Category Archives: A good time with myself

morning without coffee

Effective ways to wake up in the morning without coffee

Morning without coffee. Does it seem reasonable or does it sound like a nightmare? In one of my previous posts I pointed out  my position regarding coffee. Today it is even more simple – I say no to any drugs, medications or products that let me borrow some energy for a short time (with interest to pay back later). Interest, in this case, means the feeling of tiredness that soon follows the caffeine injection. In this post I share my insight on how to wake up in the morning and feel good about myself and everything around, without coffee. Coffee lovers, coffee addicts – this one is not for you.

Over some time I have perfected a few simple but very constructive tips that work great for me  (only considering that I have had at least 6 hours of sleep the night before… otherwise nothing really works much). Happy morning without coffee is quite possible; as time goes by and you establish some healthy routines, you may even find out that energy flows in a magical way into the very center of what used to be a ball of perpetual pain – the morning headache.

Tip #1: Lemon Water

Or how they position it in caffes – “home made lemonade”.

Get two glasses of warm lemon water right when you get up on your feet. If warm sounds disgusting, read it as “cool”.

How to make lemon water?

There are two ways: either squeeze or put a small piece of a lemon (not more than a quarter) into a 200 ml. glass of clean water.

Tip #2: Head, shoulders, knees and toes

You can’t run away from exercises.  Morning without coffee means activity. Any kind of stretching, literally, for three minutes. I do not follow any special guidelines, my intuition leads me to the right movements. One day it is hands up in the air, the other day, it may be feet on my ears and so on. You get the point. Consistency is king.

Here are some tips on different kinds of stretching:

  • Joints: make circles with your wrists and feet. Turn your neck in slow circles to both directions (don’t forget to breath when your head is backwards). It is best to make at least 3 circles to both directions. One body area that we never pay attention to is our wrists. As a typing mom, I think it is crucial to stretch our wrists and hand fingers.
  • Neck and Shoulders: Another good and effective stretching is rising up your shoulders as the “I don’t know gesture”. This simple exercise has proven to be extremely effective for me since I can do it -guess where – in front of my computer.
  • Waist – hands on hips or hula-hoop. Music. Make movements to any direction. I think, music makes the key role here, so choose something, that makes you want to dance and spin around.

Right now, while sitting in front of my monitor and typing all that I have simultaneously completed nearly all stretching exercises I have recommended here (except waist), almost without breaking the flow of typing.

Tip #3: Breath

Do three large breaths in and out. Amazing, how we forget to breathe deeply at least once a day, and even more amazing how three simple breaths inject morning energy into our sleepy bodies. So, stand in front of a big window, watch the cars, the dogs, the birds, flying saucers or whatever you can see from your observing point, and do one, two, three large breaths in and out. You can raise your hands every time you breathe in and bring them down every time you breathe out.

Tip #4 (the hardest): Morning without coffee means  morning without smart devices

Don’t touch any smart device (your head doesn’t count) before you really wake up. Morning without coffee also means morning without instant access to smart devices. Don’t check your emails in bed (alas!), don’t even check the weather before you have done the water and the air injection. I have a rule of thumb – my phone wakes up at least 15 minutes later than I do, and so far, my phone had no objections regarding that.

Tip #5: Compromise… if not coffee then something else.

Last, but not least. I said morning without coffee, but what if the body requires something sweeter than a carrot, something that reminds liquid (not a cucumber juice), and something that resembles coffee by smell and color? What if it’s just too hard, on some days, to say total no to coffee?

Cacao

Cacao is associated with children, but it stopped being that way for me once I re-discovered how great it tastes.  Better use organic and/or  bio cacao powder, but I, personally, find the instant one delicious (against all my “rules”, oh well). I’m not going to mention any particular brand here since I haven’t decided myself yet. Go with what tastes best, it’s just one cup once in a while. Not a big deal.

Lately, I have discovered my own personal way of making morning without coffee even better – I melt chocolate (the chocolate bars they sell for baking) in a small amount of water. Sometimes I add some cacao powder to make it taste a bit bitter, and sometimes it’s only the chocolate. Sugar is not needed at all.

Green tea

Another drink you can consume is green tea. I prefer making tea in a small fancy pot (2 cups). If you drinking it from a regular cup use a very small amount of tea, and if you are using tea from a bag, I suggest not holding the bag in hot water over two minutes. The tea flavor becomes too strong. Of course, it’s very personal and you should experiment until you find your best flavor-time ratio.

Dog-rose tea

A powerful source of energy, tastes good both as hot and cold. Tastes delicious, can be drank without sugar or cookies or anything, because of its unique flavor. Better buy dried rose hips (sold in pharmacies or tea shops) and brew with nearly-boiling water. Another option is to cover the berries with cool, clean water on the evening before you go to sleep, and the drink will be ready in the morning (you can add some honey, it will taste even better).

