Even though parenting has many joyful moments, it also has stresses, anxieties and frustrations that come with it, which can drain enormous amounts of physical, mental and emotional energy from us. Somatic psychologist and best-selling author of The Mindful Body, Noa Belling says finding ways to top up our energy can make all the difference to our wellbeing and how we treat our children.
Your window of tolerance
The zone of wellbeing, also referred to as a zone of resilience or a window of tolerance is a place where we feel happy, and we aspire to always live in this zone. “We feel cool, calm, collected and connected to others. We feel like we can cope with life’s ups, downs and busy-ness. At these times we’re effective at getting things done; we are well-attuned to our children; we rebound quickly from setbacks and if things get tough, we can more easily find creative ways to address our challenges. In the zone of well-being, we are best version of ourselves,” says Noa. This is because our brain is functions better when we’re relaxed and feeling well. We have better access to the more evolved parts of our brains which helps us think intelligently and creatively, and make better choices.
When we’re outside our zone of well-being, feeling overwhelmed, out of control or really angry or upset; we are flooded with stress hormones and the primitive brain parts take over to offer urgent survival responses such as fight or flight. “Parents can recognise this in outbursts shouted with full fury, such as: ‘I have had enough of this! Go to your room! Stop or there is no iPad for a week!’ Or even perhaps, smacking your child or lashing out with insults.
From our brain’s point of view, when we feel this way it overrides our rational intelligence as well as our ability to think creatively, to see the bigger picture and to come from a place of love. Sometimes our angry reaction does help to make things happen or get our message across. But all too often, when we feel pushed over the edge, parents can be left feeling shaken, helpless and regretful of their actions. Quite simply when we have a strong relationship with our zone of well-being, we become better parents and healthier of mind and body,” explains Noa.
Strengthening your zone of wellbeing
Unfortunately we may find ourselves outside the zone of well-being more often than not because of the rigours of parenting and the fast-paced modern life we live in. However, Noa points out that we don’t need to be at the mercy of this. “We can deliberately connect with, and strengthen our zone of well-being and resilience by making time for things that help us feel well,” she says.
You can do this by eating healthy, exercising regularly, spending quality time with family and friends, feeling purposeful in life, and getting enough sleep.
There are also simple, mindful strategies you can use on-the-spot and weave into your days to help you plug back into this zone when you have spun out of control.
Use these on-the-spot strategies adapted from Noa’s book, The Mindful Body to connect with and strengthen your zone of well-being:
Hand to chest
Place a hand on your chest to remind you to come from love. This is a great one to use in the midst of chaotic moments. As soon as you realise you are worked up, pause for a few seconds, place a hand on your chest where it feels best, and take a good deep breath. Touch releases oxytocin, our cuddle and intimacy hormone, quickly lowering our stress hormone levels and helping us think more clearly. This helps us feel kinder and more compassionate towards ourselves and those around us. When you feel a shift, release your hand and carry on with your day from this more connected, kinder place. Make this a family practice by teaching this simple strategy to your children and take a moment to do it together when they are stressed and overwhelmed.
Remember to breathe!
Pausing to take a few deep breaths now and again during your day can help oxygenate both body and brain. It will give you a boost of energy and remind you to release pent up tension. This can be a quick reset that can help you feel more in control. Again, it’s a valuable strategy for children too.
Hug it out
Mark transitions lovingly through good eye contact and a habit of a hello and goodbye hug for those in your family, recommends relationship expert Stan Tatkin. This is beneficial for both people in the hug. The body contact stimulates oxytocin to help us feel calmer in ourselves and more connected with each other. It can also help us change gears into our zone of well-being in just a few seconds, which can go on to last for a while after, especially if we savour the feelings for as long as possible.
Live in the moment
The more we live in the moment instead of in our thoughts about the moment, the less we can complicate our lives with unnecessary worries. If you are feeling overwhelmed or mentally frenetic, pause for a few seconds to notice your surroundings through your five senses. Notice the sights, sounds and smells as well as the taste in your mouth. Touch a couple of objects in your vicinity and place your two feet on the ground evenly. Adjust your posture to be more centred and upright. In a matter of seconds you might find yourself more grounded and clear-headed as you return to the task at hand.
“When you feel well, you feel better able to cope with daily stresses. You have a sense of purpose that includes and goes beyond taking care of your children. You have supportive relationships and you enjoy life for the most part. If you feel lacking in an area of your life, strengthening your zone of well-being and resilience can help you be your most intelligent, heart-felt self for coming up with constructive solutions and planning towards the changes that you wish for,” concludes Noa.
The practical strategies offered here are adapted from The Mindful Body by Noa Belling, published through Penguin Random House SA and internationally by Rockpool Publishing. The Mindful Body is available in bookstores and online.
Visit https://www.noabelling.com/ for more info.