Feeling Overwhelmed? Switch Off Your Television + Screens To Create The Calm Life You Crave

Calm Mind – Calm Parent – Calm Home

There is a large telvision screen. In front of the television screen are a persons outstretched legs resting on the television stand. The person has cozy casual socks on their feet and their feet  are crossed. The person has their arm outstetched towards the T.V. screen and is holding a T.V. remote control pointing at the screen. It looks as though the person is lounging in front of the television and is either about to change the channel or switch the T.V. on/off.

“Why Don’t You just switch off your television set . . . and do something less boring instead?”

An extract from the song lyrics accompanying the opening credits of the Children’s Television Series “Why Don’t You?” Shown in the UK between 1973-1995 (BBC1)

Before Reading, Please note: – I began writing this post before the majority of us around the world found ourselves in these challenging and unprecedented times of staying safe at home. Given that we are all now very reliant on our televisions and screens for entertainment and social contact, I thought long and hard about whether this was the correct time to publish this particular post.

However, I have come to the conclusion that, while this post was not specifically written with the current circumstances in mind, the theories, discussions and ideas I have included below are relevant and helpful to us navigating our television and screen time habits in the new circumstances we find ourselves in.

I am not advocating giving up our televisions and screens altogether and I certainly do not want anybody to feel guilty for enjoying T.V. and screen time. I am just asking that we check-in with ourselves to make sure that, when we interact with our screens, we have got the balance right to protect our wellbeing and happiness.

My aim is to encourage us all to use our televisions and screens wisely and avoid slipping into destructive habits. I wish to ensure that we are making good decisions about what we choose to watch and when.

All the tips and ideas I have included can be carried out within the home and I hope readers will find them useful in creating a calm, peaceful and happy atmosphere at home.

Do you ever find yourself turning on the T.V. or scrolling through social media on your phone in the name of allowing yourself to “rest”?

Do you use your devices to “keep you company” and provide you with “social contact” while you are spending time at home alone?

This is the situation I found myself in, while remaining a stay-at-home mum, after my son started school.

I found myself falling into the habit of turning on the T.V. straight away upon returning home after dropping my son off at school. I was doing this to take a rest after experiencing difficult, tiring and overwhelming mornings when getting my son ready for school.

I was alone in the house at this time, so I was also watching the television to provide me with some background noise, to keep me company and to take my mind off of worrying about my son at school.

If you have read my previous post about how I changed my morning snack and improved my day, you will be aware that before I made those intentional changes to my snack, I was snacking whilst sitting in front of the television.

Once I had taken the first step of changing my snack, my mood and energy levels improved. It was then that I realised how much time I was actually spending in front of the television.

I became aware that my time spent watching T.V. went way beyond a mere “rest”. I was actually camping out there, wasting time, feeling bad about myself and feeling guilty about all the things I should be doing instead.

Watching all of this T.V. was doing me no good at all and I needed to change this habit. I, therefore, started taking steps towards changing it. My aim was to create the calm day I craved and become the calm mum I wished to be.

Having taken those steps, I now watch much less daytime T.V. and I feel much better about my days spent at home. I feel more confident in my abilities as a Mum and my general wellbeing has improved.

In this post I will focus on how our daily T.V. and screen habits can affect what we achieve and how we feel about ourselves.

I will discuss how falling into the habit of watching lots of television, or frequently choosing to be entertained by any kind of screen, can negatively affect us.

I will also outline some of the ideas I have discovered to help inspire us to switch off the television and our screens and create a calm, fulfilled and healthy life for ourselves instead.

Finally, I will touch upon how changing our own screen time habits can benefit our children. By modelling good habits for them we can set a good example of how best to consume television, other screens and the modern technology they will come across in their daily lives.

The Power of Television + Screens

We have long been aware of the power of the television screen. It can capture our attention for hours on end, at the expense of doing other things. In fact, the power of any kind of screen to grab our attention has become increasingly apparent in recent years.

In our modern world there are endless discussions and debates about the effects of all this screen time on our children and how it impacts upon our own sleep patterns.

The quote I have included above (from the Children’s T.V. series “Why Don’t You?”) demonstrates that, as long ago as the 1970’s, there was already an awareness of the need or wish to encourage our children to move away from the screen to go and do other fun things instead.

Growing up in the UK, I can remember watching this programme in the mornings during the school summer holidays (you might remember it too!).

The programme was designed to inspire children to switch off the T.V. as soon as the programme had finished and to go and do one of the activities that had been demonstrated during the episode.

I can specifically remember being inspired by the programme to make a grilled chocolate banana dessert. A banana was cut in half, filled with chocolate buttons, wrapped in tin foil and heated under the grill until the chocolate had melted. It was very tasty indeed!!

On that occasion, the programme was a success. It stopped me watching T.V. and I went to do some cooking instead.

Recently, when I realised I had gotten into the habit of watching too much daytime television, I found myself thinking about this Children’s T.V. programme.

I realised that at this stage in my adult life I had obviously forgotten all of the good lessons the BBC Children’s Broadcasting Department had tried to teach me as a child via the “Why Don’t You?” Series. I had, instead, allowed myself to be drawn in by the power of the T.V. screen.

I believe that us adults could hugely benefit from our own special T.V. programme to remind us all of the power of the screen and ask us:

“Why don’t you just switch off the television set . . . and do something. . . [more intentional that you actually planned to do] instead?”.

When thinking about how I could inspire myself to change my television habits, I first had to consider why watching T.V. was so appealing to me on week-days and during that specific time in my life.

I, therefore, started looking into why television and screens in general have the attention grabbing power that they do.

Why Television + Screens Have the Power to Grab our Attention

Television, and screens in general, offer us a pleasing and instant distraction from our lives. They deliver us instant gratification.

When we indulge in watching our various screens it is a largely passive activity which requires very little decision making or effort from us.

It is no wonder that us adults like to escape into our screens and away from our real lives. In real life we are required to make constant decisions, take action, put in effort and face up to discomfort in order to achieve our goals.

Immersing ourselves in television and our screens is a form of escapism allowing us to forget about the life right in front of us and be transported elsewhere for the duration of our screen time.

In the book “Happier” – Learn the Secrets to Daily Joy and Lasting Fulfillment, by Tal Ben-Shahar. Ph.D. (published by McGraw Hill Companies 2007), the author describes what he calls the “Hamburger Model” of human attitudes and behaviours (See Chapter 2, Pages 14 – 29).

A slection of books are standing on a table resting against a book end. One of the books has a bright yellow dust jacket cover with red writing on it. On the Book's  spine you can see this book is the book "Happier" by Tal Ben-Shahar, Ph.D. On the table there is also a glass of water sitting on a colourful yellow, brown and white coaster along with a pair of reading glasses. The scene is set for someone to settle down and study a book.

I believe this Model is extremely helpful in explaining why television and screens are so appealing to us. It also helps explain why in the long run too much television and screen time can become detrimental to our overall wellbeing.

In the Hamburger Model he likens four different styles of burger to four distinct archetypes of human patterns of attitudes and behaviours:

  • Junk-Food Burger = Hedonism
  • Worst Burger = No Enjoyment Now + No Purpose
  • Tasteless Vegetarian Burger = Rat Race
  • Ideal Burger = Happiness

The auther describes the Junk-Food Burger as yielding present benefit (we enjoy eating it at the time) and future detriment (subsequently we will not feel so well). This makes it equivilent to Hedonism, because Hedonists seek pleasure to enjoy the present, while ignoring the possible painful or negative consequences of their actions.

He describes the Worst Burger as both tasteless (present detriment) and unhealthy (future detriment). This makes it equivilent to the archetype of a person who “neither enjoys the moment nor has a sense of future purpose”.

He describes the Tasteless Vegetarian Burger as being made of healthy ingredients which will subsequently make you feel good and healthy (future benefit) but at the time of eating, it is not enjoyable (present detriment). This makes it equivilent to the Rat Race archetype because the Rat Racer suffers now (present detriment) for the purpose of some anticipated gain (future benefit).

He describes the final burger, the Ideal Burger, as a burger that would provide a complete experience. It would be as tasty as the Junk-Food Burger (Present Benefit) and as healthy as the Tasteless Vegetarian Burger (Future Benefit). This makes it equivilent to the Happiness archetype. He says that happy people live “secure in the knowledge that the activities that bring them enjoyment in the present will also lead to a fulfilling future”.

Having considered the different categories included in the Hamburger Model, it seems clear that both television viewing and screen time in general appeal to us because they play into our Hedonistic tendancies.

Screens are comparable to the Junk-Food Burger. They are instantly enjoyable in the moment and, while partaking in watching T.V. or scrolling our screens, we are paying no attention to the possible future negative consequences of doing so.

I believe that such Hedonistic activities are particularly appealing to Mums.

Motherhood brings with it an incredible amount of overall joy about being a Mum and delivers some delightfully joyful moments with our children. However, when we are involved for long periods of time (or years!!) in the day-to-day tasks that come along with looking after our children and taking care of our homes, we are equivilent to Rat Racers. We are often carrying out a variety of jobs and activities which involve us in sacrificing enjoyment in the present for anticipated gain in the future.

For example, we may miss out on our own sleep in the present to sleep-train our young children for the anticipated gain of good sleep for all the family in the future. While doing this we may get through the difficult sleepless nights by telling ourselves that in a few months time, when sleep training is over, we will feel happy.

Another example would be, rushing around madly and frantically cleaning the house until we are completely exhausted on a week-day, with the anticipated gain of feeling relaxed and proud of our homes when relatives visit at the weekend or during festive holidays. We tell ourselves that the exhaustion is worth it to feel happy at the weekend or during the Holidays.

In “Happier” Tal Ben-Shahar explains how people who have spent a long time being Rat Racers, swing towards Hedonistic activies to seek out happiness when they get a chance. This happens because having chased one future goal after another and yet failed to achieve complete happiness, they become tired and fed up with all the effort involved in constantly focusing on the future and seek out effortless instant gratification to feel good instead.

I believe this is why I, and lots of other Mums, can become vulnerable to the power of television and our screens when we eventually get some time to ourselves without our children. When spending time alone we can swing from being “Rat Racers” towards seeking out Hedonistic activities instead.

One particular time when a big change in routine occurs for Mums is when children go to school. Mums go from having their children at home with them all the time to having a number of hours at a time away from their children. This can be a particularly vulnerable time when Mums can fall into effortless Hedonistic screen watching.

Mums, who have often spent a number of years almost exclusively focused on raising their children, can feel exhausted by all the frantic and busy Rat Racer activities they have been involved in during that time, such as weaning, sleep-training, potty training and so on.

When they finally get a chance to spend some time alone, while their child is at school, they can swing towards the effortless Hedonistic activity of T.V. watching to seek out happiness, calmness and rest.

This is definitely how I fell into the habit of watching T.V. during that period of my life.

However, If we are not careful, a short period of restful T.V. watching can very easily turn into a destructive daily habit. We can find ourselves in the habit of partaking in hours of long mindless television viewing or scrolling social media on our phones. In those circumstances we find ourselves watching our screens whether we are enjoying what we are viewing or not.

While watching our screens our minds are distracted and we have no regard as to how this T.V. viewing and screen watching is affecting the rest of our day. Such mindless and extended screen time habits are not at all beneficial.

In fact, viewing T.V. in that way means that what started out as an enjoyable Hedonistic activity has now turned into the equivilent of a “Worst Burger”. By this stage we neither enjoy the moment nor have a sense of future purpose.

In “Happier” the author describes someone who has become the equivilent of a Worst Burger as having “become resigned to the idea that life has no meaning”.

While I would not describe Mums as feeling that life has no meaning – I believe most Mums feel that having and bringing up children is one of the most meaningful life changes that a person can experience – I do believe that mums are particularly vulnerable to allowing Hedonistic habits to turn into the equivilent habit of eating a Worst Burger.

I think Mums are particularly vulnerable to low self-esteem and to going through periods when they are resigned to the idea that life has become subject to daily routines that make them feel “stuck-in-a-rut” . Mums can often see the same kind of day repeating over and over in a way that is beyond their control, with no end in sight and no hope of change anytime soon.

These periods are accompanied by feelings of guilt. Mums who love their children more than anything in the world, often believe that motherhood should be a purely joyful experience. So any feelings at all of disatisfaction cause Mums to feel like they are somehow being a “bad Mum”.

During these periods of feeling trapped, hopeless and guilty, Mums can feel completely overwhelmed and are, therefore, particularly vulnerable to being drawn into habits such as meaningless hours of watching T.V. or scrolling through social media on their phones. Screen time activities in these cirumstances neither provide us with present enjoyment nor future gain and this is why such habits can be so destructive to our everyday lives at home and to our overall wellbeing.

I realised that this was exactly the trap I had fallen into with my T.V. viewing during the time after my son had started school.

I was feeling exhausted, vulnerable and overwhelmed at this time. My viewing habits had become a destructive influence on my day and T.V. had become my very worst companion.

I realised I needed to change my viewing habits and get up off the sofa and do something else instead. I aimed to create a more balanced “recipe” for my day that was less like a Worst Burger (unenjoyable and without purpose or direction) and more Like an Ideal Burger (bringing present enjoyment and fulfillment for the future).

This realisation created a bit of a “Light bulb” moment for me.

The book “Happier” outlined clearly that proof showed that happy people, living happy and calm lives tend to engage in activities that provide both present enjoyment and future filfillment.