Have I forgotten any tips? I might have, or I might be not aware, that some other ways exist. Let me know in comments what works for you (other than coffee) to get yourself to your feet in the morning.

avoid back pain

Avoid back pain – 5 minutes per day

Hello, I am your back and I am in pain.

How to avoid back pain with just 5 minutes per day and some minor effort? How to fend off the creepy feeling of your spine nearly breaking by the end of the day?

Do you ever know what your spine is through while you don’t even feel it? Every time I curve sit near my laptop, every time I bend in the wrong way, every time I have to lift something heavy my child – there are little bells ringing “My back, my back, my back! It hurts, it hurts, it hurts!”

All the exercises and techniques I show here are super short and dense. Just like in the post about breathing techniques – also here, you can learn to avoid back pain significantly with an activity that will steal 5-7 minutes from your schedule.

Is it even possible to completely avoid back pain?

Yes and no. Yes – if you train for at least 30 minutes every day in the right manner (better with an instructor or guided by a video). No – if you skip the practice, neglect and dismiss the first symptoms of  discomfort and only use heating pillows to put under your back before going to sleep.

Every mom knows what pack pain is. Some moms do something about it, others neglect it and wait until it strikes them hard one day. Avoiding back pain on early stages is one of the best things a mom can do for herself and her children. 

Busy females who run banks, raise twelve kids, maintain apartments and have to carry water from the river every day definitely have no time for classic yoga, Pilates, swimming and a bunch of other healthy things. The author of this post is a buzzy busy mom who only finds time to blog and take long showers, but never the time for a proper work out.

Therefore, here is one great exercise that anyone can do without special training. All you need is a mat or a carpet to sit and roll on. It takes about 5 minutes but makes a huge positive change to the back. No more wailing about lack of time!

Here is how it goes:

Step 1: Sit down, bend your knees and hug them with your arms. Your back can be straight but it’s ok if your back is slightly curved.

Step2: Pull your knees to your chest, keep on holding them with your hands. Your feet can be crossed or parallel – I prefer mine to be crossed, but it is up to you.

Step 3: Gently push yourself down on the back, while your legs are crossed in the air, your hands supporting them. All your movements should be slow and careful.

Step 4: Roll back until you are back to the initial sitting position. Your hands are hugging your legs all the time. Are you feeling ok? If there is dizziness you should drink some water and sit still for a while.

Step 5: Repeat the rolling back and forth, this time try to stay on your spine for a longer time while rocking back and forth. If you hear “bones cracking”, it’s ok. This is the way of my back to thank me after a long day of no exercise.

When rolling forth, you do not have to reach the initial sitting position every time. Touching the floor (or the mat) with your toes is enough, though you can reach a fulling sitting position if you want to. I prefer not to, as it causes my head to spin. I prefer my back-and-forth movements to have a shorter amplitude.

Step 6: By the end of the rock-n-roll sit straight again, gently release your arms from your legs. Stretch your legs forward or to the sides and bend to the right and to the left. Touch the toes of each leg with your hands, as much as possible.

Avoid back pain in a more creative way

For ingenious moms are bored to just roll back and forth, here is a twist in the scenario: every time you land back try to move your body a bit to the right or to the left (once you picked a side, stick to it). Every time you lift up try to move your body again to the opposite side. For example: every time I roll down I land slighty to the left, every time I move up I move slightly to the right. Repeat the same way with every rock.

At some point you will be able to make an entire 180 degree turn using the ups-and-downs!

The same exercise can be done in a slightly different way. Instead of rolling back and forth on your spine, you can roll from side to side. Legs are held by your arms, and you are using the stomach and the back muscles to move your body from left to right and vice versa.

yawning therapy

Yawning therapy

So, what is Yawning Therapy?

It’s a natural and simple way to get rid of stress, bad mood and undesired thoughts. Yawning is free, you can do it almost anytime and you don’t need a life coach to teach you  to grab some extra oxygen. Yawning therapy is one of these simple and neglected things people have forgotten (Why? Because most people are busy with other things, that’s why).

Every mom needs to do some yawning once in a while, and when she does is consciously and purposefully, things change: from mere yawning to an effective relaxation technique.

What is it good for?

  • good mood (not a bad thing at all)
  • beauty (some extra oxygen into the cells is a great idea). Tears, that come down by the end of the practice are good for rinsing and refreshing the sensitive eye skin.
  • brilliant ideas and inspiration that come into mom’s head (when the head is not heavily occupied by dirty soup, scattered soup and sock making… sorry, I meant dirty diapers, scattered socks and soup making)

Before you start the yawning therapy

  • you can be alone or among strangers who don’t care about you (like in a bus or in a busy street. But not during family dinner, even if you are with your sunglasses on.)
  • if you cannot be alone, at least put some sunglasses on or turn aside so that your face will not be seen
  • you will not have any make up on your face or at least in the eyes area.
  • You cannot talk or listen to anyone at the time of the practice, it will distract you and reduce the effect (well, it’s pretty self-explanatory, but I had to say it just in case).

