Are you feeling overwhelmed, burnt out, run down? At this time of year so many parents say this – it feels like we’re running the last few miles of a marathon! Meanwhile our kids are also tired from a year jam-packed with activities and endless things to do, buy and see.
Life just seems to move ever faster and to be fuller than ever with things to get done. Will it ever slow down?!
Well, only if we actively slow ourselves and our children down by simplifying our lives. I’ve got some great ideas to help you do just this.
Mindfulness is all about slowing down and noticing the present rather than being distracted by a hundred things. Practicing mindfulness will help you to work out what you need and want in your life, and what’s just clutter and can be eliminated. Simplifying starts here!
Why do I feel overwhelmed?
Every day thousands of pieces of information come into our minds as our use of devices has grown and we are connecting to more sources of information (media, Facebook, email, blogs).
As well, we can use technology to do lots more things quickly (online shopping, paying bills, finding a house – you name it!). As a result we pack a lot more activity into each day. Jobs have sped up in the same manner so at work we experience the same accelerating pace and information overload. Like a frog in boiling water, we almost didn’t notice the change taking place so it’s now become the new normal.
We also consume a lot more stuff – as the Western world has become wealthier and most products have become cheaper we buy more stuff and chuck it out faster. All this stuff clutters our minds as well, and takes time to buy, use, and get rid of.
All this information and stuff is overwhelming for our brains which are just not built for so much stimulation! As a result everyday stresses that have always been part of life, such as parenting small children or going to work, become even more stressful. We haven’t got the headspace for it all.
It’s really affecting our children
For the same reasons, our children’s lives are also a lot fuller than our own childhoods were – more toys and stuff, much greater use of technology and media, and expectations of constant stimulation. Neither parents nor children are able to be bored and quiet time is seen as boring!
Children are really feeling this overwhelm more and more. Teachers report that there are growing levels of anxiety amongst school children of all ages. And we’ve long known about the epidemic of ADHD and the use of medication to ‘treat’ this. Kids are growing up with toys that are robbing them of creative and simple play. And through the media and internet they are exposed to the adult world more than children should be.
As parents, we risk our children missing out on a free and creative childhood and winding up anxious and stressed as well. So let’s simplify our family life and let’s free up childhood!
In today’s blog we’ll start by simplifying Christmas time – it’s not called the silly season for nothing! Let’s declutter December and enjoy it a bit more.
Next time I’ll talk about reducing the information overload for ourselves and our kids that comes with excess media and screen time and just plain doing too much. Then the third in the series will celebrate the new year by deciding how to simplify our schedules when school and work ramp up.
12 WAYS TO SIMPLIFY THE SILLY SEASON
Giving is a wonderful thing so let’s not drop this totally, but what about doing some mindful shopping where we think carefully about:
Whether what we buy for kids is actually enhancing their life;
Whether we could buy or make gifts that are less impactful on the planet eg buying ‘experiences’ like massages or tickets; and
Whether we or our recipients really need and want this stuff.
Simplifying Christmas Gift Guide
To help your kids be calm and connected they need simple and creative play and time outdoors. Christmas gifts can support this as follows:
1. Give them toys that involve creative play:
Blocks, Duplo or simple dolls/animals for toddlers are much more creative than press-the-button, beeping dolls/robots! The toy my daughter used the most between 1 and 4 years of age was the trolley with blocks on it in the picture above.
For older children, Lego or pencils/paints/craft is much more creative than computer games or iPad videos.
2. Try and give outdoor toys to get them outside eg sports equipment, a sandpit, cubby house, beach toys etc.
3. You can find a lot of this stuff second-hand online – pretty much anything can be found on Facebook groups, Ebay or Gumtree. Babies and young kids will not know if something is second hand!
4. Set a limit on the number of presents per child to just 2-3 things (they won’t be able to enjoy heaps of things all at once anyway).
5. For small extra presents focus on consumables like food, bubbles or playdough that doesn’t accumulate in your house (perfect items for Santa stockings!).
6. Make presents ‘expand’ by stringing them out eg wrap a present like pass-the-parcel so it takes ages to unwrap (and put tiny surprises between each layer)!
7. Email rellies and ask them to limit presents or at least to buy second hand ones.
8. Consider doing a Kris Kringle with relatives, where each person just buys one present for a random other relative.
CAN’T FIT EVERYTHING IN?
Try to do less and do things slower during the silly season.
1. Decide what is really worth doing and drop some of those Xmas parties that you don’t really care about.
Every club, group and workplace you’re connected to will want to have an end of year do, plus presentation events for your kids’ schools and classes. There’s no need to do it all!
2. Spend less time shopping (see above). Buy gifts online or at op shops. Don’t forget – the shopping malls at this time of year are crazy! Avoid them.
3. Make some Christmas decorations and presents rather than buying them e.g. my daughter and I are making a wreath for the front door out of gum leaves and banksia flowers!
4. Get your children involved in giving to a charity. That’s the real Christmas spirit. Put together a hamper for the local homeless shelter or a gift for a poor child.
5. Wait until January. Every year there seems to be an End of Year Madness that everything has to get done by the 24 December! Can’t some things just wait until January?!
Wishing you a Joyful, Mindful Christmas!