This made me realise that I had recently been living under the misconception and false belief that the answer to my feelings of overwhelm was complete rest and in-action everytime I got some time to myself.

I falsely believed I needed to stop completely and rest in order to save up energy for when my family needed me at other times of the day.

I now realised that the actual answer to my overwhelming feelings and my proper route towards a calm daily life, actually involved taking appropriate action in an enjoyable and balanced way so that I could enjoy my days at home alone and gain fulfillment by achieving some the the tasks and completing some of the jobs that needed to be done.

The problem I now faced was that I felt quite uncertain about how to get the balance right between getting the genuine rest that I sometimes needed and taking enjoyable purposeful action throughout the day in a healthy balanced way.

I found an episode of the “Mother Like A Boss” Podcast that was really insightful and pointed me in the right direction to help solve this dilemma. I have outlined the helpful discussion points from this Podcast below.

Getting the Balance Right: How To Recognise the Warning Signs That “Resting” Has Turned Into a Destructive Habit.

We now know that we tend to pursue such activities as watching television, screen time or other Hedonistic activities as a reaction to having spent too much time focused on our future goals and involving ourselves in Rat Racer activities. We switch over to these Hedonistic activities in pursuit of happiness and in the name of giving ourselves “grace”, taking time to “rest” and “self-care”.

Self-Care is extremely important and there are busy seasons when we need to take extra care of oursleves and make sure we take adequate rest. At such times we thoroughly deserve to give oursleves some “Grace”. Watching an enjoyable T.V. show can be beneficial in allowing us to rest and experience some present enjoyment. Surely, there is nothing wrong with that?

I am certainly not an advocate for giving up our screens altogether, so how can we get the balance right?

How can we recognise the warning signs of when the balance has been tipped from genuine Self-Care, Rest and Grace towards becoming a Destructive Habit?

In The “Mother Like A Boss” Podcast (Episode 025), called “When Grace Becomes an Excuse”, Kendra Hennessy addresses this topic perfectly.

If you feel you need a pep talk in this area, I would highly recommend listening to this Podcast Episode. (The Podcast Episode details can be found at motherlikeaboss.com/podcastdirectory, under the “Mindest” Heading).

A smart phone screen showing a Directory of Podcasts in a Podcast App. One of the Podcasts shown is "Mother Like a Boss" - The Podcast - in the top right hand corner of the phone screen.

In this Episode Kendra Hennessy explains that we often start off by giving ourselves Grace in an area of our lives and then really over time it morphs into “one big giant excuse”.

She outlines three main indicators we should consider when looking for the warning signs that a period of Grace has in fact morphed into an excuse: –

  1. Misunderstanding the true definitition of “Grace” and defining something as a period of “Grace” when it is not Grace at all.
  2. The length of time the period of “Grace” has lasted.
  3. How we feel about the activities we are pursuing in the name of “Grace”.

What is the True Definition of “Grace” in this Context?

Kendra Hennessy believes Mums are prone to allowing periods of Grace to morph into “one big giant excuse” because Mums swing so far over on the pendulums from perfectionism on one side to perfectionism on the other.

On the one side, Mums set about trying to do “all-the-things” and to get everything done in a perfectionist way. They then swing to the other side and in a perfectionist way try to achieve the perfect amount of rest or the perfect period of Grace.

Mums are defining this other extreme side of the pendulum as a period of Grace. In fact, what they are achieving on this opposite side of the pendulum is not Grace at all.

Kendra Hennessy explains that “Grace” is actually that “beautiful middle ground” in between. A place where Mums do not need to be perfect, do not need to do “all-the-things” and do not need anybody else to see them as perfect. It is a place where Mums can just do what makes them comfortable. They can try as hard as they can but know when to stop, feel ok with that and not feel badly about it.

Therefore, Kendra Hennessy agrees with the ideas set out in the book “Happier“. She agrees that happiness and wellbeing come, not from completely joining in the Rat Race, nor from completely turning to Hedonism. Instead, happiness and wellbeing are found as a mixture of the two somewhere in between, where Grace trully lives.

In that “beautiful middle ground”, where grace trully lives we can create a life which mixes present enjoyment, happiness and wellbeing with a sense of pursuing our future purpose. In that “beautiful middle ground”, we can pursue that life in a way that we feel comfortable with and in a way which protects our wellbing during the process.

So, true Grace would be allowing ourselves to amend our schedules to achieve slightly less than normal during a busy time. If we were trully giving ourselves grace we would accept, without guilt, that doing that lesser amount of work is enough and would feel OK about it.

For example, it might be a day when we would usually do lots of washing, including washing all of the bed clothes and towels along with other loads. On such a day we might instead, during a busy season, choose to set the washing machine going to wash only one essential load of clothes that day. We might then sit on the sofa and fold some clean and dry clothes that are already waiting to be put away, while watching our favourite T.V. show. If we were trully giving ourselves Grace we would not feel guilty about doing this alternative amount of washing, we would accept without guilt that the lesser amount of washing is enough.

It is only when we start to use Grace as a reason not to do anything at all that we can fall into a trap. Doing nothing at all is not true Grace. It is in fact using Grace as an excuse. By the point we have stopped doing anything at all, we are no longer in that “beautiful middle ground” and have instead swung too far over on the pendulum towards the pursuit of perfectionist Hedonism.

If we find ourselves doing nothing at all of what we plan to do each day, this should be the first warning sign that we are now moving away from Resting or giving ourselves Grace and are instead making an excuse and slipping into a Destructive Habit.

How Long Should a Period of Grace Last?

We can end up extending Grace beyond the time that it is actually needed. If a period of Grace extends for too long, this is a warning sign that it has turned into an excuse.

Kendra Hennessy gives the following example of when you should recognise such a warning sign. She says:

“If you have been saying you have been acting a certain way because you are in a busy season and that has been going on for two years, that is not a season anymore it has become your life and grace has become an excuse”.

Once saying we are “Resting” or that we are giving ourselves “Grace” has moved beyond a temporary period or passing season and has gone on so long that it has become our life, the balance has been tipped. By this point we are making an excuse to do nothing and falling into a Destructive Habit.

How Should Taking a Period of Grace Feel?

Kendra also gives some very useful indicators of how to recognise the different feelings we will experience during periods of true Grace in comparison to when we are making an excuse.

She explains Grace feels light and good. It comes from a loving place and does not require any justification. It gives us a sense of peace and permission not to be a perfectionist.

On the contrary, she explains, excuses feel heavy. Excuses require justification. They are an attempt to rationalise something we know we should not be doing. We will just know in our hearts that they do not feel good.

So, once an activity becomes heavy and starts to require justification, that is another warning sign that we have started making excuses and are slipping into a Destructive Habit.

Applying the Three Warning Signs to My Screen Time Habits

Having learned why T.V. was so appealing to me in my circumstances as a Mum and having learned how to recognise the Warning Signs of when a period of Grace has morphed into an excuse and is becoming a Destructive Habit, I applied this knowledge to my own screen habits. I came to the following conclusions: –

My T.V. Viewing Habits Did Not Fit the Definition of Grace

During the period while I was watching extended hours of T.V. for days at a time, I felt tired, weary and incapable of making a start on my jobs without “resting” first.

I was choosing to spend my “rest time” watching television.

In the moment I thought it made me feel better and I believed I was giving myself “Grace” and rewarding myself with “self-care” during a difficult and challenging time.

During a trully busy time, we might choose to take a break to watch T.V. for a short period of time. For example, by watching a short half an hour T.V. programme that we have chosen to watch because it is our favourite show and we enjoy it.

We might choose to view this show while having our morning coffee and, in order to watch the whole show, we might sit for slightly longer than normal. In doing so we might know that we will complete slightly less of our planned household tasks than normal.

Watching the T.V. show would be trully resting and giving ourselves Grace if: –

  • We feel light while watching and enjoy the show without feeling guilty.
  • After the show has finished, we return to doing any household tasks we can in the time remaining.
  • Following our break, we feel OK about the lesser amount of work we will achieve.
  • We do not feel the need to justify our actions and screen time to others.

This kind of T.V. viewing could contribute to our happiness and help us lead a calm way of life.

I realised this was not the kind of T.V. viewing I was partaking in. I was not choosing specific or enjoyable programmes to watch, I was not specifically limiting the time I was sitting on the sofa in front of the T.V. and I was not achieving anything particularly purposeful around my T.V. viewing each day. I felt guilty about my habits and to ease my guilt I would often find myself explaining to others why I had not got many things done. I was basically using my T.V viewing as an excuse to stop completely and do nothing at all.

According to the book Happier this type of screen viewing amounted to the equivilent of a “Worst Burger” and according to Kendra Hennessy this was not trully giving myself Grace . My T.V. habit had morphed into a giant excuse, swung way too far over to the extreme on the pendulum and therefore fell way outside of the “beautiful middle ground” where true Grace lives.

In fact, I realised that what I was doing was using the watching of television as the perfect excuse to avoid starting the jobs that needed to be done. This perfect excuse and avoidance played into my perfectionist mindset and aided my tendancy to procrastinate.

Ironically, I realised that when I was at University I always did lots of house cleaning tasks when an essay deadline was approaching.

Back then, when my perfectionist tendancies took over, I used cleaning as a tool to procrastinate from the overwhelming task of starting an important essay.

Now as a mum, when I really needed to get on and clean the house, cleaning had become the overwhelming task that I was avoiding.

The perfectionist in me was telling me that, if I could not get it all done, there was no point in doing anything at all. So, now I was using the T.V. as a tool to aid in my procrastination and avoid cleaning instead!!

This kind of T.V. viewing did not fit the definition of Grace. This was the first warning sign that my T.V. viewing was becoming a destructive habit.

My T.V. Viewing Continued Long Beyond the Time-Frame of a Genuine “Busy Season”

I also began to realise that I was allowing the time frame of my “busy season” and “Grace period ” to extend way beyond the period it should.

Yes, when my son first started at school I felt exhausted from the years that had gone before and needed a bit of space and time to rest.

Yes, we had some really difficult mornings on a fairly regular basis during that early school period.

However, we also had some comparably good days along with the bad days.

As time went on, I was getting more time to myself and I should have accepted and recognised that I was entering a less busy season during the school day.

However, I was continuing on with my belief that I still needed complete rest during the school day. I was telling myself I was giving myself Grace by resting in this way. I continued to tell myself this day after day, week after week and, if I am honest, school term after school term!!

Using the warning signs pointed out by Kendra Hennessy, I had to accept that I had extended my period of rest way beyond its natural time frame. This was not a season anymore, it had become my life and Grace had become an excuse.

My T.V. viewing that had started out as a restful activity had now turned into an excuse that was stopping me from moving on from my busy season. This was the second warning sign that I was slipping into a destructive habit.

My T.V. Viewing Felt Heavy not Light

When I was partaking in screen time in this way, I had to acknowledge that it felt heavy.

I often felt anxious and unhappy while watching and it did not increase my energy levels or help me to get things done.

I already felt like I did not have enough hours in the day to get all of my jobs done. I knew the hours while my son was at school were precious for getting those things done. However, I was allowing the watching of T.V. to delay and distract me. It was my tool in the ultimate act of avoidance. I was avoiding starting “all-the-things” and this was leaving me worried, anxious and embarrassed about everything that was left undone around the house. This definitely felt very, very heavy.

This was the final warning sign that watching television was becoming a destructive habit.

The activity of watching T.V. had become an excuse for not doing the things that needed to be done. It had become a destructive influence on my day, my life and my wellbeing. This activity was no longer restful, it was not an act of Self-Care and I was not engaging in a genuine “Period of Grace”.

I definitely had not got the balance right. I had not found that “beautiful middle ground” and I was far from creating my “Ideal Burger” of happiness. I realised I needed to take action to change that.

Finding My “Beautiful Middle Ground” and Creating My “Ideal Burger” of Happiness

I now realised that solely seeking out pleasure, distraction and “Rest” was not the answer and I needed to find my “beautiful middle ground” and create my “Ideal Burger” in order to feel happy and calm within myself and as a Mum.

To do this, I realised I needed to abandon the “Rat Racer” style of living. I needed to stop going completely flat-out sometimes at the expense of having periods of complete collapse from exhaustion at others. Abandoning these extremes would avoid and address my tendancy to over-indulge in Hedonistic screen watching at times when I was able to “stop”.

My “beautiful middle ground” would instead be found by creating a balanced, rhythmic way of achieving my aims and purpose. One which was life-giving rather than exhausting and draining.

I could only achieve the calm purposeful day I wanted by keeping my screen time to a minimum, choosing my T.V. viewing VERY wisely and switching the T.V. off at other times of the day to take purposeful action around my home.

My Final Motivation For Change – Modelling Good Behaviour For My Son

I also realised that by changing MY habits in this way I would be modelling good screen habits (and habits in general) for my son.

I would be showing him that screens can be used in moderation and for enjoyment.

I would be showing him that screens do not need to have a “power” over your day or negatively impact your life.

I would be showing him that we do not need to constantly chase future goals of perfection in a frantic manner at the expense of our personal wellbeing in the present moment.

I would be showing him that we do not need to live a life where we swing from one extreme of “exhausting action” to the other extreme of “complete collapse”.

I would be showing him that we do not need to live a life filled with destructive habits, excuses, procrastination, perfectionism, guilt, worry and anxiety.

