I like to think that I maintain a calm and cool exterior at all times, but my three-year-old daughter would disagree. When she recognizes that I’m feeling overstimulated and frazzled, she brings me a fist-sized trinket to put inside my shirt. If this seems like an odd practice, I would encourage you to watch Moana. Stay with me.
In a nutshell, a demigod named Maui steals the physical heart of Te Fiti, a flourishing mountain. Without her heart, Te Fiti turns into Te Kā, a terrible lava monster who rages against islands and ocean voyagers. It’s up to Moana, an island princess, to restore the heart of Te Fiti and bring peace to the ocean once more.
Did you catch that? Yes. My daughter is restoring my heart so I will stop being a raging lava monster and turn back into a life-giving mountain. As I was saying, I maintain a calm and cool exterior at all times.
As adults, it is our job to be masters of our emotions. Many of you can attest, raising toddlers is no small feat. Finding your calm while teaching your children to find theirs is not always easy.
As you have just read, sometimes Moana steps in and restores my heart to give me the mental reset I need. Other times, these five quirky tips help me to find my calm.
1. Mother Teresa said it best, “Peace begins with a smile.”
Did you know that smiling for 30 seconds can help trick your brain into feeling more peaceful? You may feel silly at first but trust me, it works! When you smile, your muscles send a message to your brain that releases the chemicals associated with feelings of happiness and reduced stress. Next time morale is low, try smiling for 30 seconds. Read more here about the many benefits of smiling!
2. Stop, drop, and breathe.
If you or your child find yourself starting to melt down, remember to stop, drop, and breathe. Lay down on the floor next to your little one and take up as much space as possible. If you do not have room to lie down, stretch your legs out in front of you. Feel the ground beneath you. Hold your little one’s hand and take five deep breaths together. This grounding exercise will stabilize your breathing and help you reconnect with your little one.
3. I spy with my little eye, something . . . blue!
We all know the scene: one toddler is crying because she asked for the blue bowl, but the bowl you gave her was too blue. Now her sibling is crying in solidarity. When my empathetic toddlers get going, a neighbor might think I kidnapped La Llorona herself. What’s a toddler mom to do? Remain in the present!
Take note of five things you see around you. To make it more interesting, I choose a color and look for five things in the room in that color. My color is blue: 1. kitchen island, 2. drying cloth, 3. water bottle, 4. magnet, 5. measuring cup–check!
4. In the words of Taylor Swift, “Shake it Off!”
Nothing breaks up the moment like having an upbeat living room dance party. We like to turn on Kidz Bop through YouTube and play our favorite kid-friendly jams. Best of all, there are choreographed dances that you and your little ones can imitate. So, go ahead and “shake it off.”
5. Practice progressive muscle relaxation.
My stress accumulates in my shoulders . . . so much that my pre-natal massage therapist once told me, “Rachael, your shoulders are not meant to be worn as earrings!” The truth is, the muscles in our body often project our anxiety and stress without our brains even realizing it. So, how can you train your muscles to relax?
When you’re not in a moment of stress, you can practice tuning in with your body by tensing and releasing individual muscles. This is called Progressive Muscle Relaxation. The goal of this practice is to be able to recognize when your body becomes tense and respond with muscle relaxation. To relax your whole body, you’ll need around 15 minutes. In moments of stress, I only focus on one large muscle group. Here’s what that looks like in practice.
Find a comfortable place to sit down with your little one. I prefer to start with my feet and work my way up my body.
For example, start on your left side and curl your toes towards the ground; hold for five seconds, then release. Next, flex your foot in the same way while also flexing your lower leg; hold for five seconds, then release. Afterward, flex your foot, lower leg, and upper leg together; hold for 5 seconds, then release. You’re done with your left side. Now, do the same on your right. In-depth instructions on how to practice Progressive Muscle Relaxation can be found here.
For more ideas on how to practice mindfulness, check out Calm the Storm: Kid-Friendly Mindfulness Activities. And, if your life feels out of balance, I encourage you to take a deeper look into what is filling your cup with 5 Ways to Prioritize Your Life and Find Your Happy.
The opinions expressed in this post are those of the author. They do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of ABQ Mom, its executive team, other contributors to the site, its sponsors or partners, or any organizations the aforementioned might be affiliated with.