Reading a parenting book recently, I was struck with a bit of advice that has changed my approach to stress management. It started with the author’s observation that many children are so accustomed to feeling stressed, they no longer remember what it feels like to be calm.
I was reading about kids, but I also wondered for myself: with the demands of work, family, community, and health competing for my time and energy, do I even remember what calmness feels like? Am I constantly in a state of being more or less “on?”
In Self-Reg: How to Help Your Child (and You) Break the Stress Cycle and Successfully Engage with Life, Dr. Stuart Shanker writes:
Unfortunately, when children are habituated to being revved up, they resist doing any sort of mindfulness exercise that would help them learn to be calm. So we have to make sure that they enjoy the experience. Being calm and enjoying being calm are two sides of the same coin.
I decided to commit to making calmness part of my daily “normal.” Shenker’s words helped me set two criteria for what this would entail—it needed to make me feel deeply calm, of course, but it also had to be something I enjoyed.
I came up with a list of activities that are easy to fit into each day, and that consistently quiet my mind, slow my body, and replenish my energy level. Calming practices that you enjoy might look different from mine, but to get you thinking, here is my list:
1) Close my eyes and take 10 slow, deep, mindful breaths
2) Rearrange the books on one shelf in my house (just one!)
3) Look quietly at a body of water for 10 minutes
4) Deeply inhale something that smells great (my favorites are vanilla, cinnamon, lemon, and thyme)
5) Stretch the back of my neck by bending my chin toward my chest and gently pulling my head forward for 15 seconds while breathing deeply
After I do these things, I feel different—grounded, present and energized without being overwrought. In other words, calm. What does calmness feel like for you?