Instead, I would be showing him how to utilise modern screens and techology in a healthy, life affirming, sensible way, while living a balanced, fulfilled, calm life beyond our screens.

I would be modelling a life where (as much as possible) we can pursue our purpose, find enjoyment and thrive in each current moment of our day-to-day lives.

It was this final realisation that gave me the big final push that I needed to start changing my screen time habits for the future.

The Steps I Have Taken to Change My T.V. Viewing Habits and Create My Calm Balanced Day

A bedside table set up with a clock radio alarm clock, a mug of coffee on a coaster and a Hymalayan salt lamp at the back corner of the bedside table. This shows a bedside table all set up for  someone to drink a cup of coffee, set an alarm, listen to the radio and settle down for a short daytime nap.

In order to put all that I have learned into practice, I have taken the following steps: –

  1. I Made A Decision
    • I made the decision to change my habits and spend my days differently.
  2. I Learned to Pause + Assess My Needs
    • I learned to pause and assess my needs each day. I learned to be honest with myself about when I was trully tired and the times when I trully needed Grace or to Rest.
    • I learned to recognise the days when I was just making excuses to avoid taking action.
  3. What I Do When I Am Genuinely Tired
    • Now, when I am genuinely tired, I properly address my tiredness by giving myself permission to go and take a short nap in bed.
    • I leave the curtains open, so I am not tempted to sleep for too long.
    • I have a coffee just before my nap because I have read that drinking the coffee supposedly helps you to wake up and feel alert after your short nap.
    • I set my clock radio alarm for 20-30 minutes and take a nap until my alarm goes off (Sometimes listening to the radio while I nap).
    • This is true rest. In my most exhausted moments, I am giving my body what it actually needs. I am, therefore, boosting my energy levels after my nap to do other things.
    • Giving myself the permission to actually sleep (rather than moping on the sofa in front of the T.V. in a way that made me feel more lethargic) is less time consuming in the long run and actually makes me feel better and ready to get things done afterwards.
  4. What I Do If I am Not Tired But Need To Pause
    • If I am not tired but feel I need a moment to pause and stop my head from spinning, I take a break for some “me time”.
    • On those occasions, I might allow myself some guilt-free time in front of the television. For example, I might do this on the first day that I have some time to myself after my son goes back to school after a long school holiday.
    • I set a specific time limit on how long I will spend watching.
    • I choose what I watch very carefully to ensure it is something that is trully enjoyable, restful and worthwhile.
    • During my viewing time I make plans for how to productively spend my time after my restful viewing period is over.
    • I make sure that when my self-imposed time limit is up, I return to my normal habits and routines as quickly as possible so as to avoid slipping back into any destructive screen time habits.
  5. What I Do on “Normal” Days to Get Things Done (With the T.V. On)
    • On other “normal” days when I plan to get on and get things done, I think very carefully before I decide to put the T.V. on at all.
    • If I do decide to turn on the television, I make sensible choices about what I watch.
    • I realised that the News and Discussion programmes I was previously choosing to watch were particularly destructive to my day.
    • I realised these programmes (that go on for hours and last all morning!!) were too time consuming and designed to draw you in to watch the whole show.
    • I realised the content of these programmes was also having a negative impact and my mindset. These shows were generally pointing out all the bad things happening in the world. They would often cast judgements on choices people make in their lives, such as: being a stay-at-home mum; being a working mum; how much screen time you should allow your children to have; how much exercise your child should take; what families should be eating and; what we should think about those who are at home and have time to watch daytime television at all !! I would get all caught up in these issues, often feeling judged, angry or wanting in my own life choices. This was detrimental to my self-esteem.
    • I realised these programmes were distracting my energy towards issues out of my control and away from my own life, my own home and the tasks that I really wanted to be doing each day.
    • I learned to watch other Programmes instead.
    • Now I watch specifically chosen favourite programmes on catch-up T.V. or I watch familiar DVDs that I can leave running in the lounge while I move about the house. If a programme is familiar or can be paused or rewound, it means that I can dip in and out of my viewing without worrying I am missing anything important or losing the plot. This frees me up to do jobs while I watch.
    • I choose inspiring programmes that motivate me to get started on my household jobs. For example, I like Costume Dramas which show people living their lives in beautifully clean, tidy homes and wearing beautiful clothes. Such programmes display the kind of orderly home and peaceful life that I aspire to achieve for myself and my family. These programmes encourage and inspire me to get on with my washing and cleaning. These programmes, which often have beautiful classical music sound tracks, also create a peaceful, positive atmosphere in my home while I work.
    • These specifically chosen programmes help me to achieve a more positive mindset as I go about my day.
  6. What I Do on “Normal” Days to Encourage Me To Switch the T.V. off + Get Things Done
    • I soon realised that, on most days, I needed to switch the T.V. off completely and find alternative entertainment and company around the house.
    • I do not want to feel tied to the lounge or to my screens. So, I have started listening to inspriational Podcasts and upbeat,energetic, happy music that I can sing-a-long to instead.
    • I choose Podcasts that are aimed at Mums and those who wish to create calm lives and homes for themselves and their families. The “Mother Like A Boss” Podcast, that I have referred to in detail above, is one of my favourite Podcasts of this kind. These Podcasts help me to maintain a positive mindset and inspire me to take action throughout my day.
    • I can cast my Podcasts to my Google Home speaker to listen while I fold laundry or dust. I can play them directly through my phone’s speaker while preparing food in the kitchen or emptying the dishwasher. I can also put my earbuds in so that I can listen while I move freely around the house and even outside into the garden if I wish to do so.
    • I choose Music that gives me energy and that brings back good memories for me. Singing along (or dancing along!!) with familiar and favourite songs is one of the very best ways I have found to make me smile, lift my mood and energise me to get jobs done.
  7. I Have Created Simple Routines
    • When planning what to do around the house (instead of lounging in front of the television!) I have made sure that I keep my plans and household routines simple.
    • I try not to be a perfectionist about it or set my expectations for my day too high.
    • I only plan to do a few things each day.
    • By planning my days in this way, I hope that my routines will be achievable each day, will not drain my energy too much and will therefore be sustainable for the foreseeable future.
    • Instead of seeing housework as a race to the finish, I do not expect to get everything done each day. I see household tasks as an ongoing process which will always be a part of my life.
    • By accepting that there will always be more to do around the house, I can stop after completing a few tasks without feeling guilty.
    • Setting realisitic expectations protects my wellbeing, helps me to feel calm while I work throughout the day and stops me from trying to do too much in anyone day. This helps me to avoid experiencing periods of exhaustion and lessens the chance of me falling back into my old destructive screen time habits.
  8. I Plan Genuine Social Contact with Family and Friends
    • Instead of relying on television and screens for social contact during my week-days at home alone, I give myself permission to actually make proper plans to meet up with Family and Friends.
    • I make plans to meet friends for coffee on a certain day.
    • I invite family around to visit.
    • Even if I am not meeting up with friends and family, instead of spending my time randomly scrolling social media, I take time to text, phone and keep in contact with my real life friends, family and community.
    • Having these plans and dates in my diary to look forward to motivate me to take positive action on jobs that need doing when I am at home alone at other times.
A Google Home Screen showing the logo  for the Pocket Casts App. Pocket Casts is an app to play Podcasts on. This shows someone casting a Podcast to their Google Home speaker so they can listen while at home.

Having implemented these steps, I have started to make much better use of my days at home.

I feel less worried, anxious and guilty. I am less tired and I am achieving more of the tasks I wish to do each day.

I now feel like I am setting a much better example for my son of how to use screens and technology. I am also able to be a calm Mum to him when he returns home from school each day.

I am no longer using television and screens as an escape from reality or an excuse. I am now only watching my screens when I am trully enjoying them. In addition, I have rediscovered old hobbies (listening to the radio and listening to music) and discovered new ones (listening to Podcasts). This adds enjoyable variety to my days at home.

Hopefully, now that I have taken these steps, my son will learn good habits from me. I hope he will learn to put screens and technology in their rightful place and use them as an enjoyable part of a calm, balanced, varied and happy life.

A smart phone resting on a table with some ear-buds plugged in ready for use. This shows how you can set your phone up to listen to Podcasts while you are on the go around the house or if you wish to step out into the garden.

I hope that sharing my own journey relating to television and screens will help others who struggle in this area.

If you try out any of the ideas I have detailed above, please let me know how you get on and whether any of them have a positive impact on your life and wellbeing.

I would also love to hear from you about any destructive habits you have fallen into or excuses you have made in the name of Grace and Rest.

Has there been a particular period in your life when you feel you were particularly vulnerable to the power of television and screens or to making excuses in the name of Grace and Rest?

Do you struggle to manage your own screen time? Have you managed to overcome destructive screen time habits? If so, it would be great to hear any tips you have on how to overcome such habits?

Do you find certain kinds of screen time more detrimental to your wellbeing than others? If so, do you have any good advice on carefully choosing what to watch?

How do you try to set a good example to your children in the use of screens and modern technology?

I look forward to reading any comments and tips you can share on these topics.

In the meantime, I hope some of you reading will have been inspired to “switch off your telvision set and . . . do something less boring instead”!!

How Creating a Calming Morning Snack Can Help You Have a Good Day

Calm Body – Calm Mind

A small Ramekin, seated on a colourful coaster,  filled with a tasty looking snack. The snack contains a selection of fresh fruit, dried fruit, nuts, seeds and chocolate.

By choosing the right foods we can get our bodies back to a place of calm, so that both physically and emotionally we are much better equipped to deal with whatever life has in store.”

Eat Yourself Calm, by Gill Paul (Published by Hamlyn 2014) – page 6

There was a time shortly after my Son started in Reception Class at Primary School when I would return home after dropping him off at school, collapse on the sofa, curl up under a blanket, watch T.V. and “treat” myself to a morning snack (or snacks!!). All the while, telling myself I was having a well deserved rest.

Each day at this time I would feel so wrung out and emotional from the stresses and strains of taking my reluctant, worried and anxious Son to school that I felt I had no energy to do anything else.

Every weekday morning I felt that I just needed to rest my body on the sofa for a while.

I felt that I needed to distract my mind from spiralling into uncontrollable worry about how my Son was coping at school. I wanted to take my mind off the idea that I had left my Son at school feeling alone, unhappy and upset and I believed daytime T.V. and snacks were the answer.

I was often very hungry at this time of day but lacked the enthusiasm or energy to prepare myself any proper food. To ease my hunger and my emotional discomfort, I would grab for quick and easy snacks from the cupboard. I would choose anything that was comforting and suitable for eating on the sofa.

During this period of time I got into the bad habit of “rewarding” myself with sugar and caffeine fuelled drinks and snacks such as cups of tea and coffee, biscuits, milk chocolate and crisps.

I would tell myself that I would just rest and watch T.V. for a little while before starting all the jobs around the house I planned to do. What actually happened was, I would end up camping-out on the sofa for far too long, eating far too many snacks and drinking too much tea and coffee.

However, it didn’t matter how many cups of tea or coffee I drank, or how long I sat on the sofa, I didn’t feel anymore awake or energetic than when I first arrived home after school drop off.

Instead of giving me the boost I needed after my diffcult morning, my T.V. and snacking habit would drain me further and leave me feeling bloated and lethargic. These physical feelings would be accompanied by emotional feelings of guilt, shame and failure. A feeling that I had wasted the day and not achieved the things I wanted to achieve during my precious daytime hours alone at home.

Every day I repeated this habit I sunk deeper and deeper into a sluggish, unmotivated way of thinking and behaving. This habit was not good for me, not good for my family and not good for our home.

One day I finally realised that what was intended to be a moment of self-care and rest for me had, in fact, become a destructive habit creating the absolute opposite effect. It was sapping my energy, making me feel bad about myself and setting me up for failure.

I realised that I was longing to feel more energetic, motivated and productive during my mornings at home and that I therefore needed to change how I was spending my time.

I concluded that a great first step to feeling better each day would be to improve the food I was eating at that time of day. I decided to be more intentional about when and what I would eat and drink during the morning.

I came up with a new snack designed to help my body and mind feel calm, which has now become fondly known as my “snack pot” amongst my family at home.

I also decided to drink different drinks throughout the morning to help boost my energy levels and treat my body better.

Since changing my snacking habits my mood and energy levels are much improved. I, therefore, feel more capable and motivated to do household jobs during the morning.

Once I get started on the jobs, momentum carries me along so that, no matter how tired I might be feeling from lack of sleep or family circumstances, I achieve much more than I ever did before.

This in turn makes me feel less guilty and improves my self-esteem and overall wellbeing. I then feel better still and able to do even more, thus creating a domino effect of improvements to my day.

One simple, intentional change in my snacking habits has led to a long list of beneficial changes to my day. It allows me to have a good day where once I would have had a bad day.

If this habit, described above, of “snacking and sofa-hugging” sounds familiar, you may wish to read on and find out more details about how I intentionally designed my new morning snack and vastly improved my day.

However, before you read on, I should make one disclaimer. I am not an expert in any shape or form and have no medical or dietary qualifications. So, the information I have compiled below is simply an honest account of my own personal experience based on research I carried out for myself at home.

I am not suggesting that everybody should start eating exactly the same “snack pot” as me. On the contrary, I am suggesting that each individual will need to work out the exact foods that will work for them. Everyone will need to take account of their own needs, problems, health issues, allergy profiles and dietary requirements.

