Posted in Amelia, Amelia on parenting angst, Blog, Featured, Mother

Zen and the art of parenting

I’m currently enrolled in a parent coach training program* for which I had to read popular life coach Cheryl Richardson’s book “Take Time for Your Life.” The book describes common obstacles that she has observed in her work “that consistently prevent people from living lives that they love.” One of these is being fueled by unhealthy sources that subtly drain your energy (e.g., sugar, caffeine, adrenaline), rather than engaging in things that naturally give you energy (i.e., consistently doing things that make you feel joyful). Richardson points out that the adrenaline rush doesn’t necessarily have to come from huge things like avoiding a bear or skydiving—that small things like frequently checking emails or constantly leaving for appointments five minutes late add up. Each is associated with an emotional state—how will I ever get all this work done or I will disappoint someone because I am late—which pushes stress to kick in, which, in turn, elevates the adrenal hormones.

In this chapter, there was a quiz designed to suss out your need for adrenaline as a means of fuel. After taking it, I realized that am addicted to the “junk fuel,” that I do things to stimulate those fight-or-flight chemicals in my body to keep me going. This was a big “aha!” moment, as the health of my adrenal glands has been something I’ve struggled with for years—now I understand why. The stress of being in the world today, etc. (I run anxious) probably created a constant level of fight-or-flight chemicals in my body, which I’ve always subconsciously strived to maintain because that is what I’m used to. 

So, (ever the good student) I made a list of items that give me an adrenaline boost to a negative end. For example, although I stay at home with my daughter, which is wonderful and at times utter joy and fun, also has moments of frustration, exhaustion and boredom. I find myself compulsively checking email and Facebook frequently throughout the day, for no particular reason other than I want the adrenaline rush to keep me going. Or, I create household tasks for myself that give me that same level of frenetic energy, such as keeping the floors spotless—an epic feat for a dog owner. I understand now that I am working to maintain a level of adrenaline to match what I am used to, which has the consequence of reducing the level of what Richardson calls “premium energy” that I have to expend on the more fulfilling things in my life. She writes about how people feel compelled to maintain this level of adrenaline because without it they are initially bored—a phenomenon that is difficult to experience. She describes how learning to sit through the boredom is the way to dispel it, to see it not as blank time to be filled with frenzied thoughts of uselessness, but as quiet time to appreciate the present. This is something I want to practice and grow stronger in: enjoying what is in front of me instead of worrying about what I need to do next, which my brain is highly trained in. While “nexting” is useful in low levels, in high levels, it is toxic to the system and cascades onto the emotions of those around me, who are not receiving the premium energy from me that they deserve. My goal is to work on balancing my thoughts, so that I am present with my family, yet task-oriented when legitimately necessary. I hope to accomplish this by focusing my awareness on my thought patterns and recognizing when I’m doing something to get a boost versus doing something that actually needs to get done. I want to exercise this particularly when I am with my daughter; I feel like I am always walking away from her to do something. I want her to feel that she is a priority in my life.

So, thinking about the difference between energy that comes from a fulfilled place—engaging with family, friends, spiritual activities, hobbies, etc.—and one that comes literally from a place of survival—sheer adrenaline, obtained through caffeine and junk food or activities that put the body on hyper-alert—I encourage you to think about what energizes you. What in your life brings you joy? How can you give yourself more opportunities to do those things?

**A parent coach supports families to set a vision for how they want their family life to be and together design steps to achieve it.

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