Alexandra Hughes

Coaching Mothers to a Place of

calm & joyful living

Receive 3 simple strategies to joyful calm

photo credit: Broo_am (Andy B)

“Not a creature was stirring…”

Twas the night before Christmas

And all through the house

Not a creature was stirring

Not even a mouse.

 

WRONG!

 

We Moms know who was stirring (and likely not kissing Santa Clause underneath the mistletoe, either!)

It was Mom.

We were stirring because well, the kitchen needed tidying, the last few (if we’re lucky) gifts needed wrapping, the stockings needed stuffing and the letter from Santa needed writing.

Even today, in 2015, whether or not you were doing ALL of this “backstage work” or whether you were managing and supervising your partner in ensuring it all gets done, you were likely the leader and organiser behind the holiday scenes.

It was likely your headspace that was being taken up.

It was your last bits of energy that were being drained.

And I don’t know whether it is the late night after late night in December,  the extra partying and egg nog, or what…but either way, I end up feeling zonked and foggy headed on that special day.

Accumulated Holiday Exhausted Mom a.k.a. AHEM (you heard it coined here, first!)

Today is the Winter Solstice. It is the shortest day of the year and the longest night.

Long nights and cold days are nature’s invitation to sleep more, yet we ignore it.

We ignore our bodies need to rest.

And we keep going and going and going.

But guess what, Mom?

You are not the Duracell bunny. Not even at Christmas. Not even at Hannukah.

So for those of you who are ready to accept that fact and the invitation the winter solstice brings to you to sleep, I invite you to take this week and do something wild and crazy…

Yes, here’s my top secret wild and crazy tip to preventing AHEM or remedying it as it slowly creeps in.

The number one top secret tip to keeping your energy levels jingling all the way!

Are you ready?

I call it REST.

 

photo credit: sunlight cardigan

photo credit: sunlight cardigan

Some instructions:

1. STOP what you are doing.

2. LIE DOWN.

3. CLOSE YOUR EYES.

4. BREATHE. Focus on your breathing.

5. REST. Focus on your breathing.

6. BREATH SOME MORE.

7. REST SOME MORE.

 

 

You don’t need to sleep. You just need to rest.

That’s right, take 10 to 30 minutes each day to lie down on the sofa, breath and rest.

Crazy, I know.

But there’s just SO MUCH TO DO! you yell back at me.

I know.

But a) you’ll do it better and faster if you’re rested. And b) is it REALLY THAT IMPORTANT?

Take a moment to  align what is important to you, with where your time and energy goes.

And if what is important to you is enJOYing the holidays…

Then it’s time to get clear on the holiday experience you want, then organise, slow down, simplify INCLUDING scheduling in your 10 minute rest.

10 minutes.

That’s all it takes.

Try it. It works.

If the mind keeps buzzing then don’t be shy and find some guided resting support for you. One of my favourite ones is a 24 minute deep rest guided meditation from meditationoasis.com

Sweet day time dreaming, Mom.

Oh! And don’t forget that if you received this email in your inbox, you are eligible for my Calm Mom 3 for 1 private coaching package offer that runs until the 24th. There are 5 spaces available for this limited time. You can email me for more details.

photo credit: Broo_am (Andy B)

photo credit: Broo_am (Andy B)

photo credit: Johan Hansson

5 practical strategies to make Mom’s holidays merry

“Christmas is for children, aren’t you feeling young?”

Um, no. I’m not. At all. (duh!)

In fact, the winter holiday season has, in the past, been one of the most stressful times for me.

Last week I wrote about how I finally made a conscious choice to shift from being the engine behind never-ending and exhausting efforts to create the “perfect” holiday season – the one we saw in movies, tv series and commercials. The ones the malls and magazines sell us.

I bought it all.

And now I’m letting it all go and replacing it with a holiday that is centred around the few values that are most important to me. This is a work in progress…

A first step in doing this is connecting to your values and determining what activities and memory-creating you want to support these in your clan.

Connect.

Align.

Prioritize.

Simplify.

Breath.

However much you manage to do this, though. There will still be more to-do’s on your list than during other times of year.

So, in order to help you manage these extras, I thought I’d share a few of the tips that have worked to help keep me cheerful and energized over the holidays.

Join me in my step from getting real to getting practical, this winter holiday season.

 

1. Organise. 

Ok, so create a holiday to-do list that is categorised. Some categories might be: cards, decorating, entertaining, gifts and most importantly: self-care.

Now under each heading write the to-dos and determine when they need to be done. Get out your calendar and write-up deadlines for each. Allocate chunks of time for each activity in your calendar. Breathe in. Now double the allocated time in your calendar.

If you don’t have time in your calendar see the red flag. This is an invitation to either

a) let something go (on your holiday list or in another area of life – letting Self-Care activities go during this time of year is against the law for mothers!),

b) delegate and relinquish control (yes, completely!),

c) take time off other projects… Or, DO ALL THREE!

Oh, and don’t forget to save your list for next year. Put it with the holiday decorations and pop a reminder in your electronic calendar now so that you are reminded and don’t need to redo this step again next year.