By sharing my experience, I only hope to inspire you to make a simple, intentional change and design a morning snack for yourself that will help you to get off the sofa and have a good day too.

How I Designed My Intentionally Calming Morning Snack

When I began to research the kind of foods and drinks that might be more helpful and appropriate for me to eat, my aim was to design an easy-to-prepare snack that would create a feeling of calm within me but also give myself the energy and motivation to have a productive morning around the house.

Choosing Appropriate Drinks to Stay Hydrated

A pint glass (of a traditional design with a handle - the kind typically used for serving beer) sitting on a colourful coaster on a kitchen worktop. The pint glass is filled with water and topped with a green and white striped drinking straw. The drink of water looks visually appealing and refreshing.

I was already aware that dehydration can have a negative impact on stress, anxiety and energy levels. I was also fully aware that too much caffiene is not good for you especially if you are feeling tense, worried or anxious. So, the first decision I made was to try to drink more water throughout the morning and drink less tea and coffee.

I decided I would start to fetch a pint of water in a glass as soon as I arrived home after school drop-off and would treat myself to a stripey paper straw in the glass, so that I could regularly top up my water levels throughout the morning. Since starting this, a good alternative habit I have created, to keep myself motivated throughout the cold winter months (when I often cannot face drinking lots of cold water!), is to boil a kettle and drink mugs of hot water instead.

I did not plan to cut out caffiene completely. I decided instead to limit myself to 4 cups of tea and 1 cup of coffee per day (preferably all consumed before 5pm in the evening).

I had read that some recent research suggests that drinking a limited amount of black coffee can possibly help to improve your mood. So, I planned to drink my one cup of black coffee each day with my morning snack to try and give me a positive mood boost when I needed it most.

Choosing Appropriate Foods For My Morning Snack

Foods to Exclude From My Snack

When it came to picking foods for my snack, I decided, as a starting point, to make it a snack that did not contain Gluten, Milk or Soya.

When you check food labels and read about food groups and special diets, Gluten, Milk and Soya are all common food groups that some individuals can struggle to digest due to autoimmune disease, allergies or food intolerances.

I am aware that my Dad is Coeliac. Coeliac Disease is defined as an autoimmune disease in which the immune system starts to attack and destroy healthy tissue – the villi of the gut. The trigger for this destruction is eating Gluten. Gluten is found in grains, such as Wheat, Barley and Rye and is also contained in most processed foods. So, those who have Coeliac Disease have to completely avoid these foods (The wording of this definition is borrowed from the book “The Clever Guts Diet, How to Revolutionise your body from the inside out” by Dr Michael Mosley, Short Books 2017 – p39).

Coeliac Disease can run in families. While I am not a diagnosed Coeliac, I have always felt that bread in particular does not always suit me well. So, I felt when designing a snack to calm my body it would be sensibile to avoid Gluten which could potentially be problematic in my family.

There is also evidence that Milk and Soya may not suit our family well either. My Son has seen a dietician and has a suspected intolerance to the proteins contained in Milk and Soya, which means he now avoids these food groups to maintain a healthy digestive system.

There is evidence that those prone to Eczema are more likely to have allergies or intolerances to Milk. At times in my life I have suffered quite badly with Eczema. So with both Eczema and Milk/Soya intolerance in our family, I also thought it would be sensible to avoid these food groups when designing my ideal snack to calm and energise my body.

Please note, I did not cut Gluten, Milk and Soya out of my diet completely and would eat these foods at other times. I just decided to leave it out of my morning snack each day. This time of day was a pivitol time for me. A time of day when I was trying to take particular care of my mind, body and energy levels.

I would not recommend that any individual completely cuts out any entire food group from their diet without first seeking medical advice. When an entire food group is cut out completely, medical practicioners and dieticians will give advice to ensure that the restricted diet still provides all necessary nutrients and they may recommend specific suppliments to help provide nutrients. So a big change of diet of that nature would always require expert advice.

However, when you are designing your own ideal morning snack it may be worth considering any problematic food groups that yourself and other close family members have struggled with. You may then consider avoiding the inclusion of these food groups in your morning snack to see if the exclusion of those items at that time of day helps you feel better.

Foods To Include In My Snack

A handwritten note of snack ideas. The note lists ideas for Hydration, Foods to Exclude and foods to Include. The handwritten note demonstrates the thought process undertaken  when designing the morning snack. The information contained in this handwritten note is also covered in the main text of the blog post.

Having decided what foods to exclude from my snack, I now had to decide upon the foods I should include instead.

It was when researching suitable snacking foods that I came across the book “Eat Yourself Calm”by Gill Paul, Published by Hamlyn, 2014 (Please note, from now on in this post, I will refer to this book as “the book”).

I found the book extremely useful when designing my own morning snack. I would highly recommend it to others who wish to research choosing suitable foods to include in a calming morning snack (As I always say, there are no affilliate links here, this is just a genuinely personal recommendation of a book I have found very helpful).

The book is set out really simply and is easy to read and understand. It is not a time consuming read and you can quickly discover which foods you might like to try eating to help yourself feel calm.

The introduction explains how choosing the right foods can help get our bodies “back to a place of calm“. The author explains how there are lots of foods that “positively support all the body systems during periods of stress and target symptoms that accompany stress”. As the title of the book would suggest, the author believes this means “we can literally eat ourselves calm.”

The next section of the book outlines foods that are considered to be “calm superfoods” and outlines the benefits of eating each of those foods.

There follows a very useful section that is designed to help you identify any particular probelms or symptoms you might be experiencing as a result of ongoing stress. Once you have identified your personal problems the book lists foods that are particularly useful to relieve those problems or symptoms. The book even provides some recipes for meals and snacks that are designed to address each of the listed problems and symptoms.

Having read the book, I was able to identify that I was experiencing the following problems and symptoms:

  • Headaches
  • Muscle Tension
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Mood Swings
  • Unhappiness
  • Sleep Problems
  • Low Energy

Someone else reading the book would have had many other categories they could have identified instead. For example, dizziness, digestive problems, breathlessness or frequent colds.

Having identified my own problems and symptoms to address, I was then able to select suitable foods or recipes from the correct category lists to create my own snack which would include very intentionally chosen foods. A reader who had identified different problematic categories would have been offered different foods and recipes to choose from.

Some readers of the book may wish to turn straight to the recipe section and make and eat the recipes suggested for their categories of problems and symptoms. I, however, decided not to select actual snack recipes from the book as all of the recipes required a certain amount of preparation which I did not feel was appropriate to my circumstances.

I wanted the new snack to be as easy to grab from the cupboard as the crisps, biscuits and chocolate that I used to eat had been. I hoped that making the new snack extremely easy to grab and prepare would ensure that my new snacking habit would be easy to implement and sustain. Therefore, I compiled myself a list of possible appropariate foods for my snack as follows: –

  • Headaches – Nuts, Apricots, Seeds
  • Muscle tension – Almonds
  • Irritability – Dark Chocolate, Cashew Nuts
  • Anxiety – Brazil Nuts, Almonds, Dark Chocolate
  • Mood Swings – Dark Chocolate, Almonds
  • Unhappiness – Seeds, Brazil Nuts, Dark Chocolate, Apricots
  • Sleep Problems – Grapes, Seeds, Almonds
  • Low Energy – Sesame Seeds, Almonds

From that list I came up with the following foods to include in a “snack pot” each morning: –

The book "Eat Yourself Calm" which was used to research the morning snack is placed on a table with a notebook and pen. These items are accompanied by a mug of black coffee and a Ramekin containing the morning snack pot. The front cover of the book "Eat Yourself Calm" is shown clearly for ease of recognition, should the reader wish to search out the book for themselves.
  • Grapes (both red and green)
  • Dried Apricots (preferably organic and brown to keep my snack as natural as possible, rather than the bright orange ones which have been treated with the preservative sulphur dioxide)
  • Dark Chocolate (85% cocoa, with no soya or milk contained in the ingredients)
  • Mixed nuts (to include Almonds, Brazil Nuts and Cashew Nuts)
  • Sesame Snaps

As you can see, this “snack pot” is made up entirely of foods I can grab straight from the cupboard and the most preparation required of me is to wash a couple of grapes and place it all together in a small pot or Ramekin. Perfectly simple!

This may seem extremely simple after all the build up!! However, this little pot of food, when accompanied by my morning cup of black coffee, was carefully designed to achieve a large combination of things: –

  • My “Snack Pot” was satisfying to eat and still felt like a treat.
    • The snack pot contained a mixture of sweet and savoury flavours and a mixture of textures.
    • I was still getting to eat some chocolate, so I did not feel I was missing out there!!
    • The sesame snaps were a good replacement for biscuits as they were crunchy and sweet. The juicy grapes and the sweet dried apricots also added sweetness to the snack too.
    • The nuts were crunchy and savoury which were a good replacement for crisps.
    • The snack pot was made up of lots of small mouthfuls which took a reasonable amount of time to eat. So sitting down to eat the snack provided me with a good break and time to relax.
    • Also, very importantly, the “snack pot” tasted nice alongside a cup of black coffee which lots of healthy snacks do not.
  • The “snack pot” is so simple and so easy to prepare that it can be taken on days out or to work
    • I can place all the items in a small tupperware pot with a lid and take it with me in my handbag with a bottle of water. Then all I need to do is buy a black coffee from a cafe while I am out and I am all set to have my calming morning snack while I am out and about.
    • My partner takes this “snack pot” to work with him. It is so simple to prepare that I can prepare it for him quickly while I am preparing my son’s school lunchbox as part of my early morning routine. Having this snack pot ready and prepared with him, helps to stop him from snacking on junk food while at work.
A handbag is packed and ready for leaving the house and is placed on the kitchen worktop along with a travel water bottle and a plastic snack pot. This demonstrates that the morning snack and drink can be easily transported in a handbag for days out, work or when travelling.
  • All the items included in my “snack pot” were Gluten, Dairy and Soya free.
    • When buying items for my “snack pot”, the only item I had to take care with was the dark chocolate. Some dark chocolates contain both milk and Soya or just Soya, so you have to check the label before you buy. If you look for high quality (often organic) dark chocolate containing at least 70% cocoa solids, the chocolate is less likely to contain Milk or Soya. You always have to check the label when buying a new brand if you want to be sure. I usually buy dark chocolate with at least 85% Cocoa Solids for my snack.
  • My “Snack Pot” was an intentionally small and light snack.
    • When reading the book it became clear that in order to “eat yourself calm” it was important to eat regular small snacks and meals in order to keep your blood sugar as steady as possible and prevent that sluggish feeling. So my little “snack pot” – A couple of grapes, 1 -2 squares of dark chocolate, a small handful of mixed nuts, a couple of dried apricots and a few broken off bits of sesame snaps – seemed ideal in size.
  • My “snack pot” would deliver some antioxidant vitamins (A, C and E) : –
    • Antioxidants help to boost the immune system and protect the body from the damaging effects of long-term stress.
    • Fruits and vegetables with the brightest colours have the highest antioxidant levels. So, eating two different coloured grapes (red and green), along with Apricots (which add a third brightly coloured fruit to the mix) would hopefully deliver some of this benficial antixoidant goodness.
  • My “snack pot” contained a number of the foods identified in the book as “Calm Superfoods”: –
    • Dark Chocolate, Brazil Nuts, Apricots, Grapes and Almonds are all listed in the book as Superfoods. The book describes Superfoods as “functional foods” that “support your health on all levels” (p12)
  • According to the book, each separate food contained in my “snack pot”, whether described as a Superfood or not, delivered a whole host of benefits. I have summarised the benefits described in the book below: –
    • Dark Chocolate – balances blood sugar, reduces stress hormones, lifts mood and boosts energy. It contains Magnesium which eases headaches and fatigue. It is the presence of Iron in the chocolate that evens mood and boosts energy.
    • Brazil Nuts – stabalise mood, improve energy levels and prevent anxiety. They also contain magnesium. In addition they contain Selenium, a mineral with a whole host of health benefits. The selenium helps to balance mood and prevent anxiety and depression. They also contain B vitamins which reduce the impact of stress on the mind and body.
    • Apricots – Ease muscle tension and headaches, protect against the damage caused by stress and boost energy. They contain high levels of magnesium. Magnesium is described in the book as the “anti-stress” mineral that decreases the release of cortisol. They also contain lots of iron to boost energy levels and fight against fatigue.
    • Grapes – Ease depression due to the presence of Manganese and Potassium. They also contain crucial vitamins, minerals and nutrients which can ease the impact of stress and ease headaches. Apparently, they are a traditional remedy for fatigue (the book suggests this is probably because of their high iron content).
    • Almonds – Stabilise blood sugar levels, boost energy levels and promote relaxation. Almonds contain more nutrients than any other nut. They contain Vitamin E (an antioxidant) and Zinc preventing the damage caused by stress and fighting the negative effects of stress. They contain B vitamins and Magnesium, both of these help produce serotonin, regulating mood. They also contain Calcium to promote restful sleep. Overall they are said to be an excellent source of Vitamin E, Calcium, Magnesium, Phospherus and Iron which all encourage a sense of calm.
    • Cashew Nuts – This third nut is included in my snack as this specific nut is listed in the book as being specifically helpful for feelings of irritability.
    • Sesame Snaps – Contain lots of Sesame Seeds. Sesame Seeds are specifically listed as a food that can help with feelings of low energy.

