10 minutes to a calmer you

How taking a little time out every day will transform your family life

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What’s on your to-do list today? Housework, shopping, essential phone calls, immunisations, grabbing coffee with friends, mum and baby class? If you’re grabbing five minutes when it’s quiet, then your little one’s probably having a nap. Wouldn’t it be great to have this time every day? ‘I should be so lucky’, you cry. But actually, carving out these moments in the right way won’t just lift your mood, it will help you feel more confident and able to cope with whatever your busy family life throws at you. And, as all us mums know, where there’s a happy mummy, there’s a happy family.

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Give yourself a pat on the back

“As mums we can easily go into meltdown and forget what we’re good at,” says Judy Bartkowiak, a Neuro-Linguistic Programming practitioner and author of Be a Happier Parent with NLP  (www.teachyourself.com).

“A mum’s confidence can wane for a number of reasons. Maybe she’s not working, or not in the same type of job she was in before she had her family. It’s easy to feel like a failure. For example, you might have been holding a crying baby and gently rocking her but she still won’t settle, then someone else takes her and she settles straightaway. But the more you get in a stew about things the more they don’t work.” Giving yourself 10 minutes a day for what’s essentially a pat on the back to say ‘You’re doing OK!’, can be just the boost you need.

Clear your head

Andy Puddicombe runs www.headspace.com, and holds seminars on mindfulness, a new super-simple and easy-to-grasp approach to meditation. “Start by sitting in a room on your own with your eyes closed. You’re not attempting to clear your mind or think about nothing. Instead, try and step back from whatever’s bothering you and allow yourself and your feelings to flow,” he says.

For instance, if you’re struggling with weaning, you might feel that it’s never going to work and your little one will be sucking on a bottle of milk on her first day at school. The next thing you know you’re in a terrible fog of disappointment, feeling you’ve let your baby down. Taking a step back helps you reach a calm conclusion. “I meet a lot of mums and often one of the first things to go out of the window when you have a baby is perspective. You feel stifled, and small things start to become big problem,” says Andy. “It’s about learning to be OK with things as they are, whether they’re good or bad, to just accept them, not wanting to change everything about your life in one day. You’ll develop a sense of ease around your thoughts and any challenging emotions you might have.”

For example, if it is weaning that’s really bothering you, hopefully you’ll realise that, while one meal didn’t go perfectly, by the end of the week, others will have gone pretty well, so all is not lost.

Record your successes

“We’re so busy mentally,” explains Dr Asma Omer, creator of The Success Diary (www.thesuccessdiary.com). “And that can lead to worries, then fear, which ends up with unhappiness. Aiming towards a goal, even a small one, really helps. It instigates positivity, takes your mind off the little worries and gets you up and doing something.” We’re not talking about 10 minutes with the TV, though. This is about focusing on your needs and goals to help you achieve them now life’s become a bit different to how you knew it before. Asma has invented The Success Diary, a book you fill in every day with an affirmation – a positive comment about your goal in life – and ways in which you’re working towards your personal goals. Those goals can be anything from ‘Be a brilliant loving mum’ to ‘Have a happy, healthy baby’ to ‘Provide a happy home for my family.’

“As a mum you could be planning anything from before the birth, to your baby’s first year, to going back to work or finding a nanny,” says Asma. “And these 10 minutes focusing properly on your goal is far better than half an hour mindlessly worrying about it. Congratulate yourself for the things you’re getting right. It’s all about re-programming your subconscious with good habits.”

Turn ‘I can’t’ into ‘I can’

“It’s up to you to find the time,” says Asma. “Try when your baby’s asleep, or when you have a cup of tea, but ideally, try and find 10 minutes at the same time every day, as this’ll get you into the habit.” Don’t beat yourself up if you miss the slot to spend your 10 minutes one day. But do remember that it’s important.

“If you say you can’t find the time, ask yourself ‘What’s the alternative?’” says Asma. “If you say ‘I can’t’, what are you going to do instead? It takes the same energy to sit and focus as it does to sit and do nothing, and the alternative is chaos, which leads to you feeling down, which happens to a lot of mums. It’s all in the mind, so you have to find that 10 minutes.” Andy Puddicombe agrees: “The more you find that time, the more it becomes part of your routine, and the more often you do it, the easier it becomes.”

Step by step chill out

  • Draw an imaginary circle on the floor in front of you. This is your Circle of Excellence and is yours to take with you anywhere and everywhere.
  • Decide on something that’ll be known as your anchor. Most people squeeze their earlobe.
  • Think about what you need now, like weaning success. How do you need to be, what do you need to feel?
  • Remember a time when you had that great feeling, when you felt really calm or really in control, and as you recall it, squeeze your earlobe.
  • Turn up that great memory, give it colour, texture, sound and feelings, like a Hollywood movie and keep going with your anchor.
  • When the memory is really strong, step into the circle. Stay there until it starts to fade and, when it does, step out of the circle and remove the anchor.
  • Now think of another time when you had that great feeling, that skill you need now. Again, as the memory becomes strong, squeeze your earlobe and step into the circle. Step out again as it fades and remove your anchor.
  • Repeat this a few times until you can step into your circle and immediately get that feeling you want.
  • Whenever you need to feel that way in future, all you need to do is step forward into your imaginary circle and squeeze your earlobe.

Mum’s story

“I loved using the success diary. It has three elements – a daily quote for you to read, a place to write an ‘affirmation’ and a place to write daily goals. The quotes were really inspiring, and easy to find time to read – usually before I jumped out of bed to get Holly. Writing down goals took more effort, and I tended to do this in the evening. But it really paid off, especially when it came to the week of Holly’s first day at nursery. I found myself more organised with getting her stuff ready, and also more prepared in myself when the day arrived. Because I was ready emotionally and practically, there weren’t any nasty surprises for either of us.”

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Jo McGahon, 34, from Reading, mum to Holly, 14 months

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