 

photo credit: David Lienhard

photo credit: David Lienhard

2. Slow down.

Year after year you suffer through November and December. You either step onto the hamster wheel, OR the hamster wheel you were already on starts spinning wildly at a super crazy pace. And you start to feel so dizzy, you can’t even enjoy the egg nog!

Well, step two is about slowing the wheel down or even stepping off.

Now is the time to take control of your time.

Some ideas: 1) Take one, two or even three pre-holiday days off, or half-days; 2) Organize pre-holiday weekend childcare to allow you to have some time to do whatever it is you need to do (self-care included!), or 3) Plan some playdate swaps to grab up some free time while the kids are having fun with friends!

Last year was the first year I  decided to take my December Fridays off so that I could dedicate them to either holiday planning OR self-care. This allowed me the time to prepare for the holidays at a decent, human pace. I actually started to enjoy it – even the repetitive holiday carols in the shops. (Now if that ain’t worth it, I don’t know what is!)

 

3. Simplify

Know when enough is enough. Then STOP.  

I used to be notorious for going overboard at Christmas. I bought too much food, too many gifts, decorations, etc… This has partially been in an effort to create that romantic Christmas I used to dream of.

It was really  about ‘disconnected consumption’ (i.e., buying for reasons linked to external expectations versus internal wisdom. Buying out of fear that the kids will be disappointed in not getting enough. What’s that about?)

By connecting with my intuition and listening to it, my consumption and I are guided by the values that are important to me. While these include generosity and quality, they also include simplicity, appreciation and gratitude for the small stuff.

In my life, too much stuff leads to overwhelm and lack of appreciation!

So from here on in it’s quality of presence, not quantity of presents!

Less buying = more quality time + appreciation  + saved money.

What is your simplification equation that will help you determine when enough is enough?

 

photo credit: Johan Hansson

photo credit: Johan Hansson

4. Self-care, self-care, self-care.  

You’ve heard me go on and on about this one! If you don’t take care of YOU first, you won’t become the happy holiday Mama you envision.

So, seek and DO the experiences that make you feel good regularly.

Go back to Tip 1. and elaborate your self-care to-do list, allocate time and commit to your own self-care.

Remember, a happy Mom will make for a happy holiday home.

 

5. Living the now.  Over the holiday season, when you feel worry, anxiety, overwhelm take a deep breath and maybe close your eyes.

Bring yourSELF back into your body, into the here and now. You may even want to remind yourself of what you are focusing on in that moment – “I am wrapping a gift right now. I am wrapping a gift right now.” Perhaps turn this mantra into a hum until you are feeling the flow of the moment.

Light a candle and put on some calming music as you write your cards, bake your cookies, wrap your gifts.

Consciously invite JOY into the moment.

By bringing yourself into the moment, you leave aside regret of the past and worry/ anxiety of what is to come. This is a powerful shift when you are feeling the pressures of the season weigh down on you.

 

Please share what resonates with you or any tips you may have to make your holidays merry in the comment box below! I love hearing from you…

 

 

photo credit: Jon Curnow

Create the Merry Mom Christmas YOU WANT

photo credit: Jon Curnow

As the holidays swiftly land upon us, many mothers look at the month ahead with doom in their eyes.

Some of you might have experienced the holidays as a stressful period where your list of ‘to do’s’ gets longer, your children more excited, your partner more anxious (as your visa bill grows, bank account dwindles and family descends upon your home), your house more cluttered and, inevitably, the shadows under your eyes darker.

Sure, there are those romantic images of children happily decorating the tree while father reads his newspaper quietly in the corner or has a diplomatic yet thought provoking conversation with his in-laws, and mother chats with her sister over a glass of mulled wine while the perfect dinner roasts. Gifts are wrapped and well-hidden, the table is beautifully laid and the snow gently drifts down.

Sigh.

This is NOT (and I repeat, NOT) what it looks like at my house!!

I won’t get into the details…but come on, let’s get REAL. Really real!

These images, like many we are subjected to that drive our “should” realm, come from Hollywood and Disney World.

And here we are exhausting ourselves to live up to them.

Cabin fever anyone?

I have never actually experienced such a Christmas. And believe me, I HAVE TRIED. I have held onto this romantic vision, blamed others (children included!) for not co-creating it with me!. It’s really no surprise that I have been disappointed year after year!

At one point I even began to wonder if they – the songs, the films, the stories – told us this romantic Christmas story as a conspiracy to drive mothers insane in their efforts to make the impossible “festive” dream come true (and single handedly at that!).

But time goes by and one gets wiser – or, in my case, chooses to get REAL.

Last year, after many years of being guided by SHOULDS and unrealistic ideals of perfection, I made the deliberate choice of making the holidays my own. I chose to birth my own Christmas ideal (versus following someone else’s!)

And through a series of upcoming blogs, I am inviting you to do the same.

Let’s think about this…

In the past, you may have given more than usual at Holiday time – given energy, money, time. And too often this has meant depleting your own inner resources.

So ultimately, you have sacrificed your own well-being for the happiness of others around you. In making the holidays memories for others, you make the memory a blur for yourself.

