As mothers, we are constantly pulled in various directions by our hearing and our sight. Everywhere we look there’s something to pick up, clean up or move. A constant tangible to-do list that only disappears when our eyes are closed. And always there is noise. Baby crying, toddler giggling, teenagers having a boisterous wrestling match on the loungeroom floor…
In a visual, noisy world, our sight and hearing are our two most fatigued senses. We use them in every waking moment and usually without much conscious thought on our part. The noise and visual stimulation just seem to keep coming and this is why we find ourselves craving quiet time as parents, or to just close our eyes for five minutes. Even short relief for these over-taxed senses feels like a big deal and does have a big impact.
As parents, a third sense that is over-taxed is that of touch. We’re often in close physical contact with our children and it can become an effort to ensure that contact has a positive impact on our mindset. Touch is an incredibly important sense for babies as physical contact with their mother helps to regulate their heart rate and breathing, but it can become exhausting for the parent who perhaps has other children who need attention.
Add constant touch to constant noise and too many visual cues pulling our attention and you have a recipe for stress.
More often than not, we just can’t get immediate relief for these senses. We can’t just go and lie down by ourselves and close our eyes or get a few minutes of silence because… life. So at these times, we have to make a conscious effort to take the pressure off these three in-demand senses and rely more heavily on our two less-noticed but just as important means of sending information to the brain.
Drinking cold coffee or re-heating it a dozen times each morning as though that’s just part of a normal, healthy motherhood doesn’t sit well with me.
Now, I get it. I had six kids in 10 years and my husband worked away a lot. Mornings can be rough. And sometimes you really do sit down to a hot cup of coffee and then the baby poos through their nappy and onto the carpet and you just know you won’t see that coffee again for quite some time…
But let’s be real. That’s not usually the case. We need to stop being so busy to enjoy the simple things in life, and enjoying a hot cup of your favourite beverage in the morning is a simple thing.
The same goes for meals. Since when did it become ok for mothers to consume their child’s leftovers instead of feeding themselves properly? (Disclaimer: I’m not dissing those who eat their children’s leftovers 😉 Just questioning the idea that we’re too busy to make ourselves a proper meal and therefore run on toast scraps and dried apricots)
If we’re run-down and unwell, it’s because we don’t fuel our bodies properly and it starts with the sense of taste. Take the time to make and eat good food and enjoy the flavours. It is a form of self-care and relaxation.
While we eat in order to live (and not the other way around), we need to slow down enough to allow all of our senses to do their job and they just can’t if we’re always rushing through everything. It’s as much about the food and the flavour as it is about the physical act of slowing down for long enough to enjoy it.
When the house is a mess and the kids are noisy and I just can’t seem to catch a break, I make an effort to stop and inhale some essential oils (more on how to use oils HERE). Whether by setting the diffuser or just putting a drop in my hands and breathing deeply, both are effective at helping to calm my mind and influence my body back into a state of relaxation.
The benefits of this are three-fold:
- the essential oils themselves, which are known to have numerous physiological benefits (for some of these studies, CLICK HERE)
- the act of deep breathing with benefits which include stress reduction, pain relief, lowering blood pressure and increasing energy, and
- the act of stopping what you’re doing or slowing down for long enough to let your mind and body know that this is important
Another way to lean more heavily on our sense of smell and let it take us to a happy place is to put flowers around the house, get outside, or bake something. They don’t say “stop and smell the roses“ for nothing.
Some ways we can relieve the over-taxed senses.
Take a long hot shower – so many mothers rush through the morning and claim they don’t have time to shower, but if too much physical touch is something that sets you off, you NEED to make time for a long hot shower. It may be the only time in your day that you aren’t in physical contact with a small human so make the most of it and release some dopamine.
If constant noise is something you struggle with, it’s probably not something you can eliminate from your parenting journey, so pop some calming music on as background noise while the kids play.
If the kids are having a particularly difficult day, try an audio book that they’ll have to slow down/play quietly in order to follow along with.
Maybe your Achilles heel is having a to-do list before your eyes at every turn: dishes in the sink, cushions everywhere but on the lounge, mile-high laundry pile, beds unmade, hobbies untouched, paperwork covering the desk… I’m afraid I don’t have any quick hacks for this one, because where there is a house with humans in it, there will always be something that needs to be done.
But something that’s helped me over the years is to acknowledge the work (literally acknowledge it out loud or in your head) with something like, “Hi there, dishes! I am so grateful that you’re here because it means we’ve enjoyed some beautiful food on you. Right now I’m <<feeding my baby/reading to the toddler/playing a board game with my 8 year old/painting my nails/nurturing my hobby>> and I’ll get to you later. You’ll still be there when I’m done.”
Obviously, housework is a team effort and if your spouse is home or the kids are old enough to chip in, care of the home will be easier and as the years go on, your sense of sight won’t be so violently or frequently assailed!