Ways (for a Mother) to Keep Calm

Rain is dripping outside when all I really want to do is go out for a walk and breath in some fresh air. Having been inside all day, I feel caged with my mind busy with a million things and with no direction. And when I am in such a sorry state, it shows in how I treat my children.

I yell at them. If not, I can go on and on with, "See, what you did?" I get sarcastic with them. I disrespect, forgetting that they, too, have feelings.

Afterwards, I feel bad and guilty. I punish myself by telling myself how horrible a mother I am. And when I don't feel good, all those bad emotions spill out to my children, even with my best intentions. It's a vicious cycle.

Angelika came home today determined to tell me the truth about losing the R50-bill I gave her for bus fare in coming home from school. Instead, she walked home. She wanted to be honest with me and prayed hard that I won't be angry with her. Of course, I've also resolved to stay calm when my children endeavor to tell me the truth. But as I spoke to her about what happened, I felt that angry bile rising and my voice rising with it. Angelika stood with head bowed. With much control, which I didn't feel at that moment, I stopped my tirade and told her to excuse herself as a student was coming soon for a private class with me. She went to her room.

While I got busy, I couldn't stop reprimanding myself at what I did. Leaving everything, I purposefully went to the girls' room but found the door close. Angelika locks herself in whenever she's upset with anyone, and this time she was upset with me. It wasn't locked when I turned the doorknob and I found her sitting on the spare bed hugging her legs, but she moved out of that position right away. I know I've botched it. So I just looked her in the eyes and said, "I love you." There were questions in her eyes but she remained speechless. "I love you," I said again, then softly closed the door. Later, I felt like I should have hugged her or shown more affection.

After my class and my student was gone, she came down from her room and told me, "Mom, you said 'I love you' when you came to my room." I nodded. Then she added, "I love you more."

From this incident, I've learned that even as we blow off ourselves before our kids, it's not the end yet. We can redeem what we've lost. But before totally making an embarrassment of ourselves, we can take measures. Here are some ways...

Keep Calm

1. Breath. Often when I do my breathing, I say a prayer. I find it easier to keep perspective on what is going on when I do. While others count numbers, I count on God's promises. He said,

The Lord gives strength to his people. 
The Lord blesses his people with peace.
(Psalm 29:11)

Another way to use breathing to calm down, which I've learned from one of my classes while working for my MA Counseling, is to visualize breathing in goodness and exhaling the toxic emotions out, example: anger, worry, etc. Feel the muscles in your body, the nerves, the organs inside, the tiny parts like the toes, fingers and eyes, etc, and bid them calm down and relax.

2. Go out. Just like kids need the time and space outside without walls, parents need that same space and time. A change of environment and fresh air can do wonders to a mind and body going numb with so much emotions and activity going on.

3. Have a time-out. I don't see time-out as a way to discipline but to teach children life skills, most importantly, in managing emotions. A mother taking a time-out when emotions are escalating is not only stopping herself from blasting off into the hell-world of uncontrollable anger, but also modeling to her children on what to do when they are caught in the same situation with peers, family and other people.

As long as it is safe to do so, retreat to a safer place alone. Whatever you do, whether to listen to music or take a walk or lie down on the floor alone while staring at the ceiling or read the Bible and talk to God, give yourself permission to break away from the chaos within and without. Or simply take the time-out just to escape for a few minutes from the daily grind of kids, chores and other tasks that you've set out to do. Put it on your list of things-to-do if possible. 

4. Feed yourself well. Often, mothers are so busy loading laundry, washing dishes, responding to the kids' calls that they forget that they haven't even had breakfast and it's already a few minutes before lunch time. This is so true for me. Sometimes I forget I need to drink water even as I go around giving cups with water to my kids to drink. No wonder that a mother's fuse can grow so short.

5. Don't rob yourself of sleep. I am very guilty of this even as I'm typing. I have always seen the time when my kids are sleeping as time for me to do many chores and writing tasks that I couldn't do when the kids are awake, but I've realized how in the process I am sabotaging my own plan. So for now, this blogpost will have to wait to be finished in another time while I sleep.

Tomorrow I'll write about redeeming what we lost after we've lost our cool. Stay with me. At the mean time...

I can lie down and sleep soundly because you, Lord, will keep me safe.
(Psalm 4:8)

Good night! 


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