Yawning therapy. Three steps:

Exhales longer than inhales

start breathing 4-6 (or any other number, but make sure your inhales and shorter than your exhales). Keep on breathing and counting: 1-2-3-4 is an inhale, 1-2-3-4-5-6 is an exhale. Continue the same way even if nothing happens: just lie and breath (you can do it in a sitting position as well, even in a public place. Just make sure you have sunglasses on).

Let yawning happen naturally

soon, you will start yawning. It will happen naturally, no need to do anything special otherwise than breath in the 4-6 way. Let yourself yawn as it goes, dont’t try to stop or control it. It is better if you are alone, but if not, as I said, make sure that you have sunglasses on or that nobody sees your face. It can get in the way when someone is observing you while yawning. Also, no need to cover your mouth, forget about rules.

Tears of relaxation

In the third stage, tears might start running down and it’s not because you’re sad and sorry, but it’s a natural process which I cannot really explain. I only know that it occures and that it leaves black traces of mascara, so better remove it before.

When to stop?

You can stop the practice at any moment, no special instructions needed. I would recommend doing it for 10-15 minutes at the least, because it takes time to get to the stage of “tears” and relaxation. 2-3 minutes will not be enough for a proper therapy, but it’s still better than nothing.

stressed for meditation

Too stressed for meditation.

As a mom, I relate to different states of mind. Though meditation has become part of my everyday being, still, there are situations when I’m too nervous, tired and overwhelmed with thoughts that won’t let go. Too stressed for meditation. Relaxed breathing just doesn’t happen that easily in these cases. What to do then?

Observe. I observe myself being nervous and I listen to my fast beating heart. I don’t even try to meditate or relax since it won’t work right away. Observation is the first step: it distracts me from one thing – negative thoughts and brings me to another thing – of moderate tranquility. From there, it is possible to move on to steadier breathing.

Observe also means accept. I accept my state, my craziness, my darkest thoughts and malicious fears.  After accepting, I cut them off naturally with one word. You choose your own word, I have mine.

Now, my favorite techniques on how to get going:

So, where do I start if I am too stressed for meditation?

These are not magic ways or special self-treatments. These are ordinary methods of relaxation that work only because I want them too.

Down count breaths.

As I wrote in another post, counting breaths is a simple and powerful technique. Yet, down-counting is another way to calm when ordinary breath counting does not help. The same down-counting method helps when you are working out in the gym: to do 10 push-ups is easier when you start from the 10th. The same goes for meditative breaths: I set myself a goal of, let’s say, 7 breaths, and start from the 7th to the 1st. A silly mind trick that works.

When stressed for meditation – don’t meditate. Act.

Breathing is good but sometimes it’s not enough. Physical action, dynamic meditation, movement. This movement has to be chaotic, useless, silly, purposeless. Dancing, jumping, shaking, scratching stretching and so on.

Do it alone.

It’s not always possible, but being alone works best for me. What if she cannot be alone at this moment, what if she is surrounded by children who want a happy mom?

Then, I tell them the truth, at their level of understanding. “Mommy is tired. Mommy needs a few quiet moments. Mommy will rest for just a few minutes and then will come out and play/make cookies/stay on her head.

Laugh. Or pretend to.

Remember that laugh scene from “Witches of Eastwick”? I believe, that laughter can do magic wrinkles and if not make you literally fly, then at least give that same feeling. The feeling of freedom, relaxation and transcendent joy. When too stressed for ordinary breathing meditation, mom can laugh or pretend to laugh – the extra short exhales that make the belly work hard and a faint of a smile. Slowly, mom can get used to create that pseudo-laughing image of herself on a regular basis (it is funny when you think about it). Self-irony has lots of benefits when you think about it.

 

Who will save the mom?

I’m so tired I never want to wake up again. But I’ve figured out now that it was never them that made me feel that way. It was just me, all along.”
Maggie Stiefvater, Forever

http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/tag/tired

Mom’s routine is mostly predictable. It’s the energy resources that can unpredictably end. Then she, multi tasking super-hero mom, feels on the edge of collapsing.

The sudden wave of fatigue is so spontaneous, I cannot always see it coming.

It’s not exactly that you bite off more than you can chew.

It’s more about the fact that a mom is already in the crazy agenda, moving forward slowly like heavy artillery and every shift to the side adds an unbearable weight to her every day life.

This slight shift can be anything: an unexpected project, an evening with friends that ends late at night, an exhausting day with lots of tasks and no option for anything that resembles rest… and the list goes on.

This post was inspired by an unusual wave of fatigue. It has reached a point where daily tasks and headache coincide into one painful shiny point somewhere between the hypothalamus, the Pituitary gland and the 7th chakrah.

I have created a list of virtues and evils, that help me avoid falling into the trap of self-pitying, misery and depression.

