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It’s well documented that parenting young kids can be stressful – and that working parents are especially time poor. Throw into the mix running your own business and working from home and it’s the perfect stress storm.

Given enough downtime there are a whole load of tried-and-true ways to chill. But who’s got downtime? Not us working from home parent-y types. Plus it’s when the pressure is on in the middle of your working or domestic day that you really need a quick fix – before things become really explosive!

When things get hectic but I can’t drop the ball for a second, I’m looking for something I can integrate into my work day or do without taking my eye off the kids, something that can be jammed in between other commitments or done while multi-tasking.

Check out my list of 17 things that help keep me as far away from the red zone as possible during my working / parenting week.

1. Make something out of Lego

Ah Lego… the ultimate way to simultaneously zone out AND win at parenting. I find sitting down with my kids and no real plan and building something is the best possible way to switch off racing thoughts, and it is also a great way to get little people to chill when tempers are starting to fray. Plus the quality time together tends to lift moods and become a reward in itself (as well as ticking a box on that to-do list – am I right?)

And if your kids are of a certain age, you will not control this exercise at all – which is part of its beauty. Just when you get two thirds of the way through your beautiful Lego tower, it will be broken up because your kid wants the pieces for something else. Your awesome model of your home town will end up with a few additions straight out of Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. But that’s cool. Switch your brain off and lean into it.

2. Hang some washing

Combining a household chore that needs doing with a moment of space is always a bonus. While I can’t say I enjoy hanging washing, I find the combination of repetitive work and fresh air really useful when my kids have driven me to distraction. It is also a fantastic way to break out and reset the system when a work- induced mental overload or creative block kicks in. Being physically out of the house and allowing yourself to feel the weather conditions helps provide a great mental breather, but if it’s raining even hanging things on a clothes horse can be helpful.

3. Make (and drink) a cup of tea

Everyone knows how soothing a cup of tea is when your nerves are shot. Including me. But I wanted to include this here because gosh darn it, I do not do myself the favour of making myself a cuppa often enough. And if by some chance I do make myself one, most of the time I get caught up in other things and forget about it until it is stone cold. And therefore not very soothing. So I say this to myself and all here – stop and make yourself a cuppa. Make a ritual of it, because that is as stress-busting as the drinking of it. Wait and listen to the kettle boil. Assemble the cup the spoon, the sugar, milk whatever. Get yourself a special cup for it – one you find really beautiful or especially amusing. And then drink it. You may not get a moment to yourself to drink it in, but stop and read your kids a book, or sort out your in-tray while you drink. Then go back in to the fray refreshed.

4. Candlelight shower

This one’s for the end of the day when kids and work are off your hands, but very much in the spirit of the quick-fix stress-buster. It’s the busy person’s answer to a relaxing candlelit bubble bath – the candlelit shower. It is surprising how relaxing it can be just having your regular shower by the light of a few candles. Give it a go!

5. Identify your stressors and avoid them

Of course. But when life gets crazy do we really take the time to analyse which situations in particular are grinding our gears? I know I didn’t up until about a year ago. This one might take longer than 5 minutes initially, but can save a lot of stress down the track. Give some thought – maybe over that cuppa – to what things make you crazy, and then work out which of those situations don’t need to happen. By giving thought not only to what stresses us, but why these situations are cropping up, it becomes a bit easier to work on strategies for avoiding some of our stress. Getting a close confidante or partner in on this one is a great idea too – there’s nothing like a bit of fresh perspective on these sorts of conundrum.

6. Bust out the playdough

Another great way to disguise relaxation as playing with your children. Playdough – or cloud dough, kinetic sand, slime, whatever your kid is into – are all tactile and allow you to just chill and focus on your sensory experiences rather than your pressing deadline or the tantrum your kid just threw. And just like Lego, it’s a good way to encourage kids to relax and handle their own feelings when things get fraught. Often after a tanty my 5 year old will say he doesn’t want to play or do anything with me, but if I sit and calmly begin, he soon joins in. Crisis averted.

7. Organise your work space

I really believe that the state of my work space is a reflection of the state of my mind. When it’s in disarray I just can’t work efficiently. A quick clear out of the rubbish and re-organise can do wonders for mental block, and also is a really good way to take a break during long stints at the keyboard – without totally losing focus.