And the irony here is that when Mama isn’t happy, those around her who love her are also less happy. (Just ask my husband!)

So, let’s make this year different!

Let’s let go of the romantic external expectations, connect with our essence, trust our inner voice and create a Holiday that is fun for us!

Your first step is to figure out what that looks like…

photo credit: laffy4k

photo credit: laffy4k

Here’s your challenge:

Within the next 24 hours, carve 15 sacred minutes out for yourself.

Bring a paper/ journal and pen along with you and use those sacred 15 minutes to simply sit.

Really, just sit down with your spine aligned, close your eyes, relax your breathing and BE.

What I’m asking you to do is simply to connect with yourSELF. (If you are looking for some support doing this, you can download my 10 minute connection audio, here. It is part of my Calm Mom toolkit and will smoothly guide you to your inner wisdom).

When you find yourself relaxed, better connected to your inner wisdom, start to imagine what you want the holidays to be and FEEL like.

Really take a moment to CONNECT WITH THIS FEELING. Stay with this feeling.

And from this place, begin to reflect on a few questions:

REFLECTION 1. What is my key priority over the holidays?  

Reflect. Write it down.

REFLECTION 2. What activities support these priorities?

Reflect. Write it down.

And then you can jump into some fun stuff…

REFLECTION 3. What memories do you want to be creating? What rituals do you want to make your own?

 

So, for instance, if your priorities are connecting with your loved ones then consider activities that support such connection (NO MORE THAN 3!). Is it a family walk? A family baking session? A family board game?

I am not suggesting you give up the rest of your family traditions. But let’s face it, this fun time that I hope for and dream about end up last on my list. I never get to it! Or, by the time I do, I’m too zonked to enjoy it.

So, what I am inviting you to do, is to make your other to-dos work AROUND these key priorities.

WARNING: This might mean delegating some cooking or buying the ready made stuffing or pie. This might mean delegating table setting to less experienced hands. Yes, Mom, this may mean relinquishing control and LETTING GO OF PERFECT.

Ouch. It just hurts to type it

because I AM THE WORST CONTROL FREAK AT CHRISTMAS!

I’m the mother who can’t bare to watch my children decorating the tree because they refuse to follow my system (which, might I add is based on many years of experience-based research!). I am the one who storms out of the room when Christmas stops feeling like it SHOULD because my kids ask to watch a non-Christmas related tv program, or ask to (heaven forbid!) play the Wii! And then, despite knowing any better, I’m the one who descends back in the dark living room to secretly redecorate the tree after the kids are in bed!

I’m a recovering type-A (I’ve said it before).

 

Release your SHOULDS and your drive towards what makes PERFECT, and invite practical solutions that support what is most important to you.

Believe me, if this crazy Christmas control freak Mom can do it, so can you!

Go on, chuck “It’s a Wonderful Life” images right out the window!

And become creative in designing family rituals that are aligned with your values and support your sanity…whoops, I meant JOY.

Look out for my next blog and it’s 5 easy tips to make the holidays Merrier for Mom.


sandheart

Simon says: “Thank you, ME”

On Thanksgiving Day here in the U.S., I went to a gorgeous yoga class in the morning.

fish

Our teacher, Amy, helped us to open our hearts by getting into a supported restorative fish pose. She then asked us to connect with our heart and take a few breaths thanking someone we cared about. This was easy.

And then, after some time doing this, she requested that we do the same but this time thanking OURSELVES. “Say Thank you, ME”, she instructed.

And you know what? Doing this was really hard!

And that is why, just as Amy asked me to stretch myself in this way, I’m going to invite all you Mama’s to do the same.

Take a moment to either be in restorative fish pose or to sit with your spine straight and your shoulders back. Just imagine your heart open and vulnerable. And then take some time to say “thank you, me” and really mean it!

Here, we are entering a time of year where women do SO MUCH for those they love. Most of the behind the scene work that makes Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah the special occasions for children and families that they become,  is ultimately women’s work.

It is family and friend binding work; it is memory making work.sandheart

The shopping, the cooking, the cleaning, the decorating, the PLANNING, the card-writing, the wrapping, the inviting, (and the list goes on…)  sometimes mean that we women don’t enjoy the actual holiDAY MOMENTS quite as much as we deserve to.

Either because we’re still behind the scenes or we’re simply just too zonked!

So just take a moment now to acknowledge all that you did for Thanksgiving (if you’re here in the U.S.) and all that you are about to embark on. And indeed, all that you do everyday, Mom.

Go on, open your heart and say it: “thank you, me”.

In gratitude,

Alex

photo credit: snarledskein

I have a dream…

So at the beginning of every school year, my children are invited to reflect on their hopes and dreams for the year. This year, my daughter (she’s 10) had the privilege of stepping up on the podium at the Lincoln Memorial and sharing her hopes and dreams with her class. Her hope was to do better in math (so cute!)

photo credit: snarledskein

photo credit: snarledskein

It got me thinking…

I know I do what I do because it’s in my heart but what is my hope? my dream? my vision?

And what is the WHY behind that?

What is my envisioned contribution?

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