RIE in Real Life…Self Care

On this hot and humid (did you catch those clouds in the picture above?) week, my story is less of a specific example and more of a little bit of a shameless plug. You see, it’s been a hectic week for me with high highs and low lows (mostly likely both being amplified by the temperature), and I’ve found myself needing to reach for self-regulation more often than I do on a regular basis. And you know what soothes my soul every time? RIE classes. Now, I know, I know…it’s totally a shameless plug…but it’s true. Hear me out:

As folks in my classes know, I end each class with the simple question, “what will you take with you from today’s class?” I want to know what a parent has observed or felt, something they heard or something they want to sit with. I’ve heard things like, “I’m going to practice slowing down this week” and “I need to keep thinking about letting them figure out sharing on their own” or “I love watching them make discoveries with these simple objects and I’m going to reassess my recyclables for more objects for my child’s playspace” But one thing I almost always hear is something like this: “I may sound like a broken record, but what I’m going to take away is the peace I feel during this class.”

Yes, RIE classes have their own special magic and energy. This is not to say that the children’s interactions and experiences in class are all zen and light…no, there may be conflicts over toys and space, sadness when a parent steps away to use the restroom, frustration over a recalcitrant toy…but there’s space for all of that (and the lovely moments when children connect with one another, make discoveries, calm themselves during a challenging moment, or simply play peacefully). I think the magic is that we are all there to be present, and it helps tremendously that we can do it out in nature in some pretty spectacularly beautiful settings (again, see the photo above!). Coming to RIE on a weekly basis is like a lovely little reset for your nervous system.

But what happens when you can’t get to a class? What happens when you don’t have the time or space to spend 90 uninterrupted minutes ignoring your phone and simply observing your child? I get asked that a lot, so I made a little list. Take a look.

If you have just a few moments

Do nothing for 2 minutes

Try a breathing technique

  • 5 count breathing…breathe in for 5, out for 5. 5 rounds.
  • Try FS Breathing: take a deep breath in and then exhale while making a FFFFF sound. When you are almost out of breath, switch to a SSSSS sound. Try 5-10 rounds.
  • Practice Triangle breathing: breathe in for 4, hold it for 4, then breathe out for 6.

Stand in a power stance…legs wide, heels in, toes out. Reach your arms up and out. Spread your fingers out, then bring your hands to your hips and stand powerfully. Stay for a few breaths. Hey, your toddler might do it with you!

Try progressive muscle relaxation…tense up all your muscles as tight as they can be, then slowly and methodically relax each muscle…working your way from your toes up.

If you have 5 minutes

Listen to one song. One song you love. One song that makes you move and makes you smile. Sing along!

Give yourself a little hand massage: rub your forearms, wrap your hand around each finger and gently twist back and forth, then gently tug on each one. Massage your thumb into your palm.

Stare at something that is beautiful…the sky, a flower, a picture, a patch of grass…and just let yourself enjoy it.

Go the Ally McBeal route and smile at yourself in the mirror. It’s true: even fake smiles release dopamine! (And wow, that object John Cage is holding is totally a baby toy! Also, am I dating myself by referencing a tv show that started last century?!)

Watch a quick video that makes you laugh.

Send a MarcoPolo video to a friend…faster and more fun than sending a text!

Stretch! Take a moment to stretch every part of your body… a full body stretch, maybe a tiny backbend, can you stretch your sides, your arms? Can you bend over and stretch your hamstrings? Your calves? Your quads? Maybe flap your arms. Get your blood flowing!

If you have 10 minutes

Reflect: Sit down and simply think about all of the lovely things you’ve experienced with your child today or over the past couple of days. Stay with those feelings. Sink into them for a moment and let them fill you up.

Reflect: Sit down and simply think about all your amazing body has done for YOU today…walked you around, picked up your child, held your child. You are stronger than you are giving yourself credit for.

Brew yourself something hot and warming (or something cold and refreshing!). Sip it slowly and stay present with the senses…the temperature, the taste, the smell, the way it feels as you swallow, the way the cup feels in your hand.

Meditate. Sit quietly and just be…or download a meditation app and choose a short one.

If you are feeling overwhelmed, write out everything you need to do, then assess…can some things wait? Can some things be delegated? Prioritize.

Write a love note to your partner or good friend and ask them to do the same for you.

Read something that’s not about parenting: an article or a blog, a magazine or a book. Just 10 minutes!

Eat a meal or a snack mindfully: focus on every bite.

Give yourself the same advice you would give a friend. Pretend you’re helping someone else deal with your current crisis.

Spend a few minutes documenting a few things you’re currently grateful for and proud of.

If you have more time

Take bath or a foot-bath with Epsom salts.

Take a short walk…get outside in nature, even if it just around your backyard or around the block.

Plan a date night or afternoon with your partner or with a very good friend (away from your child).

Plan something that fills your cup: a movie, a hike, a trip to a museum, a shopping trip, a sport…something you love to do.

Exercise: move your body! It releases endorphins!

Leave your child with a trusted caregiver and meet up with another parent (not your spouse!) to talk about parenthood

OR: Leave your child with a trusted caregiver and meet up with another parent (not your spouse!) to talk about ANYTHING BUT parenthood

Watch your favorite TV show.

Talk with your partner about recent successes and joys you’ve had over the past couple of days and weeks.

Schedule a massage or ask your partner to give you one.

Do something creative for yourself…write, draw, move, make music…It doesn’t have to be an entire day, but don’t give your free time completely over to planning and prepping.

Adding to this, of course, is my favorite…come to a RIE class. Speaking of, I am expanding…I’m starting a new class for babies around 1 year old in Beverly Hills. If you are interested or know someone who is, let me know! Of course, I still have space in my classes for babies of the same age in the Valley! The mercury may be rising, but it’s always comfortable in the shade…in a park…in a RIE class.

Have a wonderful weekend.