Embracing your Chaos and Mess

Embracing your Chaos and Mess

A messy life is a full life. If your kitchen is in a mess, that means you live out of it – and that means good fuel for your growing family. You don’t order fake out (yes that’s right, my phone autocorrected ‘take’ out to ‘fake’ out – even iPhone knows!) each night, and you sometimes even grill vegetables and pan fry chicken. It makes a mess. That mess is a byproduct of healthy bodies. You feed your family well. And the science behind that is clearly beneficial. Go you.

Maybe your mess is more internal. It has more to do with that ‘not good enough’ disorganized feeling you have when you see other moms or dads ‘do it all’. You wonder how on earth superwoman over there is so ridiculously super human.

Sometimes, you even find yourself going to bed with a disappointing feeling that something is missing. Thoughts creep in like, ‘I/m not enough for my child even though I am a stay at home mom. I feel so helpless and inadequate.’ You are not alone. So many of us out there have the same thoughts. Here are three ways to tackle those not-good-enough feelings that don’t deserve the time you give them:

1.  Choose to be grateful for the reason behind your chaos and mess.

When you invest all your time and energy into being present with your family, sometimes (read: many of the times) it can be a challenge to do the behind the scenes work. No one on the outside is punishing you for that – only you are punishing you. Choose gratitude for a house littered with toys, because the children have toys to play with at all. Choose gratitude for a long list of chores and admin that you have, because without your sweet family, that list would be so much shorter – although life would be simpler, it would be a lot more dull too. Choose gratitude for your partner – the same one who might nag you, forget things promised to you, and who might not always communicate that well with you. There is something about your partner that is a silver lining because without them, you would struggle even more. Maybe the trash gets taken out without you asking, or the bills get paid on time. Maybe it’s just that they provide an income for the family. Or maybe there’s a bunch of things that get done without you even realizing it. Whatever it is, choosing to be grateful for 3 things a day in your crazy beautiful life, will help you find your silver lining and stop your inner voice from telling you you’re no good.

2.  Do one thing at a time.

Slow down. Breathe. Gain perspective. Leave your phone in the other room when you are with your kids. Schedule your time in your calendar and really be present when you are needed. Be a listener when your family need you to listen. Be a real and genuine parent when you have parent teacher evenings – no one is perfect. And be a encourager when your partner has had a rough day. How do you do all this? By doing one thing at a time. Dr Caroline Leaf, a well known cognitive neuroscientist explains it like this, “…the truth is that it is actually impossible to multitask – we don’t do multiple things at once; we actually shift between different tasks quickly. If we do this well then we are doing busy well. But, if we are doing busy badly, we are doing what I call milkshake multitaskingWe cause literal neurochemical chaos in our brain, which, in turn, causes literal brain damage.”

3.  Create a to do list and a completed list.

This will help you to see what you have accomplished in your day. I have days when all that is on my completed list is doing the laundry. Before I had a to do list and a completed list, I used to feel inadequate and helpless. Now I give myself a high five on those days when all I accomplish is one thing! Maybe for you it’s just getting out of bed. Put that one thing on your ‘completed’ list and watch it grow along with your confidence. No more guilt trips from your inner voice. No more bad feelings.

All of us have those feelings of inadequacy from time to time. Don’t let them creep in unnoticed! Don’t let them grow by giving them energy and focusing on them. Try these three ways to gain confidence and confidently take charge of your family life again. The best part is knowing that your children are watching too, and they too will learn how to gain confidence and take charge just by watching you. 


About the Author: Carla Buck

Carla Buck, M.A., is a writer, therapist and global traveler having traveled to more than 80 countries worldwide. She has experience working with children and parents all over the world, having lived, worked and volunteered in Africa, North America, Europe and the Middle East. Carla is the creator of Warrior Brain, helping empower parents and care-givers with simple and practical ways to confidently raise secure and calm children.

You can visit her website and learn more at www.warriorbrain.com or join the Warrior Brain Parenting community on Facebook.

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Anxiety is a sign that the brain has registered threat and is mobilising the body to get to safety. One of the ways it does this is by organising the body for movement - to fight the danger or flee the danger. 

If there is no need or no opportunity for movement, that fight or flight fuel will still be looking for expression. This can come out as wriggly, fidgety, hyperactive behaviour. This is why any of us might pace or struggle to sit still when we’re anxious. 

If kids or teens are bouncing around, wriggling in their chairs, or having trouble sitting still, it could be anxiety. Remember with anxiety, it’s not about what is actually safe but about what the brain perceives. New or challenging work, doing something unfamiliar, too much going on, a tired or hungry body, anything that comes with any chance of judgement, failure, humiliation can all throw the brain into fight or flight.

When this happens, the body might feel busy, activated, restless. This in itself can drive even more anxiety in kids or teens. Any of us can struggle when we don’t feel comfortable in our own bodies. 

Anxiety is energy with nowhere to go. To move through anxiety, give the energy somewhere to go - a fast walk, a run, a whole-body shake, hula hooping, kicking a ball - any movement that spends the energy will help bring the brain and body back to calm.♥️
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#parenting #anxietyinkids #childanxiety #parenting #parent
This is not bad behaviour. It’s big behaviour a from a brain that has registered threat and is working hard to feel safe again. 

‘Threat’ isn’t about what is actually safe or not, but about what the brain perceives. The brain can perceive threat when there is any chance missing out on or messing up something important, anything that feels unfamiliar, hard, or challenging, feeling misunderstood, thinking you might be angry or disappointed with them, being separated from you, being hungry or tired, anything that pushes against their sensory needs - so many things. 