First, comes the “bad” list which consists of one thing – a thing I would almost never do.

Complaining (even to yourself) is useless and is taking your energy away.

Ever time I stand in front of the mirror (I try not to do it in the morning, not to scare the mirror), this feeling of age, time and self-criticism is covering me like a stinky mixture of negative emotions, which I did not ask for (or did I?) So here’s the thing. Every woman – mother or not – is gifted from birth in finding leaks and disadvantages in the way she looks (contrary to men, who never find any, even under a microscope).

The unhealthy self-criticism in a form of passive complaining. Do anything to avoid it, unless you want to find yourself in a loop. As for myself, I use the mirror for practical purposes only – teeth and eyebrows. The rest can wait for better times.

Silence is a true friend who never betrays.

Confucius
https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/keywords/silence.html

Another form of complaining…

…is setting a competition with other mommies discussing whose life sucks more. (Just like some old people like to boast with their diseases). My golden rule is – if there is nothing constructive and positive I can talk about, I shut up. If another mommy wants to share her misery, well, she can do it. I will listen and nod with respect.

Complaining in any form – to yourself or to others – brings you nowhere. It drains you empty without giving anything in return. For me, the mere thought of all the things I could have done rather than complaining, gives me wings and inspiration.

Now for the good list:

Postpone all possible tasks for better times – leave only the most critical ones.

By critical I mean –

    • go and get some sleep
    • pick your kids from schools (unless no one else can do it).
    • buy some cooked food, fruits, yogurts – anything that doesn’t require watching the blue gas (or the red electric stove) burning and your hand stirring, stirring, stirring… they will survive, don’t worry about it.

By non-critical I mean –

    • helping kids with homework
    • cooking (you’ll be surprised how well they can manage)
    • cleaning and doing laundry (you’ll be surprised how fast the house will turn into a mess, but… I still think it’s not critical when it comes to “saving the mom”).
    • A lot of other things I did not bother writing, because they are too unimportant, for example reading this post, checking on People You May Know in LinkedIn or staring into your smartphone.

Breath deeply and count your breaths breathing-suslik

This is a primitive but one of the most efficient, productive and available methods invented especially for exhausted moms. It chases all the junk thoughts away filling you with oxygen instead. The more self-aware I have become through the years of pain and joy, the more precious I find this method to be. It works well no matter how stressed I am and it’s sort of pulling one up by their own hair. Amazing and simple, no negative side effects.

Keep a healthy diet

hot-chocolate

This is more of a general advice applicable at all times, however, it becomes super important in moments of emotional and physical crisis. My living cells, for example, react acutely on any wrong action I take in time of weakness. Therefore, my goal is not to trigger the stomach, pancreas, liver or any other digestive organs. The author of this post uses a golden rule – better eat less and drink more than eat “something”. When I learned to listen to my body and understand what it is trying to tell me, things became a lot easier. This brings me to another rule: healthy does not always means best for me at a given moment. If your body screams for a mug of hot chocolate and a piece of creamy nut cake – don’t torture yourself with salad. Go wild.

Set sleep as your top priority

sleeping dog

How come, that knowing all about the benefits of a good sleep we, moms, still procrastinate and hit the buttons of our smartphones instead of just diving into the world of Morpheus? How can we allow ourselves this forbidden luxury that eats us up, steals our beauty and youth and gives us absolutely nothing in return? (Why yes, it gives wrinkles if you wish). I am not talking about screaming babies, growling stomachs, husbands with a flu or other factors that cannot be ignored. This is about silly and unreasonable procrastination – an ugly habit, that takes away crucial hours of beauty sleep. The funny thing is, that children help mom avoiding this trap once she decides to fall asleep at the same time as they do. Children have this amazing gift of structuring moms’ (and dads’) time. You will not wait till midnight to put them to sleep, therefore, as a mom, you will be obliged to at least pretend you’re asleep, at around 9 p.m.. However, it only works for moms who directly participate in helping their child fall asleep (in my case, I still secretly enjoy it, as I am officially forced to relax).

Minimize communication with people who steal your energy

vampire-bat

Especially Even if they are family members. Yes.

This is a very important and largely underestimated rule. Every mom is different: some need attention, conversations and play dates with other moms and children (because it’s so boring to be with your child on the playground and watch her do things), others crave for silence. However, regardless of these differences, every mom knows exactly what type of other moms and people she should or should not interact with.

Annoying and preaching aunties family members, friends who ask for favors, other friends who constantly complain about life – all these should be kept away at a respectful distance at any cost (yes, there is price for everything, but isn’t your mental tranquility worth it?)

Managing mom’s relationships is a separate topic I will bring up later, while in this post – I only mention what’s based on my own experience: when mom needs a rest, the less people she interacts with, in general, the better.

And the last one, a friendly reminder: remember, that nothing lasts forever – neither the good, nor the bad.

