A two minute trick for instant calm

Our week started slowly.

‘It’s 9.15 on a Monday morning,’ commented my husband, ‘and none of us are dressed. What kind of a working family is this?’

Now if the decade I spent as a home-based wine rep taught me anything, it’s that wearing pyjamas at midday is perfectly acceptable, and in no way related to productivity. In this case my husband had in fact been working for an hour, and the toddler and I had half-peeled a banana (it is sometimes related to productivity).

The day had technically begun at 5.30am but really got going when, some hours later, my daughter and I awoke again from our disjointed tangle on the sofa to cries for ‘tutus’. ‘Tutus’ is toddler-speak for cartoons; I don’t insist on ballet attire for breakfast, although they would help to catch the cornflakes.

This beginning set the tone for the days that followed. Slow starts, late finishes; a lot of rustling about but seemingly very little achieved. A few days in I remembered that, as part of project Parenting Calm, I was supposed to be trying out a yogic breathing practice called alternate nostril breathing. This is thought to calm our minds, boost our energy and improve concentration. It’s also cheaper than a latte, which is my default tool for all of the above. Yogis also believe that this practice helps to balance the logical, analytical left brain and creative, intuitive right brain. I inform my husband that I will be able to reverse park the car before the week is out.

I tried alternate nostril breathing first in the morning, whilst struggling to rally my brain cells into work mode. The first barrier was that for anyone suffering from sleep deprivation ‘left’ and ‘right’ can be difficult to differentiate. Labelling each nostril is one option but you will then need to look in the mirror to see the labels, which confuses the issue somewhat. By this stage I had forgotten why I was holding my nose in the first place.

Once over this hurdle, it was really very simple. I did eight rounds in two minutes, which was enough for me to open my eyes feeling relaxed and focused. I passed the rest of the morning with renewed vigour, and with stickers on my nose.

The following morning the toddler and I were late and engaged in a search for her mitten. I asked her if she knew where it might be.

‘Behind the ear?” she offered.

Her father likes to delight her with a trick whereby he produces ‘lost’ objects from behind her ear. His sleight of hand is sketchy at best, but for now the toddler is convinced that anything that can’t be located is likely to be ‘behind the ear’. This has so far explained the disappearance of several plastic toys and, on more than one occasion, my husband’s sense of humour and my will to live. I also hold out hope for my pelvic floor muscles.

By the time we made it onto the bus I was feeling weary and decided to try the breathing technique again. Five breaths in I felt somewhat self-conscious. The man behind us was shifting a little, and I worried that he thought I was holding my nose because he smelt. He did, a bit. It also occurred to me that I looked as if I was either trying to shift a large bogey or was snorting cocaine. I was distracted from the breathing whilst trying to decide which image I would rather project. Alternate nostril breathing is perhaps better practiced in private.

Along with many women, I find sleep during pregnancy can be restless and broken. Apparently this is nature’s way of preparing us for life with a newborn, which seems a little like preparing for Glastonbury by not washing for a week, but whatever. I usually battle insomnia by huffing and sighing loudly (an irritation shared is an irritation halved) or basking in the electronic glow of my smartphone. Neither are particularly effective as sleep-restorers. This week I tried alternate nostril breathing during a fidgety night. It settled my whirring mind and I soon fell back to sleep, although I did have quite a bit of catching up to do on Facebook come 7am. And I still can’t reverse park.

Here’s next week’s pause:

Daily diary of good things

This is a very simple mindfulness practice, based on something I learnt recently with The Mindfulness Project in London.

All it entails is writing down one experience from each day that you found enjoyable. It needn’t be a big or unusual event; just something small that gave you pleasure. Scribble it down, and note how it made you feel emotionally and physically, both at the time and later as you recall it. Also record any thoughts associated with the experience.

Read more about Parenting Calm here.

Read more about mindfulness here.

Diary of an imperfect mum

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