As you can see, while simple, this snack pot had the potential to do me lots of good and help me on my journey towards a calm and productive morning.

The Benefits I Have Found From My New Snack

Since getting in the habit of eating this new snack, I have felt a lot less bloated and more energetic. I do not keep going back to the cupboard to grab more and more snacks; I eat my breakfast and then I have my snack pot with a cup of coffee mid-morning and that is it. I find myself less inclined to sit on the sofa watching T.V. I get up and get on with the household jobs I want to do instead. So that, by the time I go to fetch my son from school, I feel satisfied that I have had a productive morning and therefore feel less guilty.

I feel much calmer because physically I feel better and much more able to function. I do not seem to suffer with headaches as much as I used to. I feel less lethargic and more energetic and, therefore, feel less irritable too.

Also, making the decision to be intentional and taking action to design my new snack and create a new routinefor myself has boosted my self-esteem and made me feel like I have accomplished something which has also added to the calm state of mind I now feel.

Overall, just deciding to switch this one snack of the day and taking the necessary action to make it happen has made me feel like a different person.

As an added bonus, researching what to include in my snack has given me lots of knowledge to draw upon when thinking about what to eat in other situations at other times of the day.

Having tried “eating myself calm” for a substantial period of time, I would recommend others take the time to intentionally think about the foods they are fuelling their bodies with, especially at pivitol times of the day because, from my experience, it can definitely have a real impact and help you feel calm.

I hope the information I have shared here is helpful and inspiring to anyone who feels they need a change or a boost to their day.

I would really like to hear from others whether they feel stressed or drained by certain foods. I would also be very interested to hear other suggestions for snacks or foods to eat to feel better, more calm and more able to have a good day.

I look forward to hearing from you with your experiences and suggestions. Until then, snack well and have a good day.

Creating a Calm Start to Each Day: How I Discovered the Benefits of Waking Up Earlier

Calm Mind – Calm Home – Calm Parent – Calm Child

A smart wrist watch showing the alarm symbol and the time of the morning wake up alarm set to the early hour of 5am . All set ready to help the person wearing the watch wake up earlier.

“If you want to change your entire life in one small change, wake up earlier.”

Allie Casazza (“The Purpose Show” Podcast – Episode 69)

I never thought I would find myself advocating getting up earlier in the morning. However, having made it a habit for a good number of months now, I can honestly say that I have discovered many benefits to waking up earlier and have come to enjoy my early morning time.

I have always been a definite night owl. A person who gets a second burst of energy and enthusiasm late at night and who likes to burn the midnight oil.

Given the slightest chance, I love to sleep in very late in the morning. I can sleep through anything but the loudest alarm clock and, having finally heard my alarm, I often press the snooze button multiple times while struggling to wake up and drag myself out from under the duvet. Especially on a cold morning!!

I am known for being a “bed-hugger”. So much so that, in my late teens, I was given the relevant gift of an ornamental sign that read; “I’d enjoy the day more if it started later”. Due to the ongoing truthfulness of this statement, the gifted sign went with me everywhere I lived for many years until it was unfortunately broken a while ago.

It goes without saying that one thing I have found very difficult about becoming a mum is the necessity to wake up early every day of the year with my son.

If someone had suggested to me a couple of years ago that the way I could feel less overwhelmed, more energetic, more purposeful and calm was to wake up even earlier!! I would have dismissed the idea completely and would have offered up many different excuses as to why it was not even possible for me to wake up any earlier than I already did.

If I can wake up earlier and see the benefits of it, I think anyone can!! So, if you are looking for one simple way to change how you feel and to improve what you accomplish each day, waking up earlier is definitely worth a try.

If you wish to give it a go and are looking for inspiration, you can read on to discover how, against all the odds, I managed to create the habit of waking up earlier and why I believe it is worth the effort to do so.

Why I Decided to Try Waking Up Earlier

If you have read about my family story in my introductory post (My Story: The “Why” Behind Creating Calm With Clare) and have read my post about creating calm mornings before school (Calmly Getting Ready For School When Your Child Will Not Go Willingly), you will already be aware that creating calm mornings for myself and my family is extremely important to me.

Changing my personal morning routine has allowed me to calmly prepare for each day and take some quiet time for myself. My earlier mornings have, therefore, been extremely influential in enabling me to fully contribute to a calm family morning in our household.

There were a couple of main reasons why I came to the conclusion that waking up earlier was the possible change I needed, particularly on weekday mornings before work and school.

1. Avoiding the Morning Rush and Creating Peaceful Evenings

First and foremost our term time mornings before school were often extremely rushed and stressful for all involved. My Partner commutes to work pretty early each day. My son often worries about school and for a long time was very reluctant to go to school. Therefore, it was very difficult for me to remain calm and get all the necessary jobs and preparations for school done once my son was up and awake.

Instead of rushing around and hurrying things along each morning, I wanted to enable my partner to set off for work in a good frame of mind and I wanted to spend quality time with my son before school and remain as calm, encouraging and supportive as possible.

I try to do as many preparations the night before as I can. However, my partner arrives home from work quite late each evening and my son has difficulties sleeping (due to worry and anxiety). Our night time routine is often pretty unpredictable and there is a limit to the number of tasks I can realistically achieve each evening. Overloading the evening routine just becomes an additional source of stress for us all and is not effective for our family. Keeping evening preparations more minimal allows for a more peaceful atmosphere during our family evenings at home.

I have, therefore, come to the conclusion that my best option is to make more time for preparations in the morning before the rest of the household wakes up.

2. Creating Quiet Time for Myself

My second main reason was that I felt I needed some proper guilt-free time to myself each day.

My partner and I struggle to find time and space for ourselves during a normal day. We find it difficult to make time to spend together as a couple. We also find little time and space for alone time, or doing our own thing. By the time my partner arrives home after his long working/commuting hours and by the time my son has managed to settle to sleep, evenings often feel pretty much non-existent to my partner and I.

Our son is an only child and likes to spend a lot of time with us during the day. During the evening and at night, our son does not settle to sleep easily and often does not sleep well throughout the whole of the night in general. He falls asleep late, requiring input from me to help him settle, and wakes up during the night to come into our room and seek out comfort and company to help him sleep.

I want to enjoy spending lots of time with my son while he is up and awake during the day. I also want to have the energy and patience to support him well as he tries to fall asleep each night. In order to be the enthusiastic and patient Mum I want to be each day, I need to find time to regualrly rest and recharge by myself.

As evenings and night time are not naturally restful for our family, I needed to find a suitable time of day to spend quietly alone. Once again, my conclusion was that early in the morning was the best time to do it.

How I Achieved Waking Up Earlier

A letters board completed with the words "good morning", all set up ready to  greet the early riser who has achieved their goal of waking up earlier. It is a calm, welcoming scene: A plant accompanies the letters board on the right hand side and a warm drink in a mug and placed on a coaster is waiting to be enjoyed on the left hand side of the letters board.

Having concluded that waking up earlier was the answer, I was still very unclear how to make it happen.

I was able to list many obstacles in my way (others might call them excuses!!) : –

  • I am not “a morning person” and I can’t wake up without an alarm clock.
  • My son is often asleep in our bed by morning and I don’t want to wake him up too early. So, I can’t use a traditional alarm clock because I would wake him up too. Therefore, I will have to wait until we solve my son’s sleeping difficulties before I can wake up early on my own.
  • There might be such a thing as a silent alarm clock. However, a silent alarm will not work for me because I am such a deep sleeper, and I will not respond to it. Anyhow, we are on a tight budget with me being a stay-at-home mum and we can’t afford to buy an expensive new gadget right now.
  • If my son does wake up early, he will get up too and that will defeat the whole purpose.
  • I will be too tired as I don’t get to sleep early enough at night and I can’t go to bed any earlier due to helping my son with his sleeping first.
  • We live in a small house. If I get up earlier and start moving around doing jobs I will wake everyone else up and disturb their sleep. It will also be too cold for me in the winter and I can’t set the heating to come on earlier due to our noisy pipes which will wake everyone up when the heating switches on.

The list could go on and on. If I’m honest, I had known for some time that waking up earlier was the answer, but had been putting it off, waiting for the “perfect” time to start.

I have Allie Casazza (of alliecasazza.com ,”The Purpose Show” Podcast and “allie_thatsme” on Instagram) to thank for helping me move forward and take action on this.

I have said that in creating this blog I hope to help others by colating and sharing the knowledge and resources I have found to be the most helpful on my journey towards calmness. Allie Casazza’s resources have been central to my journey so far.

Allie is known for talking about minimalism for the home, especially for Mums. Along with advising on minimalism in relation to the physical items within the home, she also applies minimalism and simplification to your household routines, your diary and schedule, your mindset and physical health, your eating and meal planning, your self-care, and every aspect of your life.

Allie champions minimalism for the sake of taking you out of what she calls “Survival Mode” and moving you into a life with more time, space and energy. A more enjoyable, intentional and purposeful life of your choosing.

If you are the kind of person who has lots of dreams and ideas about how you wish to change your life for the better but never seem to be able to put those ideas into action, I would definitely recommend following and listening to Allie Casazza. She focuses heavily on how to take action on your ideas and actually start to make the changes you wish to make in your life. (No affiliate links I promise!! I am just an avid listener of hers who has been truly inspired to action by her!!).

Allie regularly posts inspirational photographs and captions about her early morning coffee, rituals and routines on her Instagram Stories. She has written on her Blog and spoken on her Podcast about how beneficial to your life in general a good morning routine can be.

I had already been inspired by Allie for sometime when I discovered a free Challange she had created for her audience called the “She Is Intentional Challenge”. She delivered this Challenge via a series of videos which were accompanied by a Workbook (at the time of writing this blog post this Challenge can still be found at alliecasazza.com, by searching her archives for the Challenge by name).

I completed the Challenge and filled out the Workbook and it was doing the thinking that was required by this Challenge that finally motivated me to stop making excuses and procrastinating and find the the answer as to HOW I could start waking up earlier straight away in my current family living situation.

I realised that the excuses I was making about not being able to get up earlier stemmed from the limiting beliefs I held about my life. They did not reflect the reality and truth of the situation.

I concluded that, with a bit of creative thinking, it would be possible to find a way to wake up earlier.

Therefore, rather than wasting my energy moaning about how difficult and restrictive my life was and daydreaming about the unachievable perfect lifestyle that would allow me to do this, I set a simple intention to wake up at 5am each morning and began focusing my attention on HOW I could achieve this in my current life circumstances.

Once I actually started focusing on the HOW , it did not take long to find an answer and get started. These are the simple action steps I took: –

  • Instead of secretly dreaming about my peaceful early morning plan, I comunicated to my partner and son what I wanted to do and why. I told them I was going to find a way to start waking up at 5am.
  • I acknowledged that I definitely needed some form of suitable “alarm clock” technology to help me wake up. One that would wake me without waking the rest of my family.
  • I did not assume that this “alarm clock” technology either didn’t exist or that it was too expensive. Instead, I took action and did some research online and quickly discovered that I could buy a fairly cheap Smart-Watch (I mean around about the £10 mark!!) that seemed to meet my needs and was within our budget. It was small enough and discreet enough to wear in bed and had a silent alarm function that would vibrate on my wrist when it was time to get up. I was still not convinced that I could be successfully woken by this kind of alarm, but I decided I would not find out unless I gave it a try. So I bought the watch.
  • When the watch arrived, I just got started. I set the alarm function to 5am. I told my family that I planned to wake up at 5am the next morning. I wore the watch to bed and hoped for the best.
  • It was not perfect and it started with a few blips. The first morning I thought the alarm was broken as I did not feel it vibrate on my wrist and I did not wake up on time. It turned out, true to form, the alarm did work and I had just slept through it!!
  • I did not give up. I continued to wear the watch to bed at night and planned to get up at 5am each morning . Having persisted and having told myself each night I would get up early the next morning, eventually I started to respond to the alarm on my wrist and wake up at the correct time of 5am.

This began my new habit of waking up earlier. My son and partner have managed to sleep on as I creep out of bed and, since then, I have had a bonus hour of time to myself each morning.

As you can see from my action points, none of this is revolutionary!! In fact the answer was very simple. I just had to be determined to achieve my goal, I had to work out a possible method of HOW to do it and then I just had to start, give it a go and not give up at the first hurdle!!

What I do with my Bonus Hour in the Morning

A handwritten outline of the author's morning routine. One page shows the routine between 5am-6am. The next page shows the routine between 6am -7am. It is all written in a leather bound notebook and decorated with colourful hand drawn flowers. This shows the process the author went through to settle on her calming morning routine. All the information contained in the handwritten note is also outlined in the main text of the blog.

Now I had successfully created my bonus hour in the morning between 5am and 6am, I just needed to decide what to do with it.

What I have chosen to do with my bonus hour is extremely simple.

Lots of articles I have read about the amazing benefits of waking up at 5am seem to be focused on one of two things: – Business or Self-Care.

In the business world, waking up early seems to be all about getting ahead of the game, getting your most important work done while you are feeling at your best and achieving your ambitions in the world of work.

In the Self-Care world, lots of the routines I read about seemed completely unachievable for a Mum like me. They seemed to involve lengthy meditation practices, hours of yoga or jogging outside, lots of lengthy journalling and making elaborate health drinks for breakfast.