This too shall pass

Persian Sufi poets

Moms’ life rule – thinking, trusting, treating

The three “T” rule became my rule for life since I became a fresh mom many years ago.

The first T: Think less, breath more

“Raising a kid is part joy and part guerilla warfare.” Ed Asner

http://www.happyworker.com/supermom/mom-quotes#.WC__CCTn–c

It’s not that I don’t like the process of thinking and having this inner dialogue with myself. But not when it begins to control my time and my energy.

From empirical perspective, most of the thinking I’ve done in my life was absolutely useless. It’s hard to admit. It’s the same thing like saying – I wasted tons of time – my only precious resource, a resource will never come back.

Since I started meditating on a continual basis I realized, that conscious breathing and chaotic thinking do not come together. Try it yourself and you’ll see, that it is impossible to concentrate on the flow of air coming in and out your nostrils while your brain is working on a problem at the same time.

Conscious breathing or meditation (choose the most appealing word, even aqualung will do), is what helps mom (and soldiers on a battle field, managers or hunting tigers) freeze the leaks of energy and gain powers.

Mothers of teenagers know why animals eat their young” – Unknown

http://www.happyworker.com/supermom/mom-quotes#.WC__CCTn–c

Why is it so important?

Moms need energy more than any other human beings. Moms are on non-stop demand (guess by whom). Moms eat on the go. Moms never really sleep. Moms are expected to multitask and still look good (no, really?). Hyper responsible moms have no time to visit cosmetologists (they only have time to put sunglasses to try and hide the blue circles under their eyes). Moms don’t have time for gyms (fitness at home – yes. Aqua aerobics = mopping the floor, weightlifting = picking up the baby, cardio = running between the kitchen, the bedroom and the bathroom). In short, moms DO need an effective and affordable way to keep themselves afloat.

Disclaimer: when I say “think less, breath more”, I do not mean this nonchalant style of living when your motto is “this will never happen to you”. All I am saying is, worry less about hypothetical things. Most of our fears do not come true.

The second T: Trust your intuition

Moms (especially first-time moms) are walking receivers of never-ending advice, remarks, question and criticism from relatives, friends, colleagues and even female strangers on the street.

“Oh, watch it, the edge of your child’s blanked is on the ground…”

“It’s so cold, your child’s hat is 30 degrees on the left than it should be, the tip of his ear is exposed…”

“Do you breastfeed?”

“Do you breastfeed at night as well? You shouldn’t do it, you know”

“You should give yourself some time off, ask your husband to stay with the baby from time to time”

“Don’t pick up your baby, he will get used to it and will never want to stay off your arms”

“The baby must get used to sleep in her own room after the first month.”

“The baby must sleep in her parents’ bedroom until she is at least one year old”

“Never breastfeed in bed”

“I always used to breastfeed in bed, it’s the most comfortable way to do it”

“Never put the baby in bed with you, you might accidentally strangle him”

“Always put the baby on you, stomach to stomach, it will relax her fast”.

And the list never ends.

I’ve learned to trust my intuition right from the beginning, taking apart my own feeling and professional advice. It’s true, that sometimes you have to shut up and listen to what the nurse or the doctor says. It’s true, that moms need to be open minded. However, this does not contradict something very basic, that all women bear in themselves, but do not always let it pop out – our intuition.

It comes handy in a million of situations starting with a newborn, then a toddler, then a schoolkid, a teenager and so on. Actually, trusting your intuition stretches far beyond your motherly duties. But since it’s a mom-focused blog, I will not spread on other things.

So – mom and intuition, just like in Sinatra’s song about love and marriage, go together like a horse and carriage. I know moms who cannot make a single decision without asking for somebody’s opinion (though, paradoxically or not, they mostly ignore these advice. It’s more of a tradition – to ask everyone around). I don’t really know what they are doing that – lack of confidence? The urge to get an “official confirmation”?

I’ve never suffered from that and I’m happy to have always walked hand in hand with my inner feeling in every smallest details along my kids’ growth:

  • how many layers of clothes to put on my kid when the weather is unstable?
  • does he cry because he’s hungry or just to get my attention
  • is she really sick or does she pretend only to skip a day in school?
  • is it a good idea to make him read a book now or better do something else?
  • Should I let them watch cartoons and rest or force myself into some activity?
  • Should I allow another piece of chocolate or should I play the strict mom this time?
  • When they fight – should I be the judge or let them try to figure it themselves?
  • Should I praise my kids for every little thing or let them know my honest opinion about the drawing (sculpture, toy-tower)?

These questions are endless. There is not a single book, person or website, that can clearly answer them and give mom the perfect advice for every small occasion. It simply does not exist, because we, humans, are meant to respond and not react in an automatic way (if a then b).

The third T: Treat yourself well

This one is my favorite. As Christmas time is approaching, I find myself spending amounts of cash on gifts, trying to remember everyone – from the cleaning lady’s dog to the painting teacher.

