glued to the coverage. Meanwhile, school has started, school supplies must be purchased and schedules figured, and summer vacation seems about a million years ago. And dare I mention the political climate? My nerves are rattled. How, exactly, am I supposed to stay calm for my kids? Let me count the ways:
1. Breathe: I try every morning to do at least a 10-minute meditation. I light incense and burn candles (ignoring my children’s jeering “hippie” chants). I sit cross-legged on a pillow, or lay on my swing bed in the living room and listen to Linda Hall’s lovely English voice gently guide me to think positively. I breathe in and out deeply, understanding anew every time that remembering to stop and breathe deeply takes practice. I use stressful driving situations and brewing family drama as practice opportunities.
2. Use essential oils: I take a big whiff of lavender, and dab it under my nose, and at my temples, and into my hair, many times a day. It relaxes me. I put eucalyptus into the bath to open up my nasal passages and rejuvenate me. I bought a trio of mixed-oils — one to de-stress, one for headaches, and another to sleep — and I use them as needed and offer them to my kids. Essential oils are easy to find at most drugstores, and there are tons of ways to use them from lamp rings and vaporizers to massage lotions.
3. Laugh: I actually made a plan to go out with a few friends to dinner and, while we did raise some serious topics, we made light of them. We made fun of ourselves and one another about how seriously we take the things we worry about, understanding there are bigger forces at work and we need to put things in perspective. And we laughed and laughed at highly inappropriate things that “good mothers” should never laugh at.
4. Dance: My weekend was filled with dance parties. It doesn’t always happen, but more and more I am finding my tired old body boogying down to cool DJs and drum beats. There are about a million opportunities a night in this city to find good music and let the movement of your body push out all those stressful thoughts in your mind. Or, if you don’t want to go out, put on some tunes at home and just let yourself go, even first thing in the morning. I have a boxing bag I often hit as I bop around to silly pop tunes — Maroon 5 is my personal favorite, although my 16-year-old’s playlist of rap and pop tunes is kinda working for me lately as well. (Two weeks in the car listening to it definitely helped. If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.)
5. Express: Lately, my throat has gone a little dry and scratchy as I hold things I want to say back. There are so many things I want for my kids this year, mostly for them to be happy and productive, and I feel like I’m on the constant lecture circuit. Boring! Keeping the household running, trying to write and develop ideas for my non-profit, maintaining my marriage and other family relationships, not to mention taking care of the dog, the cat, and the constantly-needing-to-be-moved car. I’m sure you have your own long list of things you’re dealing with. How do you get things off your chest? I talk to family and friends, I write, play piano, visit the occasional therapeutic professional (be it an astrologer, tarot reader, intuitive, masseuse, etc.), and sometimes I just break down sobbing and head to my bed. Getting things out in some way, shape, or form is crucial, cause bottling things up eats away at you and will take its toll on your health.
6. Exercise: Yep. Gotta do it. I’ve gotten lazy this summer, relying too heavily on loose dresses and elastic-waist pants, but it’s time to get moving. I joined a Bikram yoga studio nearby, since 100-plus degrees and a series of near-impossible positions that I am faced with doing while staring into the mirror scantily clad keeps me incredibly honest. I’m hoping the money I spent will force my hand, and I know from past experience that the endorphins built up from a regular exercise regimen come to be addictive if you let them. As I age, it becomes imperative that I stretch my creaky limbs and lift the spirits, and I find that walking the dog, taking the three flights up to my apartment a ton, and making my way around the city doing errands aren’t even enough — I have to sweat!
7. Be kind: I’ve had a lot of conversations with friends this summer about anger. There certainly seems reason to be angry about a lot of things, but I find that anger takes its toll, leaving my mind and body a total wreck. There’s no denying upsetting things are going on, but there is a way of focusing less on the meanness in the world and more on the abundant kindnesses that humans show each other every day, especially in times of crisis. Doing my own little kind acts make me feel great, and open up my heart in ways that can only help my relationship with myself and my family.
There are a million more ways to stay relaxed in the stormy days ahead. If you seek you shall find the things that work for you. I’m trying every day anew. And, as I wrote to a friend recently: #sometimesIfail.
Then, I guess, I have to try again.