Whilst these Business and Self-Care focused morning routine suggestions have their place and are extremely inspiring, neither of these two worlds matched my world and what I wanted achieve.

I did not want to change the world, make a million pounds or achieve any extreme health and fitness goals. I simply wanted to do a few household tasks (without rushing) and take some quiet time for myself before the busy daily requirements of a Mum who wished to do her best for her family began.

So, the early morning routine I am going to share with you here might seem underwhelming in comparison to other articles you may have read. However, this apparently simple routine has been life changing for me and has transformed mornings and daily life immensely for me and my family.

An Overview of the Simple Early Morning Routine I Created

I get out of bed at 5am. I put on my dressing gown (with warm socks and slippers if its cold!!). I make my way down to the kitchen to do some household jobs before spending some quiet time alone in the lounge and then returning upstairs to spend some further quiet time with my Son. This routine can be explained in three stages as follows: –

Stage 1 -Simple Household Task Routine In Kitchen

The kitchen is at the furthest point in our house from where the rest of my family are sleeping. I can shut myself in there and not disturb their sleep while I quietly and calmly do some of the essential household preparations for the day.

The following is a summary of the very simple jobs I do each day at this time in the kitchen. While it may not seem like much of an achievement, finishing these jobs before the rest of the household wakes up has completely transformed my mornings.

Instead of finding these jobs stressful as I once did, I now enjoy doing these jobs each morning, whilst the house is lovely and quiet. In fact the repetitive rhythm of doing these tasks in exactly the same order each day almost feels like a meditation practice to me.

In doing these jobs earlier, I have made it possible for me to feel much more calm and focused after my son wakes up and this has given me more quality time and energy to spend with my son before he goes to school. You will see it only takes a few small tweeks to improve things: –

  • I put my Son’s school water bottle in soapy water to soak
  • I boil the kettle to make myself a mug of hot water to drink later.
  • I leave my Son’s water bottle soaking and my mug of hot water cooling while I do the jobs described below: –
    • Clear off the clean, dry dishes and plastic pots from our sink drying rack. This enables us to start the day with a clear and organised sink area ready to use at breakfast time.
    • Prepare the food for and pack my Son’s sandwich box. Put an ice-pack in the sandwich box to keep the food cool and fresh for school.
    • Prepare a snack for my Partner and leave it on the side for him to take with him to work when he leaves at 7:20am.
  • Finally, I Rinse out my Son’s school water bottle that has been soaking and leave the clean rinsed bottle on the now cleared drying rack to dry off ready for filling with water later, just before school.
  • I then leave the kitchen and take my now cooled and ready to drink mug of hot water into the lounge with me to drink.

Stage 2 – Quiet Time Alone In Lounge

After leaving the kitchen, I sit quietly and peacefully in my favourite chair in the lounge for 5-15 minutes until 6am while drinking my mug of hot water.

How I actually spend this time varies from day to day. Sometimes I just sit and think. Sometimes I read a book or read something I have looked forward to reading on my phone. Sometimes I check the family diary to remind myself what the day holds for us.

The important thing is that whatever I decide to do at that time, it is my time to do as I please and I get to choose to do something (or nothing ) to centre myself in the way that I require on that particular day.

I feel calm and restful because I do not feel at all guilty for taking this time for myself. I have already done the essential morning preparations, there is nowhere else I feel I should be, my family are cozy and content upstairs. This is bonus time just for me and I can take a moment to breath and rest.

Stage 3 – Quiet Time Upstairs With My Son, While My Partner Enjoys his Quiet Time Downstairs Alone Before Work

After my bonus hour has come to an end, I head back upstairs and I lay out my Son’s School Uniform Ready for him to get dressed when he gets up.

I make sure that my Partner is awake and getting up ready to start his day. I then stay upstairs resting with my Son between 6am -7am while my partner goes downstairs to enjoy some quiet time of his own while getting ready to leave for work.

I enjoy the time resting with my Son. I feel content that everything is ready and organised for us to have a good morning together once we get up and properly start our day at 7am. I also feel pleased that my Partner can take some time for himself and that he will be welcomed downstairs by a kitchen with a clear sink and a snack for work waiting for him.

During the hour resting with my Son, I can often hear reassuring and peaceful early morning sounds such as the birds singing outside our window and my Partner making his first coffee of the day downstairs. At this time I often feel and acknowledge a great sense of gratitude for our home and the family life we have created for ourselves. This is my own version of a daily gratitude practice.

This is a great frame of mind to start each day with and is an altogether different and much improved way of thinking for me. It is far removed from the impending feelings of stress and rush I used to feel upon waking up.

Benefits of Waking up Earlier

As I said earlier, the very simple changes I have made by waking up earlier have changed mornings and daily life for me and my family immensely. The early morning routine has benefited us all in many ways.

For a start, I feel I am generally a better human being throughout the day. That not only benefits me, but also benefits my family and all of those around me.

Starting my day proactively by “choosing” when to get up, rather than starting my day reactively with a state -of-mind of “having” to get up, has changed everything.

I am less stressed and rushed throughout the morning and this saves me and everybody else energy.

I feel less guilty about having a more relaxed evening routine, as I know I now have all the time I need to do things in the morning. This more relaxed approach to evenings has benefited the whole family too.

My fears of being too tired due to reduced sleep have been completely disproved. In fact I feel better rested, more energetic and enthusiastic than I ever did before.

In fact, this early morning change has been instrumental in me feeling more capable and free to go out and seek part-time employment and I now have a part-time job which is great for the family finances.

The process of focusing on the HOW (instead of on the problems and excuses) that I practiced when implementing getting up earlier was extremely useful when I applied it to finding a suitable part-time job.

My alone time has left me feeling less overwhelmed and more focused. I, therefore, feel like our household routines are more predictable and manageable for us all now. This means that we can now cope with the change of routines required for me to be out of the house for a few hours a week working.

Another benefit is that my Partner can feel more relaxed before he sets off for work because the atmosphere in the house in the morning is so much calmer than before. We are not all clamouring to get into the kitchen and bathroom at the same time. This gives us all a better feeling of more space and more time.

finally, and very importantly, I am now modelling good calm behaviour for my son. As a result he seems to get up and get on with his routine much better each morning too. We are far less likely to have a falling out before school than we were before and I am more present in the moment with him during our time together. This makes for a much more pleasant morning for us both and sets us both up for a better day once we leave each other at the school gate at drop off time.

The short amount of time I have made for myself is invaluable to my wellbeing and that of my family. I know that my family and I are not really getting sufficient sleep each night in this phase of our lives and that is something we need to work on in the long term. However, as things stand right now, I believe that carving out this period of alone time for myself is much more beneficial to my health, wellbeing and family life than an extra hour in bed.

I am not saying that I intend to get up at 5am for the rest of my life. Even now, I only do this strictly on weekdays during term-time and have a more relaxed approach at weekends and during holidays.

I am also not suggesting that everybody should do this all of the time. In certain phases of life this may not be appropriate at all. I hope there will one day come a time in my life when I can sleep more hours each night, get up later and still enjoy relaxing mornings and quiet time at a later hour!!

However, during certain phases of your life, getting up earlier is definitely worth considering as an option, particularly if you are feeling overwhelmed, rushed or trapped by your circumstances.

Even if this is not something you wish to do long-term or regularly, it is definitely a habit which is worth practicing in the short term. Once you know you can do it, you can pull it out of the bag whenever you feel like your life needs it. For example, while I don’t generally get up at 5am on weekends and holidays, if we are setting off somewhere early in the morning during a weekend or holiday, I know I can set my Smart-Watch alarm on that particular occasion for 5am, get up and put my early morning routine into practice. It is a great habit to know you can fall back on.

I hope this post helps you to decide whether or not earlier mornings are a possible option for you. I hope I have inspired you to believe that getting up earlier is not as difficult as it might seem and can be achieveable for all, even those who believe they are not morning people!!.

I also hope I have made you realise that an early morning routine does not need to be complicated or ellaborate. The most simple early morning routine (designed by you to match the unique needs of your own life) can really make a difference to your life.

I would really love to hear any comments from those who decide to give this a try. I would also love to hear from those who are already early risers and who might have other suggestions of how to beneficially spend that bonus early morning time.

Until then, I wish you all a very good morning.

Calmly Getting Ready For School When Your Child Is Too Worried To Go Willingly

A Mum walking with her son to school. The pair look happy and content to be walking to school together. The mum is carrying her son's school book bag. She is smiling and looking proudly at her son. Her son looks relaxed and confident as he walks beside her. He is dressed smartly in his uniform, ready for school.

Calm Parent – Calm Child

” If we want our kids to be the best versions of themselves, then we need to be the best versions of ourselves.”

theminimalists Instagram (12th June 2019)

Have you ever experienced one of those awful mornings when your child is refusing to get ready for school and behaving badly?

On these occasions you very likely know they do not wish to go because they are worried about something connected with school. Nonetheless, you can’t help losing your cool.

You feel under pressure to get your child to school on time and this causes immense stress for you. Your stressed-out response makes things even worse.

When you eventually do leave the house (in a massive rush) and drop your child at school, you feel exhausted and completely wrung out.

Exhaustion soon gives way to a feeling of guilt about the way you yourself behaved while trying to get out of the door. The guilt then gives way to tears and upset as you think about your child alone at school feeling upset, worried and uneasy.

When you wake up the next morning to do it all again, you feel even more tense about getting your child ready for school because you are worried the same thing will happen all over again. And so it goes on morning after morning with no end in sight.

If this is a scenario you are familiar with, you are definitely not alone. This is a situation I have experienced many times myself and I know many other parents who have experienced it regularly too. Especially if they have children who worry or suffer with anxiety.

In fact it was the distress displayed by my son about going to school and the repeated stress of our far from calm “getting ready for school routine” that really prompted me to start seriously researching how I could improve things for our family.

How to Break Free from this Stressful “Getting Ready for School” Cycle

When I began researching what to do, I was looking for answers:-

  • How could I get my son out of bed in the morning?
  • How could I encourage him to want to get dressed and eat his breakfast?
  • How could I encourage him to put on his shoes and coat and leave the house without a fuss?
  • How could I get him on board, so that he would want to be on time for school?
  • How could I stop my son worrying about school and teach him to enjoy school?

My initial questions were all about how to change my son’s thoughts, attitudes and behaviour to make our mornings better.

However, when I began reading about this topic (looking for that one tip that would solve it all !!), it became apparent that I was thinking about things the wrong way round. Instead of focusing on trying to change my son, I should instead focus on things that were completely within my own control.

The theory is that if you can become a calm parent at that time of day and model good behaviour, you are more likely to enable your child to have a calm morning too.

When you think about it, this makes complete sense. If your child begins to associate getting ready for school with a stressed-out, tense, rushed and angry parent, they themselves will feel even more tense and upset about it too and possibly even feel they are to blame. Just think how your face must look to them when you are extremely stressed and how that will make them feel.

The best way to teach your child a calm school morning routine is to model calmness for them and demonstrate how rewarding that can be.

Unfortunately, when there is the time deadline of the school gates closing this is much easier said than done. Having tried to put the theory into practice myself, believe me – I know!!

However, I have found there are some practical steps you can take to help yourself remain calm, most of the time.

I am going to share some of these steps with you, but when reading this please remember, I am not a parenting expert and have no qualifications in this field. I just hope that by sharing what I have read and sharing what I have learned through my own experiences as a mother I can help someone else discover a useful approach or a “light bulb moment” that will help them enjoy calm family school mornings in future.

Bearing that in mind, here is a summary of the steps I have discovered.

Let Go of How School Mornings “Should Be”

It’s quite likely that in your mind you have an idea of how your ideal school mornings “should” be. Your perfect morning would probably involve your child jumping out of bed, saying “good morning” with a smile on their face and you all enjoying a family breakfast together with everyone chatting before they go off to work and school.

The first important thing to remind yourself is that there is not one right way to get ready for school. This is your family and your home and there is not one routine that “should” be followed. There is more than one way to get ready for school and you need to create your own school routine that is unique and helpful to your particular family’s needs and wellbeing. It’s OK to do things differently.

Creating Your Unique Routine

Inevitably, there will be certain parts of your morning routine that are regularly particularly difficult for you and your child. It is important to identify these difficult areas and focus on how you can improve your routines in these areas.

Once you have created some imaginative new approaches to try, you can slot the new way of doing things into your family’s unique morning routine structure.

Identifying the Difficult Areas and How to Make Them Better

Here are some examples of the main difficulties I have experienced along with ideas I have tried to address them.

Hopefully, these examples will help you to identify your own areas of difficulty and some possible solutions.

When creating solutions remember you are focusing on things that are completely within your own control to change. You are not trying to change your child’s thoughts, attitudes and behaviour in any way.

This is all about what you yourself can do and say differently.

Examples: –

Refusing to Get Out of Bed When Asked

This used to get our mornings off to a very bad start!

I used to end up pleading with my son to get out of bed. I would get increasingly agitated as the minutes ticked by and would find myself raising my voice and constantly reminding my son of how late we were going to be for school.

Needless to say this method did not work and left us both feeling tense and upset.

When trying to create a solution for this difficult moment in our morning routine, I came to the conclusion that it was counterproductive for me to keep reminding my son that he had to go to school. Clearly, school was the one place he did not want to go and constantly reminding him of school first thing in the morning was not helpful.