Somehow we, moms, tend to neglect ourselves in this messy gift-buying process. Or maybe we secretly hope someone will get us something magical, like a medium-sized diamond ring or at least two tickets to the opera. Sometimes it actually happens, but to count on that? Seriously? Remember: a mom needs constant supply of positive energy since her energy expenses are enormous, extending far beyond financial amounts she can possibly spend. Mom’s happiness stands above all (of course, that still does not give moms the indulgence to do certain things). Don’t listen to those who say, that happiness cannot be bought. Of course not – in the broad sense of the word. But when it comes to treating and spoiling yourself with little necessities, no one can do it better than mom herself.

Face oil, black lacy stockings, earrings from a bijouterie shop – yes, there are things than money can buy and provide a temporary splash of joy. The problem does not lay in the money. It’s the attitude.

 

 

thinking monkey

Moms, chocolate and solitude

summer bunny

A couple of days ago I met a friend of mine, whom I haven’t seen all summer. She has three kids, and though her general appeal is very attractive, the way I remember her is: balancing between being enormously tired and trying to look content. There are no other ways multitasking moms can look.

But this time when I met her for a glass of lemonade on a hot summer day, I noticed an alien light shining through her eyes, the skin looked fresh (makeup?) and there was an overwhelming look of victory in every gesture, movement and glimpse.

This is what a three-day child-free vacation can do to a mother. The short but rewarding tour was a present from her husband, who decided once in a long time to be generous and bring his wife 10 years back in time.

Not sure how long the effect will last, but one thing I am sure about: we all, mothers, need some time alone with ourselves where its only me and strong WI-fi connection.

What are the ultimate benefits of not seeing your child for a few days? I’ll name the obvious ones –and you are welcome to add the rest in comments.

1. You get some good night’s sleep.

sleeping dog

Even if your kids are big, they can still be night trouble-makers. Some kids like to share their parents’ bed (I see absolutely no problem with that, let’s argue about it in the next post). Some kids drink all your juices before falling asleep (a couple of fairy tales ple-e-e-ase, a midnight stand-up show they expect from you, then there is “mom-bring-me-some-water”, “mom-I-am-scared”, etc., etc.). So. When you are isolated, you can finally sleep in whichever position you want and at the time you want (after taking long, undisturbed shower).

2. Kds start appreciating their mom.

We tend to take for granted what we have. It’s terribly unfair, but often moms, who do not spend the entire time of their life with kids, are remembered as better moms. A short break from the routine is a good reminder that things do not last forever, that things can be different. Kids feel it very well, and don’t worry about hurting their feelings: it will take a lot more than 2-3 days to ruin anything (of course I’m not talking about kids under the age of 2-3 or super-sensitive/hyper-whatever kids).

3.  The “wow” effect on your husband/partner who starts appreciating you too.

All the “invisible” housework a woman carries on everyday without complaining: the magic of clean shirts, pairs of almost same socks, cooked food, visible floor (without supervision it gets covered extremely fast by pieces of Lego, clothes, paper, and small, sharp objects that cut into your bare feet in the middle of the night). So once your partner stays with the kids he will be, well, the one to do the laundry (we are not talking about romantic vacation, remember? It’s you and your laptop).

4. You view your own life from a different angle.

You have a rare chance to meditate, to NOT do things, to NOT worry – all your daily small and big house duties, concerns, thoughts and movements are frozen until the day you are back. For a couple of days you are back to your very old self, when you were a high school student, a teenage girl and could spend hours however you like. We, mothers, tend to completely neglect this part.

These are the obvious reasons I see for taking a short break, but there are surely more.

Now the practical guide: –how to make things happen.

There is no fairy who will turn a pumpkin into a carriage and bring servants to look after your kids. The good news is, that it is much easier to organize than it might seem.

First, decide where approximately you want to stay and for how long. Remember the main purpose: isolation, meditation and rest. If there are other things in your mind, like sightseeing, tours and restaurants, than the potential destinations will be different. So first, focus on your purpose: do you want to spend 2-3 days in blessed solitude with no crowded folks around, no buses, luggage and similar tourists\ attributes? Then look for a non-expensive quiet location and good, home-style hotel.

A hotel or an apartment? How to choose.

I personally would prefer a hotel with good breakfast included. I always read people’s reviews on breakfasts and I recommend you to do the same unless all you want to have is a piece of white bread with suspiciously-looking apricot jam (happened to me in a 4-star hotel). But it’s up to you: some people prefer having their coffee in a nearby cafe so hotel breakfasts are not a big thing for them. No matter what you choose, there is an important thing to bear in mind, from my own experience: while it’s obvious (to me, at least) that you don’t want to spend a fortune on this trip, don’t choose the cheapest hotel, just for the sake of it. Better pick a 3 star family run hotel with good reviews rather than 4 star hotel with worse feedback. The interior of the place you are staying in is one of the most important things: you should have this cozy homely feeling while staying there. So spend some time on research, read the reviews, look at the pictures, don’t give it up only because it’s a bit pricey. After all, it’s not like you’re taking this vacation every week.