8. ABC Classic FM

As the line goes; “music hath charms to soothe a savage breast”. I find the effect of music on me is so strong that when I ignore it, misuse it or forget totally to indulge in it I go a little crazy ape bonkers! There are loads of ways to administer music to yourself nowadays, but I find that when you need to chill out quick – or more to the point, when the kids need to chill out quick – ABC Classic FM is always on hand with some soothing tunes. Even the announcers are super smooth and chill, so no worries if you catch a mic break. It’s especially handy when things tee off in the car – just punch a button and let relaxation reign. Not into classical music? Why not create a Spottify playlist of mellow tunes tailored to your own taste and keep it at the ready?

9. Be honest with your clients

If you are running your own business and raising kids you know that every week is a marathon. There is barely enough time to do everything that needs doing, and you are probably already a master of the art of time management. But it is easy to fall into the trap of over-promising in order to impress current or potential customers. It’s a trap because it can so easily backfire – a sick kid, no places at childcare, these can quickly throw a spanner in the works. Build strong working relationships with good quality clients by being honest with them about the fact that you work around your parenting commitments. Explain to them that while this means that you work odd hours, that sometimes you can’t get to the phone straight away and that you can’t lock that meeting in until you check with the child care centre, it doesn’t mean any lapse in the quality or timeliness of your work. You’ll be surprised how much angst this will save you!

10. Invest in some essential oils

In my opinion, nothing calms the whole farm down like a bit of lavender oil in a burner. Or in the kids bath before bedtime. Or in your own bath if you ever have time for one. It’s a simple, inexpensive way to relax in the midst of chaos, and definitely worth experimenting with different oils to find the ones that work best for you.

11. Water the garden

Another household task that is surprisingly relaxing is standing around watering the plants. I find that because this is usually a task performed in the early evening that it is a great opportunity to clear the head before switching modes from daytime parent-mode to night time work-mode. I know, I know – this one’s off the table if it’s raining. But setting aside a little bit of time to look out the window at your rainy day garden can be a great way to unwind too.

12. Spend some time with your pets

It’s amazing how time with our pets can instantly bring things out of the red zone. No matter whether the stress is child- or work-induced, a quick 5 minute session of stroking the cat, playing with the dog or making silly noises at the budgie is a great way to relax and regroup.

13. Turn your bedroom into a sanctuary

One of the biggest problems with working from home is the fact that you can’t get away from work. One of the biggest problems with having kids is that they take over your entire house. When you’re involved in both of these situations it can feel like there is nowhere just for you. For taking it easy. I strongly suggest setting up a space in your house as a haven from the chaos – and for me the bedroom was the obvious choice. This doesn’t have to be some kind of pricey designer reno either – it can be as simple as arranging some of your favourite objects around you or investing in a couple of things that make the spot feel totally cozy like some extra pillows or fancy bedlinen.

14. Breathe in a square

This is a fantastic relaxation technique for the time-strapped. It only takes a moment and can be done anywhere, anytime, no matter what you are in the middle of. Breathe in for 4 beats, hold for 4 beats, breathe out for 4 beats, and hold for another 4 beats. Find a 4-sided object like your monitor and trace each side of it with your eyes while you complete each of the 4 parts of the breath, or close your eyes and trace the 4 sides of an imaginary object. You will feel calmer and more in control in no time! Check out a more detailed description of square breathing here.

15. Be creative

Even if you don’t normally consider yourself a creative person, finding your inner creativity and using it to make something is so good for beating stress. If you’re parenting, grab your kids and create something together. If you are lucky enough to have a morning to yourself bake a cake, do a painting or hit up YouTube and learn something crafty. If you only have a few minutes why not try a blind contour drawing? Grab a pen and paper, and pick a subject to draw – any old thing. Draw the subject in one continuous line, without taking your pen from the page, and without taking your eyes off of it – no looking at the page at all! It’s a standard exercise for art students, designed to teach observation, but it is also an excellent mindfulness technique. And fun, when you finally look at the page and see the weird but strangely beautiful results.

16. Be suddenly silly!

OK, so this one probably doesn’t go down very well in an office full of peeps, but it is a brilliant way to diffuse tension if you are with kids… or even on your own! Why not? Break into a silly song, do a dance, make a few faces, whatever. It’s pretty hard not to smile when there is sudden silliness going on!

17. Be kind to yourself

The best advice I have ever had. From an amazing and wise lady I admire very much. As we all try to do it all, and do it to perfection, it gets very easy to judge ourselves harshly for not achieving the unachievable. So sometimes you’ve just gotta give yourself a break! It’s the ultimate stress-buster!

#MakeYourMark #workingparents