I decided to try not to mention that the end goal was going to school.

Now I focus instead on the fact that it is a new morning, it’s time to get up and time to do the routines that need to be done every morning to start a fresh new day. I try not to sound rushed or stressed and try to have a happy, relaxed demeanour. I talk in a calm voice without shouting. I try to create the feeling in our home that it is indeed a good morning and therefore we all want to get up and start the day.

In order to enable me to display a more relaxed demeanour, I had to do some work on my own mindset. I realised that one of the things increasing the morning stress was my own fear of being late and an irrational fear of getting in trouble with the school if I could not get my son to school on time.

Being on time and worrying too much about having a perfect attendance record, along with concerning myself too much about other people’s opinions, has always been part of my own personality.

When I thought it through, I had to admit that this feature of my personality was adding to the tension. So, I decided to try to have an inner dialogue telling myself that it would not be the end of the world if we were sometimes a little late for school and if we were late it would not be a problem. I started to tell myself I could simply explain to the school why we were late and they would offer help. I told myself it is OK to accept offers of help from others. Everyone needs help sometimes.

This one act of changing my own thought process helped change my mornings a great deal on its own.

If my son needs further persuasion to come out from under the duvet, I also find it helpful to give him verbal reminders to get him focused just on what he needs to do “now” and what he can do “next”. For example I might say, “Now its time to get out of bed and get dressed. Next its time to enjoy watching your Tablet while I make your breakfast“.

As the above example suggests, I find it useful to include time for my son to do something he enjoys before school, such as watch his Tablet, watch TV, play with toys, read or spend special time sitting with me on the sofa while I drink my cup of tea. If he knows he has time to do something he enjoys and he knows I have allowed the time to spend some quality moments with him, I can use that as an incentive. For example I might say, “if you get out of bed quickly now, you will have lots more time to watch your Tablet while I drink my cup of tea”.

Allowing my son to spend time on something he enjoys also distracts him from thinking about going to school while he is getting ready and helps him to appreciate that calm mornings are beneficial for him too.

Not getting dressed

For a while after my son first started school, we quite often used to find ourselves in a situation where my son was not even dressed for school and it was nearly time to leave. He would never get dressed without a fuss or without delay, so this was a big point of stress in our mornings.

This came about because my son has to wear a uniform to school. I, therefore, designed our morning routine so that he would eat breakfast, wash and clean his teeth before putting on his school uniform. This was done to avoid him spilling anything on his uniform and to enable him to attend school looking smart and clean.

When trying to improve this area of our routine, I came to the conclusion that trying to get him into his uniform so close to the time when he had to leave the house for school was a recipe for disaster.

We now lay out his school uniform so it is ready for him when he first gets up and he gets dressed into his uniform first thing in the morning straight after he gets out of bed.

This means that my son is less likely to be thinking about school at the time of getting dressed and is therefore more willing to put his clothes on.

This small change of timing has had a big impact for us in the mornings. Not only does my son now seem to be more wiling to get dressed in the morning, but the new timing of this part of the routine means that my partner (who leaves for work quite early in the morning) is still at home for this part of the routine and he can therefore offer support on mornings when things don’t go so well. My son is now always dressed by the time my partner leaves for work. This is better for my partner because he can go off to work content that my son and I are well on the way to getting my son to school. It is better for me because I can relax about this part of the routine knowing that the support from my partner is there if I need it. And it is better for my son because there is less tension and upset in the morning around the matter of getting dressed.

I have been able to overcome my concerns about him getting spills on his uniform by making a couple of other simple changes.

I now make sure that when he first gets dressed he puts on a spare casual non-uniform jumper to cover up his white school shirt and protect it from stains. He swaps over the jumpers after he has eaten his breakfast and cleaned his teeth, just before putting his coat and shoes on ready to leave the house.

I also now make sure that I prioritise my washing so that my son always has clean and dry spare school uniform clothes available in the draw everyday just in case something gets messy during the morning.

These two changes have allowed me to feel completely relaxed about him eating his breakfast, cleaning his teeth and spending the full morning before school in his school uniform and there is no need to stress about any spills that happen. This routine works really well for us now and he still looks smart when he arrives at school.

Not Eating or Drinking at Breakfast Time and Not Trying for the Toilet Before School

Despite normally having a good appetite and not being fussy with food, when my son first started in reception class at school, he would not want to eat much at breakfast time and often would not drink anything at all. He also would quite often not want to go to the toilet in the morning before school.

I felt extremely worried that he would feel hungry, thirsty or unwell during the day at school and I was also very worried that he would wet or mess his underwear at school if he continued these habits on school mornings. I felt it was my job as his mum to use my powers of persuasion to encourage him to eat, drink and go to the toilet every morning. When I did not succeed in persuading him, it would lead to stress on my part and our interactions about it would upset my son.

When I took a step back and thought about this issue, I came to the conclusion that I needed to choose my battles carefully to reduce stress and take a different approach. As much as I would like to, I could not eat for my son, drink for my son or go to the toilet for him. If he was ever going to choose to do these things on school mornings for himself, he needed to feel relaxed. He wouldn’t make that choice if everything was tense and rushed around him. So I decided to change my focus.

Instead of concentrating on trying to get him to do these specific tasks, I decided to simply focus on creating a relaxed atmosphere at breakfast time and while he was in the bathroom. I decided to take a step back and give him a bit of space.

I noticed that on school mornings he did not seem to enjoy sitting close to people when eating his breakfast and, even though he normally enjoyed cereal with milk for breakfast, he did not seem to enjoy it on school mornings. So, instead of sitting next to him while we both ate our breakfast together, I let him sit alone at the table or even sit on the sofa if he preferred and I allowed him to watch TV or his Tablet while he ate so he was not thinking about school when eating. I also let him have what I called a “picky-bits” breakfast (i.e. something dry and easy to eat with his fingers, such as mini bread sticks, his favourite cereal – dry in a smaller bowl, or other small foods such as grapes). I also consistently continued to give him a drink but I did not attempt to insist he drank it.

In the bathroom I consistently reminded him to try for the toilet, but if he did not want to go I did not attempt to insist that he tried.

In order to address my own mindset around these issues I told myself we could eat meals as a family at other times during the day and during family meals he would not use technology while he was eating.

I also told myself he would not starve or suffer if he did not eat, drink or go to the toilet in the morning. Therefore, it was not essential for him to eat, drink or go to the toilet before school. All of these matters could be properly addressed later in the day. I could pack him more food in his lunch box in the hope he would eat more during the day when he felt more relaxed. He could eat more and drink more after school when he had his appetite back. If I was worried about how he would cope during the day at school I simply needed to highlight the issue to the teacher at drop off time, so that they could keep an eye on him during the day and encourage him to eat, drink and use the toilet while at school.

I reassured myself that this approach was only designed to be temporary and in time, once things became more calm, relaxed and settled, he would choose to do these things before school in any event.

This approach has been successful and over time he gradually started to eat and drink more and to use the toilet before school. He now eats a large bowl of cereal, drinks his drink (sometimes asking for seconds!) and uses the toilet a couple of times every day before school.

Taking Absolutely Ages to Brush Teeth, Get Shoes On and Put Coat On and Dragging his Feet On the Way to School

Although we moved getting dressed to the beginning of our morning routine, there were still some tasks that unavoidably had to be done after breakfast and just before we were due to leave the house. These tasks were brushing teeth, putting shoes on and putting an outdoor coat on. Motivating my son to do these final tasks remained difficult as he seemed to deliberately delay starting and finishing these tasks to avoid having to leave for school. This was also a point of tension for me. Time was ticking by and I often felt we were running out of time. So this part of the routine could often end in tension, raised voices and upset.

The first step was to encourage him to go to the bathroom in the first place. This used to involve a lot of unsuccessful pleading on my part. When I reviewed this, I decided I would not shout or go on at him. I would simply remind him it was 8am and time to go into the bathroom. I would switch off the TV if he was watching it and I would then go upstairs myself to the spot where I would stand while he went in the bathroom. Then I would just wait there for him to come and join me. Most of the time, once he realised he was now downstairs on his own, he would come and join me upstairs of his own choice.

Once in the bathroom we realised that on school mornings he liked his own space to clean his own teeth and it did not go well if I tried to help him clean his teeth as the dentist had suggested I should do.

Eventually I discovered that if I stood with him nearby to the bathroom but let him clean his teeth by himself, his time in the bathroom went more smoothly. That way I was keeping him company and reminding him to stay on task but also giving him the space he seemed to need on school mornings.

Also, I found ways to encourage him to flow from task to task, while in the bathroom. While I was waiting outside the bathroom I would make it into a game to distract him from what he was getting ready for. For example, my son likes trains, so we would pretend that during his time in the bathroom he was actually on a London Underground Tube Train and he needed to visit all the stations before he could leave the Underground (the stations being the toilet station, the hand washing station and the teeth cleaning station). He had to keep the trains on time so there was no time for breaks between stations!!

To address my own concerns that he might not be cleaning his teeth as thoroughly as the dentist had advised, I reassured myself that we would always make sure that he had his teeth cleaned thoroughly by an adult at night time before bed and that in allowing him to do it for himself in the morning he was learning a good skill for the future.

When It came to putting shoes and coat on, I realised that I was very hands on when trying to get my son’s shoes and coat on and then at the last minute I would realise that I didn’t even have my own shoes and coat on!!.

I decided to change this. So instead, I would put my son’s shoes and coat by the sofa and tell him it was time to put them on. Even if he did not follow my instructions, I would then make sure that I had my own coat and shoes on and that I had my bag and front door keys all ready to leave the house. Only once I was completely ready would I then turn my attention to encouraging my son to put his shoes and coat on.

Putting my own shoes and coat on first helped me to feel more organised and remain calm. It also modelled good behaviour and acted as a visual prompt for my son. Often this alone would encourage him to start putting his own coat and shoes on.

If he needed further encouragement to get ready and leave the house I would make sure I could remind him of something to look forward to on the journey. We walk to school. This in itself helped because I could say to him, “remember we are not going straight to school, we have a nice walk to enjoy together first”. I would also remind him of other options he enjoyed such as taking his scooter to ride on, or the possibility of stopping at the bus stop to watch buses along the way. When it was refuse collection day in our area we used to go and watch dustcarts doing their rounds on our way to school.

All of these changes helped us to get out of the front door much more calmly and made the transition from home to school go much more smoothly.

As you can see from reviewing my changes, they were not rocket science and some were only tiny little tweaks. However, the important thing was they did not require my son to change at all. He did not have to do anything extra and he did not need to change his attitude or thoughts towards school. All the changes were down to me, and all the changes were within my own control.

10 Ideas That can be Helpful to Everyone when Creating a Morning Routine

Although you wish your morning routine to be unique, having dealt with the more specific challenges your family may face, there is some more general guidance that can be helpful in everyone’s routine. It might be helpful to incorporate these ten general ideas into your own routine :-

1. A Good School Morning Starts the Night Before

Preparation is key. If you know that school mornings are generally tough for your family, it is incredibly important to prepare for the morning as much as possible the night before.

Identify any jobs or preparations that can be done in advance and make sure they are completed before going to bed on a school night.

Here are some examples of preparations that can be done the night before: –

  • Pack your child’s school bag and PE Kit.
  • Sign any forms or paperwork ready for handing in at school the next day and ensure any homework is completed and in their school bag.
  • Make sure shoes are clean and that shoes and coats are placed in a position ready to be put on in the morning
  • Check that all necessary school uniform items or clothes for school are washed, dry and ready to wear.
  • Plan your own outfit for the next day and check it is all ready for you to wear.
  • Ensure sandwich boxes, food tubs and water bottles are clean and ready for use the next day. If possible prepare appropriate food for the sandwich box, or at the very least decide what will go in the sandwich box and check the food is available and ready to use in your fridge and cupboards. A top tip I have found useful is investing in a good quality insulated lunch bag and keeping a collection of mini ice-packs frozen in the freezer. That way you can make up the sandwich box as early as you like in the morning, put an ice pack in it, zip it up and it will stay cold and fresh. You can switch one icepack for another just before you leave the house to ensure a maximum period of cold, fresh food during the school day.
  • Check that food required for breakfast is available and ready to use. If possible get your child to choose what they will have for breakfast before they go to bed.
  • You and your child can both bath or shower the night before so that it does not have to be done in the morning.
  • Talk through your morning routine with your child the night before (e.g. what time they will wake up and what order you expect tasks to be completed in). This will ensure they know what to expect in the morning.
  • Prioritise trying to get a good nights sleep for both you and your child so that you all feel as refreshed as possible in the morning.

2. Wake Up Early and Leave Yourself Plenty of Time

If you know you have plenty of time you will instantly feel more calm.

Ideally it is helpful if you can get up before your child in the morning to have a cup of tea, allow yourself to wake up and do jobs such as preparing sandwich boxes, laying out clothes and setting out breakfast. This will get you off to a good calm start.

Regardless of who gets up first. Wake everyone up nice and early so there is plenty of time for everyone to get ready.

Whether you walk, drive or catch the bus, plan to go out of the door to school at a time that leaves plenty of time (plus time to spare!) for your journey.

When working out how much time you need, it is good to include a buffer for the expected delays you will encounter with your child getting ready. If you plan your schedule to incorporate delays you will feel less stressed when the inevitable delays happen.