Should I plan my time or just let it flow?

It’s a tough question, because planning contradicts the initial purpose of pure meditation and diving into yourself. On the other hand, being completely alone with yourself without knowing where to throw your body for the next 7 hours can be hard for some people. Especially moms who are used to continuous and often useless action. What I would advise it to check, just in case, what attractions and nice places exist around the place you are staying in. Parks? Museums? Open-air concerts? Even isolated villages can have nice sites but you must check for them in advance to avoid being stuck in the middle of nowhere with absolutely nowhere to go.

Who stays with the kids?

Organizing a proper care for the kids is no less important than your hotel, attractions and meditation. The best way for a mom to relax is to know that kids are in good hands. Ideally, if you do it during the weekend so your partner can take maybe one extra day off to cover your entire absence. Nannies, babysitters, grandparents, goblins– are a good additional help. Additional – is the keyword here.No matter how many helpers come and go there must be one captain on the ship, who will supervise and take control of all the action: the babysitting hours, the kids’ eating/sleeping/bathing schedule (not necessarily in this order). This is probably the time to take a risk and fully rely on your partner.

 

A few words for conclusion:

Before setting on this kind of vacation keep in mind, that there is no goal. Don’t set high expectations to avoid disappointment. Don’t think you’ll return enlightened, super-young or as a totally different person full of secret knowledge. This may happen and this may not. It depends on many factors, some of which you cannot predict. So my advice is – do your best in terms of choosing a place, preparing your kids and husband for your absence and – au revoir.

Mastering the skill of handling mom’s thoughts.

stones meditationWe take lots of things for granted without really paying attention. Health, income, blue skies, waking up every morning. Who has the time to put thought in all that when there are so many urgent tasks to take care of?

It’s only when we are about to lose or actually losing some of the good stuff, the thought strikes, but it’s too late.

One of mom’s healthy habits is learning to appreciate the “obvious” good things in life.

Here is my personal observation from my own life:

I see a mom entering a store with her child.

Her face is twisted, she is busy thinking about something or maybe has headache. Her child is jumping happily nearby but she doesn’t notice him. Is it taken for granted that she has a healthy child who has legs and arms, who can walk and jump? Is it taken for granted that this mom lives in a peaceful country and she doesn’t have to hide from bombs or suffer from hunger like millions of people? Is it taken for granted that she can afford to buy stuff she probably doesn’t need in a cosmetics department where I see her heading right from the entrance?

Why are the good things taken for granted but the bad things are always highlighted?

Since I’m the mom who likes to take action I decided to start the big change from myself.

frog change

The journey to the true being started long time ago but putting it into words isn’t an easy task – it took me a while to decide how to put it together nicely. I’ll break it into steps:

Step 1:

Creating a routine of watching one’s thoughts – any mom can do that, and kids can only help, since they constantly remind how messy life is, how useless lots of things are, how meaningless is everything (in a good way, I mean). Here is an example: mom cleans the table, child spills milk on it, mom cleans it again, then notices crumbs on the floor, she starts cleaning the floor, another child comes and accidentally steps on the accurate pile of crumbs ready-to-be-thrown into the garbage can. Mom has to start all over again. Do you see what I mean? Meaningless it is, and this is just an illustration, a reflection of everything we do. A super important project, a work plan, a diet or anything that looks important to you at this stage of life – on the big scale, it’s not more important than cleaning the bread crumbs. Remember, I said “on the big scale”, don’t catch me on this one.

Step 2:

After creating a healthy routine of watching one’s thoughts, a mom can start slowly pushing the thoughts in the right direction but never analyzing them too deeply (a very distracting and useless habit). By pushing thoughts into the right direction I mean actually planning the scenario of what is the next thing I am going to think about. Of course thins is not possible with kids screaming around, or when you are running late on the bus or any crazy thing of that kind. Once having mastered the skill, a mom can handle her thoughts pretty well even in stressful situations. It’s better to start practicing in calm environment though, better when you’re alone – spend the precious 10, 20, 30 minutes of solitude to watch the movie going on in your head. Some people call it meditation but you can call it white bunny if you like.

There are other steps but they are related to a more advanced stage of white bunny meditation (as you have guessed, it was all about meditation from the beginning of this article).

Meditating mom or how to forget about children for a while

Meditating woman

 

Is it really possible to put everything aside? As practice shows, after constant meditation, it is, and the key word here is constant. You don’t have to be a meditation guru, you don’t have to take trainings, hang upside down, do crazy yoga asanas or quit your unhealthy habits. All you have to do is create a routine.