During anxiety, the amygdala in the brain is switched to high volume, so other big feelings will be too. This might look like tears, sadness, or anger. 

Big feelings have a good reason for being there. The amygdala has the very important job of keeping us safe, and it does this beautifully, but not always with grace. One of the ways the amygdala keeps us safe is by calling on big feelings to recruit social support. When big feelings happen, people notice. They might not always notice the way we want to be noticed, but we are noticed. This increases our chances of safety. 

Of course, kids and teens still need our guidance and leadership and the conversations that grow them, but not during the emotional storm. They just won’t hear you anyway because their brain is too busy trying to get back to safety. In that moment, they don’t want to be fixed or ‘grown’. They want to feel seen, safe and heard. 

During the storm, preserve your connection with them as much as you can. You might not always be able to do this, and that’s okay. None of this is about perfection. If you have a rupture, repair it as soon as you can. Then, when their brains and bodies come back to calm, this is the time for the conversations that will grow them. 

Rather than, ‘What consequences do they need to do better?’, shift to, ‘What support do they need to do better?’ The greatest support will come from you in a way they can receive: ‘What happened?’ ‘What can you do differently next time?’ ‘You’re the most wonderful kid and I know you didn’t want this to happen. How can you put things right? Do you need my help with that?’♥️
Big behaviour is a sign of a nervous system in distress. Before anything, that vulnerable nervous system needs to be brought back home to felt safety. 

This will happen most powerfully with relationship and connection. Breathe and be with. Let them know you get it. This can happen with words or nonverbals. It’s about feeling what they feel, but staying regulated.

If they want space, give them space but stay in emotional proximity, ‘Ok I’m just going to stay over here. I’m right here if you need.’

If they’re using spicy words to make sure there is no confusion about how they feel about you right now, flag the behaviour, then make your intent clear, ‘I know how upset you are and I want to understand more about what’s happening for you. I’m not going to do this while you’re speaking to me like this. You can still be mad, but you need to be respectful. I’m here for you.’

Think of how you would respond if a friend was telling you about something that upset her. You wouldn’t tell her to calm down, or try to fix her (she’s not broken), or talk to her about her behaviour. You would just be there. You would ‘drop an anchor’ and steady those rough seas around her until she feels okay enough again. Along the way you would be doing things that let her know your intent to support her. You’d do this with you facial expressions, your voice, your body, your posture. You’d feel her feels, and she’d feel you ‘getting her’. It’s about letting her know that you understand what she’s feeling, even if you don’t understand why (or agree with why). 

It’s the same for our children. As their important big people, they also need leadership. The time for this is after the storm has passed, when their brains and bodies feel safe and calm. Because of your relationship, connection and their felt sense of safety, you will have access to their ‘thinking brain’. This is the time for those meaningful conversations: 
- ‘What happened?’
- ‘What did I do that helped/ didn’t help?’
- ‘What can you do differently next time?’
- ‘You’re a great kid and I know you didn’t want this to happen, but here we are. What can you do to put things right? Do you need my help with that?’♥️
As children grow, and especially by adolescence, we have the illusion of control but whether or not we have any real influence will be up to them. The temptation to control our children will always come from a place of love. Fear will likely have a heavy hand in there too. When they fall, we’ll feel it. Sometimes it will feel like an ache in our core. Sometimes it will feel like failure or guilt, or anger. We might wish we could have stopped them, pushed a little harder, warned a little bigger, stood a little closer. We’re parents and we’re human and it’s what this parenting thing does. It makes fear and anxiety billow around us like lost smoke, too easily.

Remember, they want you to be proud of them, and they want to do the right thing. When they feel your curiosity over judgement, and the safety of you over shame, it will be easier for them to open up to you. Nobody will guide them better than you because nobody will care more about where they land. They know this, but the magic happens when they also know that you are safe and that you will hold them, their needs, their opinions and feelings with strong, gentle, loving hands, no matter what.♥️
Anger is the ‘fight’ part of the fight or flight response. It has important work to do. Anger never exists on its own. It exists to hold other more vulnerable emotions in a way that feels safer. It’s sometimes feels easier, safer, more acceptable, stronger to feel the ‘big’ that comes with anger, than the vulnerability that comes with anxiety, sadness, loneliness. This isn’t deliberate. It’s just another way our bodies and brains try to keep us safe. 

The problem isn’t the anger. The problem is the behaviour that can come with the anger. Let there be no limits on thoughts and feelings, only behaviour. When children are angry, as long as they are safe and others are safe, we don’t need to fix their anger. They aren’t broken. Instead, drop the anchor: as much as you can - and this won’t always be easy - be a calm, steadying, loving presence to help bring their nervous systems back home to calm. 

Then, when they are truly calm, and with love and leadership, have the conversations that will grow them - 
- What happened? 
- What can you do differently next time?
- You’re a really great kid. I know you didn’t want this to happen but here we are. How can you make things right. Would you like some ideas? Do you need some help with that?
- What did I do that helped? What did I do that didn’t help? Is there something that might feel more helpful next time?

When their behaviour falls short of ‘adorable’, rather than asking ‘What consequences they need to do better?’ let the question be, ‘What support do they need to do better.’ Often, the biggest support will be a conversation with you, and that will be enough.♥️
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#parenting #positiveparenting #mindfulparenting #anxietyinkids

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