Friday, May 6, 2011

Recovering from upheaval-13 things that help our family!

I thought this topic might be timely for some, considering all the global and local unrest and emotional yuck that's floating around right now. :) Big moves, family changes, births, tragedies, loss of a pet, and larger scale disaster can necessitate a little extra lovin'. Here are some ideas that have worked swimmingly for us that I've collected over the years (most through trial and error), to bring comfort and emotional healing/equilibrium!

1. The power of smell! If you love essential oils, or just nice scents, this may be helpful for your family! (Obviously, only use them in dilution, and be sensitive to any allergies you may have). Our favorites for supporting calm are lavender, rose and chamomile; our favorites for mood boosting are grapefruit, sweet orange, bergamot and mint. Our favorite delivery method is water: either a few drops in a small spray bottle or a few drops in a nice warm bath. If essential oils aren't your thing, you could always make your favorite fragrant meal, let your child sleep with a tshirt on that smells like you, or bake a family favorite treat. Smells are powerful emotional triggers, and potentially very comforting.

Another natural approach you might try is Rescue Remedy and, for major upheaval, Star of Bethlehem flower essence...a friend recommended it to us a while back, and it seems to have a positive effect.

2. Make a Plan. One of the favorites mottoes I ever stole was one from Jeff VanVonderen in his book Families Where Grace is in Place: "Our family is a problem solving family." Identify what IS within your power and control, make a plan with your family, and follow through. For example, our girls have felt very uneasy with our daily travel roads being in upheaval from tornado activity, and they feel worried for the people whose homes have been demolished. So, we made a plan: see what we can do to volunteer, decide what our resources are, chart out our week ahead of time so there are no surprises (or at least discuss each day what we'll be doing).

3. Relax your expectations. Expect and anticipate a little bit of out of bounds behavior from everyone in the family, and do your best to meet it with patience and reassurance. While actually doing away with normal rules and boundaries is unhelpful, reinforcing those boundaries with patience and not exasperation goes a long way. That goes for you, too; grown ups need as much grace as small people. Love and understanding begets love and understanding, so try your best to use loving language and touch with those closest to you. (This is what I struggle the most with, and, as fate would have it, the most effective!)

4. Plan a little something frivolous. It doesn't need to be expensive or fancy, and the lower key, the better. Take off all expectations and pressure. (Sometimes, the best moments like this are the ones that just happen, unplanned, so be open to them when they present themselves!) Just make it enjoyable and interesting for everyone; it could just be checking out for a while and taking a nice, long walk together. Be a little silly; don't worry about capturing anything on camera or perfectionism-let your inner monkey run a little wild and forget your worries for half an hour or more. Pillow fights work fantastically, and make for lots of laughter. :O)

5. Try to eat well. Again, nothing gourmet, but people who feel well act ditch the sugar, stay hydrated, and eat some veg, complex carbs and protein. Try to stay close to the food source (aka, not processed)Your body and moods will thank you.

6. Go to bed on time. Kids benefit from this- calms forte, a small low-sugar snack, a warm quiet bath or chammomile tea can help make reality. Adults can pull out the bigger guns and try a hot bath, herbal sleep support, melatonin or a nice glass of wine! Sleep helps us process traumas, heal our bodies, replenish exhausted adrenal glands and (my husband will tell you readily) improves the mood. Even if you have little ones that make sleep tricky, you can still resist the urge to stay up and watch t.v. after they've dozed. Sleep is your friend and ally.

7. Massage/Cosleeping/snuggling. You don't even have to be any good at it; just bust out the bottle of lotion or oil and bless yourself and your family with a good, healthy touch session. (Obviously, don't force anyone who's especially sensitive to over-stimulation. ) Avoid putting pressure on bony areas, use smooth connected strokes, warm towels can help, and enjoy! It will raise the energy of everyone involved, and bring a sense of connection and calm. Sleeping together also helps re-enforce family connections. You share reaffirming touch with a close friend (meal-sharing or shared walks work, too) or with a pet, as well. Everyone benefits. Win-win!

8. Prayer and meditation. Give yourself space to cry out for help and process what you're feeling. Give your mind time to just BE.

9. Music.

10. Go outside! The calming, centering benefits of being among
birds and fresh air and trees are both documented and common sense. No crowded playgrounds or busy sidewalks; the less intensity and man-made structures, the better. The more extroverted among us can benefit from taking a friend along!

11. Unplug the News. Children need lots of time and play to process, and hearing endless loops of heartwrenching stories is beyond their capacity to handle, emotionally. (It's not so helpful for adults, either!) Model being a friend to those in need, listen to real people's stories, but don't invite a constant replay into your home and car.

12. Processing is a process. Children may want to talk about the details of what is effecting them over and over and over. Listen to them as they talk about it on their own time frame. Don't make value judgements about what they chose to share. More importantly, listen to and even participate in their pretend play at this time; it will give you insight into their emotional state. Find someone who can listen to you, too, or journal to release some of the sharpness of the emotional memory and to ground your mind.

13. Twofold, depending on personality:

Ditch perfectionism. You've just been through something taxing. Be kind to yourself and your family, and let go of some of your unreasonable expectations. Some television won't kill anyone. You can let a few unnecessary goals and tasks slide until you gather your wits a bit. It's OK to recognize that you need to rest. Resist the urge to moralize your difficulty to your family or preach at them. It's OK to lose some rigidity in order to not snap.

and on the flip side:

Be in tune with need for rhythm. Notice when your loved ones may benefit from a little more predictability and structure, and rise to the occasion. If your normal M.O. is complete bohemian lifestyle, unfettered by schedule, do recognize your family's natural need for rhythm. Predictability enforces feelings of safety and security for little ones, even if it feels counterintuitive...your family and your sanity will thank you for going through the motions. Bedtime routines, regular eating, notice ahead of time before being whisked from one activity to another are all helpful.


  1. I love this. Do you mind if I share this?

  2. Not at all! <3 (this is Ashley logged onto Nate's account ;oP )