We see a lot of stressed burnt out parents. They arrive often for interviews looking grey, disheartened and on the verge of tears. They’ve been everywhere tried everything and just don’t know what to do next. So while we are not medical doctors or psychologists we are teachers, parents and care givers and we have found that be utilising the following strategies we are able to better handle the stressors of life and ultimately be better parents.

1.      Diet

We harp on about it fanatically but we are strong advocates of a whole foods, plant rich diet. We understand that grabbing a bite of whatever is going is both easy and convenient especially on those mornings where everything just “goes wrong” and initially it does help. After a few months of shovelling though you slowly notice your waist line expanding, your energy slumps and those grunts and pleas from your child start to resemble that of a banshee! A lot of this can be mitigated by making sure what you ingest is healthy and that it’s going to support your endocrine system, neurotransmitters and blood sugar levels

What does this mean to you?

Sort your diet out using the following tips.

-        If it didn’t grow don’t eat it, (yes meat does grow at some point). Vegetables, meat, fruit, leafy greens, natural oils (Olive, Coconut, Avocado etc), whole fat dairy, nuts and seeds should make up the bulk of your diet.

-        Eat 3 square meals a day. It keeps life simple and saves you time. Also it stops you from feeling the need to snack.

-        Batch cook. Spend a weekend afternoon, (include your kids and make it an event), getting dinners ready for the week to come. You’ll save money and more importantly, time.

-        KISS. Keep it stupid simple.

 

2.      Sleep

Believe it or not sleep is just as important for you as it is for your child so aim for at least 7 hours, preferably 8, a night. Sleep quality is just as important quantity so make sure that you’re not exposing yourself to too many deterrents to late into the evening, these include artificial light which interferes with Melatonin production and Circadian Rhythm. Later night exercise and or eating which will effectively ramp up your metabolism and your body’s temperature making getting to sleep more difficult and staying asleep more so.

What does this mean to you?

Create a sleep routine whereby you aim to stop using your phone, tablet, laptop etc at least an hour before you go to bed. Replace your bed side light bulbs with a warm white variety and engage in a little reading. Finally make sure you have your last meal at least an hour before retiring to the bedroom. In essence allow yourself to wind down for the evening.

 

3.      Exercise

We all now know that sitting is considered the new smoking however our environments, be they at work or at home, are ill equipped to help us better take advantage of what it is that we as humans intrinsically know, which is to move.  

What does this mean to you?

If you are fortunate enough to have an accepting boss invest in a standing desk or simply stack a box up on top of your current work station. Start off with a 1:1 ratio of 20 minute bouts of standing: sitting and slowly increase the prior value to where you are sitting only 10 minutes per every hour of work time. If standing at work is an issue make use of your lunch hour and spend it moving around while you eat, talking to colleagues or taking advantage of your local park.

Ideally your will want to add in some form of dedicated exercise, (preferably of a resistance nature), at least twice a week. So if you are able to get to the gym and lift weights or partake in some sort of class.

The weekends can be used effectively in this way as well. Choose either Saturday or Sunday and spend a few hours outdoors. A family hike or bike ride are excellent choices as games of Frisbee or Volleyball during family events such as picnics or braais.

4.      Meditate

Due to no fault of our own our modern lives are now inundated with stress. Our environment is generally toxic, are jobs require far more from us than we are evolutionarily designed to deal with and finances tend to put unnatural strain on everything.

This can all lead to increased psychological distress and exhaustion if not handled correctly. This is where mediation comes in. Countless studies from a large number of reputable institutions have now all indicated that partaking in a daily meditation practice can low blood levels of the hormone cortisol and can aid in the management of stress.

What does this mean to you?

Set aside at least 10 minutes every morning where you either partake in a guided meditation, practice box breathing or go for a walk where you again practice some sort of breathing practice and are mindful of your surroundings.

There are a number of free apps, guided meditations and breathing exercises that are readily available online. We suggest using the following terms in your search bar.

-        Free meditation app

-        How to box breathe

-        Free guided meditations

-        6 Phase guided meditation

Having a child with special needs is huge responsibility. Don’t get us wrong they are a joy to have and be around but that doesn’t take away from the fact that you, as a parent, need to sometimes put yourself first. By including the above the above practices in your day to day routine you will put you yourself into a better frame of mind allowing you to be better support your child.

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