For me, the best time to avoid the trap of skipping meditation is morning. Morning is your emptiest time – it all goes messier from there. The temptation to avoid meditation and jump to the kitchen was so high at the beginning, that I had to use all my power of self-persuasion to actually make myself sit down with eyes closed for 15 minutes. 15 minutes is not much but it can be hell if you back hurts, if you’re hurrying, if there are people walking around, if everything is moving and you have to sit still and observe.

But this was just in the beginning; as always, beginning is tough. Later, when I created a routine, this routine became my guidance and there were no more thoughts on “why am I doing it?”

To start a day with meditation is one of the best ways to start a day, and of course I know some other great ways to start a day. In special cases postpone it, but try not to skip.

Why is it so important to meditate for moms?

Unlike jobs that most of us hate children is something that sticks deep on our cellular level and never totally goes away. Thoughts about our kids, inner dialogues, ideas for education and entertainment – aren’t these the best things to be occupied with? Unlike an unpleasant conversation with a colleague that you want to forget and you will strive to get away from, all the nice and less nice things related to children is something you don’t want to get away from – why would you?

This is why mom’s brain is constantly occupied with “nice” things and she, the mom, doesn’t always realize how deeply buried she is in the good stuff, and how great would it be to feel free from everything, including the good. To get away from the good is the hardest thing. To get away from the bad, from the annoying, from the disturbing is much more natural.

Now I see big bonuses I get from the ability to sink into abstract.

  • Thoughts get clearer – I am not lost in the ocean of thoughts.
  • I can still dream and wish for things, but in a more practical sense.
  • There is more energy to do things.
  • Housework becomes much easier. I don’t get stuck on it, I flow with it.
  • Self-awareness grows, and the ability to see and criticize myself (which is never a bad thing).

There are a lot of resources out there how to meditate – some people put music, some do it in quiet, some prefer listening to special bottling up sound waves. Some sit with their legs crossed, some sit on a chair, on a cushion, on the floor… The only way to find your style is to experiment. For me, no music is best, sitting crossed legs covered with a blanket. Better if you can be completely alone but since it is not always possible, is an utopia accept the reality and take it easy. Children and husbands running around is a gift when you think about it, as their noisy presence tests your ability to stand the disturbing elements and train your power of will – sounds good, doesn’t it?

Coffee – an energy shot or meditation? Why morning coffee is bad for you.

Don’t get me wrong. I love coffee, and I used to be a coffee addict some time ago. I didn’t stop with it completely but I have substantially reduced the amount of coffee (and all the accompanied sweets) that I used to consume after understanding why it is actually bad for me.

So here are a few points that made me realize that using coffee for refreshment is one big illusion.

First, morning coffee became a routine, a habit, something I do just because I am used to it, even when I don’t really need to be refreshed (on weekends, on holidays, on days when I don’t need to get up early). There is nothing worse than doing something unhealthy just because you are used to it.

Second, coffee usually comes with friends. I don’t mean humans. Coffee’s best friends are: sugar, cookies, muffins, truffles, brownies, candies, ice-cream … you name it. I drink coffee without sugar (proud of myself) but compensate it with sweets (oh, shame on me). Eventually, by doing some easy math, I concluded that coffee makes me gain weight. Too bad.

Third, one cup of home-made cappuccino or latte doesn’t have the slightest effect on my thinking and acting abilities, therefore, I actually need two-three cups to feel something moving in my nerve system brain. Two-three cups of coffee is not that much, you say, but add the sweets, and you get a pretty little lady with some pretty extra weight.

But what really made me change my mind regarding coffee is, that I found that its effect is much more short-term compared to breathing exercises, a bit of stretching, two glasses of cool water. The more naturally you use your energy resources and take them out of your sleepy self, the better and the longer these resources serve you.

What some people say on that –

  • But I love coffee!

So? I loved coffee more than anything in the morning. And I managed to quit. Once you understand that caffeine simply borrows your energy (and whatever is borrowed you have to give back at some point) you may change your mind and replace it, at least, with tea.

  • I can’t open my eyes and start doing anything without coffee!

Sorry, I don’t buy it. Yes, your first week or two will seem empty and endless without the usual cup of brown liquid, but it’s all a matter of habit and understanding why you are doing what you are doing.

  • I just can’t live without coffee.

Ok, make a deal with yourself – one cup of coffee twice a week, in the middle of the day (use tea in the morning instead). You will gradually get used to the idea that coffee is no longer your morning partner.

As a mother, I totally relate to the morning fatigue, crazy sleeping hours, lack of relaxation and the strong desire to compensate myself with something sweet and refreshing at the same time.

But there is no magic – the energy you derive from yourself by using caffeine is taken “in advance”, it is borrowed by you from your own body. And the price I used to pay was double fatigue later on.

Now I use coffee only in extreme situations when I know I need to be super alert. Another occasion to have a small cup of coffee is when you want to meditate over it, enjoy every sip, use coffee not as a quick shot, but as a rare pleasurable delicacy.