Also remember to plan in some time for your child to do something they enjoy before school.

3. Get Yourself Completely Ready First

It is amazing how much calmer you will feel once you yourself are dressed and ready to leave the house.

Once you have given your child the initial early wake up call, it is important to switch your attention immediately to getting yourself completely ready first.

Get yourself dressed, brush your teeth, wash your face and brush your hair etc. Make sure that, as early as possible during the morning, you are completely ready to leave the house when the time comes.

For example, If your child is refusing to get out of bed try not to get distracted, stressed, angry or delayed by this. Leave them in bed while you get yourself ready. This will model good behaviour for them and sometimes (if you are very lucky!) they will choose to get up of their own accord while they are waiting for you. If not, you can return your attention to getting them out of bed afterwards.

Knowing that you are at least dressed and ready for the day will help you to stay calm when focusing on helping your child out of bed to get ready too.

4. Only Do the Essentials: – Don’t Expect Too Much of Yourself at This Time of Day – Keep it Simple

It’s tempting to think that you need to do all the household jobs as early as possible in the morning to ensure you get them all done.

However, when getting your child ready for school is a struggle, this time of day is the worst possible time to be trying to accomplish other jobs too.

Ask yourself, what’s important now? Give yourself permission to focus only on accomplishing the things that are absolutely essential before your child goes to school. Everything else can wait and be done later in the day.

Simplifying your task list and lowering your own expectations for what can be achieved, will instantly create more time to focus on the important job of spending calm, quality time with your child before school.

You will feel much more relaxed, less overwhelmed and will be much less likely to get stressed and raise your voice if you keep things simple.

When I first started working on my before school routine, I was a stay-at-home mum. I, therefore, knew I was returning home after school drop-off. Having analysed what was essential to do during our morning before school, I even stopped eating my breakfast before taking my son to school. This task was not essential at that time. Instead, I would just enjoy a mug of hot water, followed by a cup of tea while my son had his breakfast. I would then eat my own full breakfast when I returned home after school drop off. My breakfast became a treat instead of a chore and moving breakfast to this time when I felt relaxed and content was also much better for my digestion!!

5. Try Not to Shout – Get Down to Your Child’s Level and Speak to Them Only When They are Listening

When in a rush, it is very tempting to keep shouting instructions at your child over and over again, whether they are listening or not:

“What would you like for breakfast? “

“Have you cleaned your teeth ? “

“Is your homework in your bag?”

“Put. Your. Shoes. On. Please!!” … etc. etc.

Although you may feel like you are achieving something by doing this, it is actually counter-productive. Most of the time your child is not listening and does not carry out your instructions or answer your questions. All you are doing is raising the noise levels in your house and creating high levels of frustration and stress for both yourself and your child.

Instead it is best to keep communications to a minimum and create a peaceful and relaxed atmosphere in the morning.

When it is necessary to give a verbal reminder, a verbal instruction or ask a question of your child, it is much better to take the time and make the effort to approach your child properly, as follows: –

  • Get down to their level.
  • Make eye contact with them.
  • Ensure you have their full attention and they are listening.
  • Only then begin talking to them in a calm low voice.
  • Once you have spoken, do not rush them for an answer. Give them plenty of time to process your request, question or instruction.
  • If you do need to repeat it, do so calmly and use the exact same words that you used the first time to ensure clarity and avoid confusion.

This may seem like a lot of effort just to find out what they want for breakfast!!! But, you will have a much better interaction with your child this way and it will save you time and energy in the long run.

6. Plan Your Mornings, Days and Weeks So That You Clearly Demonstrate to Your Child that School is Only One Small Part of Their Life

Don’t allow school to fill up your family’s whole life.

If your child is not really keen on school, it is particularly important to remind them that school is only one small part of their life. Their life is also full of many other things that they may enjoy more.

With that in mind, it is important to incorporate tasks and moments into the morning routine that have nothing to do with school at all. So, if possible, allow your child some time each morning to do or talk about something they enjoy.

We also used to find it useful to make plans for after school pick up in the evening and to make at least one plan for the weekend that our child was looking forward to.

This was helpful because then, in the morning, I was able to remind my son of the after school plan he was looking forward to. He could focus on that instead of thinking about the school day itself during the morning routine. Also, throughout the week, I could motivate him to keep going by reminding him we had fun plans for the weekend that he would be enjoying soon enough!!

These plans would only be simple things like going on a short bus ride together after school, visiting a park on the way home, visiting the shops, going to a garden centre to feed the fish, inviting grandparents around for dinner or promising to buy a special pudding for him to look forward to after the evening meal.

However, these simple plans were really helpful in helping to jolly him along throughout the school week. They all acted as a reminder that school was not the be all and end all of everything and there was plenty of time to do other things too.

7. Let Them Know Feeling Nervous Before School is OK

It is beneficial to start helping your child to understand that it is OK to feel nervous sometimes and it is in fact normal to feel nervous before big events. You can explain to them that you can feel nervous about something beforehand and still do it (and even enjoy it!!) once you get there. You can reassure them that once you get started the feelings of nerves often disappear.

I have tried to help my son to stop worrying about feeling nervous and to understand and feel comfortable with the actual feelings he has when nervous. I have done this in the following ways:-

  • I have been honest with him about the fact that I often feel nervous about things before I do them. I have shared stories with him about particular times when I have felt nervous. I have shared with him that, despite being nervous, I went on to do those things anyway and everything turned out OK.
  • I have also encouraged him to talk about any specific things he might be feeling nervous about. If he is able to identify specific things (this is not always the case), I am then able to remind him that the specific event (e.g. assembly, PE, play-time etc.) will not take up the whole of the day. I can then remind him that there are other parts of the day that he actually enjoys (e.g. reading in class, spending time with his teacher). We can then try to focus his attention on the parts he is looking forward to, rather than the parts he is not. If he cannot be distracted from the things he is nervous about, I can at least reassure him that those things will only take up a small part of the day and the rest of the time he will be doing other activities.
  • We talk about the kinds of feelings he has in his body when he feels nervous (e.g. butterflies in the stomach, feeling a bit sick, lack of appetite, sweaty palms, heart beating fast etc.) I explain to him that this is also normal and that it does not mean he is unwell. I explain that these feelings are normal when nervous. I also reassure him the the feeling of having “butterflies in the stomach” is likely to disappear as soon as he arrives at school and gets started. I encourage him that, in fact, the quicker we can get to school and get started, the quicker the feeling will hopefully disappear so he can feel better. After school, if I know he went to school with “butterflies”, I follow up by asking him if the feeling did go away at school. Most of the time he says yes. These conversations build up a catalogue of positive information to draw upon next time he feels nervous. I am then able to say: “remember the last time you had butterflies before school, because you were nervous about assembly, the butterflies went away when you got to school and everything was fine. I’m sure the same will happen today too. Lets get you to school so you can get started and feel better”.
  • You can also use the “now” and “next” method to take small steps towards going to school and distract your child from the thing they are nervous about. You can say “let’s not think about that at the moment. You are not doing that right now. Now you are putting your shoes on and Next we are having a nice walk in the sunshine, let’s concentrate on enjoying that together”.

8. Show a United Front with Dad and Other Family Members About the Requirement for Your Child to Go to School. Make it Clear it is Not Any One Parent’s “Fault”.

Sometimes when one parent is largely responsible for taking their child to school, that child (who does not wish to go to school and who may feel angry and upset about it) may verbally make it clear that they blame that particular parent for making them go to school.

My son used to sometimes say to me (in various different ways) that I was horrible for making him go to school everyday. This used to make me feel very upset and guilty and it would add to the tension between us on school mornings. In order to address this we did the following things to help my son accept “the fact” of school and to remove any element of blame from the equation: –

  • We made sure that his Dad and his Grandparents made it very clear that they also wanted him to go to school and it was not just me. They would tell him: “It is mummy who is there to help you get ready for school, but we all want you to go to school.”
  • We also used to remind him that everybody goes to school. We would tell him that when we were children we all went to school too. We would explain it was normal for all children to go to school. We would share stories with him about our time at school to help him understand this.
  • We would also explain that it was not our choice for him to go to school, the government have decided that it is a good thing for all children to go to school. It is simply something that all children do to help them grow and learn.

9. Visual Aids Can Be Helpful to Remind the Whole Family of the Morning Routine

Once you have settled upon a routine that seems to suit your family, you can create a visual aid to help remind the whole family of it. Visual Aids can create a certain amount of excitement for your chid about the routine and can also encourage your child to follow the routine with a certain amount of independence and reduce the need for verbal prompts from parents throughout the morning. This will hopefully add to the atmosphere of calm within the household.

These visual aids do not need to be elaborate or expensive, they can be hand drawn or use relevant free pictures printed from the internet.

They will need to be age appropriate. When children are younger visual aids can consist of pictures of required activities placed in the correct order. As your child gets older you can progress to using words as well as pictures.

Now my son is old enough, we do not have a specific visual aid on the wall. He can tell the time, read calendars and recognise that certain T.V. programmes start and finish at certain times. He uses calendars to identify the day. He uses the lounge wall clock and the timing of TV programmes finishing to prompt him to start the next stage of his routine at the right time.

10. Don’t Get Stuck in a Rut. As Your Child Gets Older Your Routines Will Need to Evolve and Change

Once you find a routine that works well, it can be easy to sit back, think the job is done and expect that routine to continue to serve you.

I have made this mistake. However, if you do not keep your routine under review, you will find that there will come a time when the routine is no longer working in the same way and the stress levels can creep back into your mornings.

It is important to remember that your child is constantly growing, changing and maturing. Also, school will not remain exactly the same every term or academic year and other things will change within family life over time too.

Each time something changes new problems will arise which require new solutions and your child will gradually become more and more independent and require different kinds of support from you. It is important to review your routines to make sure they are still helpful and relevant. Therefore, setting aside time to regularly review and update your routines is extremely important if you wish your school mornings remain calm.

By applying these theories and putting these ideas into practice, school mornings for our family have become so much better. Things are not perfect and we still sometimes have tough mornings, but now tough mornings are extremely rare rather than the norm. Now, my son chooses to spend some of his time completing his homework in the morning before school and sometimes even reminds me it is time for me to start the next stage of the routine so that we are not late!!

I hope something I have shared here will help others to create a unique routine for their family and enable them to start enjoying calm mornings before school too.

Good luck to all those who decide to give this a try. Remember change happens one small step at a time. Don’t expect change to happen overnight. Instead, remain calm and remind yourself you are a good parent, you love your child very much and you are doing your very best.

If you are consistent, you will inspire your child to be calm too and in time your mornings will improve.

My Story: The “Why” Behind Creating Calm With Clare

Meet the Author

Welcome. My Name is Clare.

The author (Clare) enjoying a calm moment among the trees whilst walking in a park on a bright winter's day.

I am a mum and live with my fiancee and son in the South of England. 

Since becoming a mum, I have spent a great deal of time researching ways to create a calm way of life for our family.

I am now collating all the knowledge I have collected in this one place.

I hope that sharing my knowledge, thoughts and findings will help others who are craving calmness.

A mum and her son enjoying a quiet paddle in the sea together at the water's edge on a calm and tranquil sandy beach, amidst a summer blue sky and calm spacious blue sea.

Why I wish to Create Calm

My focus on creating calm began a few years ago when my son was starting pre-school.

Starting pre-school was not an easy transition for my son and our family. We soon began to realise that our normally energetic, happy, chatty, and confident little boy was worried and anxious about his sessions at his pre-school nursery.

It quickly became apparent that at a very young age our son was already worrying about future events and the world around him. This tendency to worry was, and still is, extremely troubling for him and a concern for all the family.

Living with worry is not a new phase in my life.

My Fiancee and I have always considered ourselves introverts. We often feel nervous about a variety of life situations and struggle with self-doubt.

I myself have always been “a worrier” and I know how draining and stressful the process of worrying can be. However, I always thought it was just something that was an intrinsic part of my personality. Something that I could not change and something I just had to live with.

Seeing my very young son display the same characteristics of worry held up a magnifying glass to the negative effects of worry. It highlighted to me the true impact that worry and anxiety can have on a person’s ability to enjoy life. It also highlighted the impact that worrying and anxiety can have on the family as a whole.

This made me think differently about worry and anxiety. I realised I do not want my son to live the whole of his life thinking that worrying and feeling anxious is an intrinsic part of him and an unchangeable norm.

This wish to save my son from a lifetime of worry concentrated my mind on how our family can create a lifestyle that will nurture and encourage a life free from the constant burden of worry and anxiety.

When thinking about what a life without constant worry would look and feel like, I imagined such a life would be incredibly Calm.

In the dictionary the definition of “calm” states that calm means “not disturbed, agitated or excited”. It is also defined as “tranquil, serene.” This is the atmosphere I hope to achieve for our family in our home.

I am therefore actively seeking to create an intentionally calm way of life for our family, so that we can all confidently step out into the world to fully contribute, share our talents and enjoy life to the full.

I hope you will read on to discover all that I have learned so far about creating such a life.

I still have a great deal to learn about developing a calm mind, a calm body, a calm house and a calm home. I have yet more to learn about becoming a calm parent and raising my son to know what it is to be calm. Our family have not perfected a life without worry, but we are making good steps towards worrying less.

I hope you will join me as my family and I continue on our journey to create calm.