Minimalism: For A Happier and Healthier Family

By Anna-Maria Boelskov - August 31, 2016

Minimalism: A tool that can assist you in finding freedom and a natural stress reducer.

When we have babies of our own, our lives and needs get kicked to the curb from one moment to the next… Your needs, your personal time, your sleep, your diet –  forget it, the kid(s) needs you, and one moment swallows the next. By the time your child has been tucked into bed (if they do end up sleeping, that is). You feel so starved for time and personal space, and the dinner you inhaled (if you at all got to eat dinner) probably didn't really cover your 'well-balanced nutrient-pyramid-daily-intake profile', and in the end, you are drained and ‘over it’. Unhealthy feel-good snacks are then hard to resist for a quick boost of energy.  Recognise this scenario?

There’s a vicious circle here, and it’s relentless and hard to break out of. Without a healthy body and a nutrient- dense diet, we get overwhelmed, have mood swings, exhaustion, and then it all rolls from there. When we are in a state of depletion, it is like swimming against the tide. Interestingly though, there is a solution to this, but many find it unappealing because it goes against our hard-wired modern social norms.

It’s called minimalism.

Yes, I promise you. Minimalism the solution that can help break out of the stressful pattern. It’s the key to give you and your family what they really need. Sure, it’s not glamorous, it’s not fancy, and it’s definitely not what comes to us naturally. But it works! In more ways than I can tell you in one blog post. But here’s what I want you to know: If you implement minimalism to just a small percentage of your life, you also minimise the risk of illness, disease, depression, as well as the risk of getting burnt out. We often scramble to add more to our lives to attain perfection and fulfillment. But I dare you to try the opposite. Remove unnecessary things to get closer to the real you, not the ‘idea’ of what you should or shouldn't be. Peel away the stuff that surrounds you – thoughts, pressure, the things-to-do lists, unhealthy relationships, unrealistic ideals, and the like. You will see that you can be happier with less and love what you have right at this moment.

Stress is the big elephant in the room here. It’s what keeps you from meeting your needs, it’s what makes you act in ways you didn’t intend to – like snapping at your child, yelling at your partner, skipping breakfast and running on adrenaline. Stress is what keeps you from nurturing you. This is where minimalism comes into the picture. I often have to ‘prescribe’ minimalism to my patients. I have to ask them to do less. Ask them to accept that health, achievement, and happiness comes from taking small steps in the right direction and being conscious along the way. When stress is ruling the roost, our awareness and consciousness take the back seat. Let’s swap this around and you will see that what once felt undoable, is suddenly not a big deal anymore.  Stress is the leech that sucks you dry on all levels: – nutrients, restorative sleep, time, as well as love and care for your family and for yourself.

Everyone has different ways of dealing with stress. Most of us just ‘rise to the challenge’ (I’m certainly guilty of that) and do more to keep up with the tidal wave of our internal stress. We live in the times of the super-mum-syndrome – women are having babies whilst perhaps still attending to their career, need to make Instagram worthy meals and get back to pre-pregnancy weight before our baby has learned to take their first steps, and on top of this - look as if none of this mum-business is challenging them the slightest. The pressure is ON, we ask more of ourselves and put an enormous pressure on our shoulders.

I had to learn the hard way myself. I Thought I was on the right track, everything looked pretty good. I mean I was eating grass-fed, several serves of organic vegetables daily, working, caring for my two girls and sleeping 8 hours every night. But I still could not shake the ‘ideals’ and the ‘pressures’ I put on myself to achieve, be better and do more. I ignored the stress signs because I didn't have time to slow down. But as we all will realise eventually, our body will make the signals louder and clearer if we keep ignoring them. My loud signal was Shingles. It was hell. I was bedridden in agony with boils on my face, neck, and scalp. All from internalised pressures, stress and lack of slowing down. Well, it got my attention. And I listened.

As painful as it was, it was a great opportunity to take on a new approach and look at what I could do to nurture myself better, my diet was doing pretty well, but I needed to look at the bigger picture, the bigger me. Some things had to go, and some things needed more attention. I had to re-evaluate my ideas of how I should or shouldn't be. Truly speaking, this is an ongoing thing. We all have to check with ourselves again, and again, to see if we are tagging along well or if we are ignoring our needs.

Here are my top 5 suggestions to get better at looking after yourself, reduce stress and find health with minimalism. Sometimes we have to look beyond nutrition and diet, and focus on our mental health and lifestyle:

Remove social media from your hand-held devices – You’d be surprised to find how much time you have on your hands when you don’t have the app to press anymore. You will be able to stop and smell the roses, rather than using spare ‘moments’ to ‘check in’ on social media. I call it escaping - an unconscious way of escaping our minds and getting a short hit of happy hormones as we scroll the newsfeed. I recently purchased the Apple iWatch series 3, and I don't even have to bring my smartphone with me anymore when I leave the house - which feels like such a relief. The iWatch also enables me to instatnly respond and attend to my doula clients questions when I'm on call for birth.

Here’s a great post on how to remove social media. 

Plan to buy less food – Hmm, sounds strange? Well, when we plan our meals, especially when we have kids and a family to feed, we more often than not end up wasting a huge amount of food, which we might have bought with the best intentions. Also, when you plan your meals a week or days in advance, there is a sense of security and a sense of ‘I’ve got this’, which not only takes the last-minute dinner-preparation stress out of your mind, but it also helps you buy exactly what you need for the meals and less extra stuff. Sarah Wilson offers great info on the topic of food waste, which I encourage you to take a look at! Set a meal plan for an entire week, made in such a way that ideally the dinners can also provide for next day’s lunches. This is to say that preparing bigger batches of food instead of small meals results in better meal-planning. The cheapest way to buy ingredient is to go to your local farmer’s market on the weekends and what you can’t find there, you can buy online and get delivered. This saves you time and helps you avoid buying those extra bits that you get tempted to put in your trolley when you are strolling down the aisles at the supermarket.

Declutter – This might seem like a digression from the topic of nutrition and health, but it isn’t. How we live affects us more than you might think. Your nervous system is constantly picking up things, impulses, and thoughts. SO, if you are loaded with reminders about areas to clean, fix, tidy, repair, and the like, your nervous system will process all of this and make it run like white noise at the back of your mind. One of my favourite decluttering techniques, which I have adopted till date, is to throw out things (or give to charity), I don't really use, but somehow have an attachment to. It feels fantastic! These guys ,The Minimalists, are experts on this. They have podcasts and plenty of essays and tips on how to approach decluttering. I highly recommend listening to them and trying out their techniques for yourself.

Do less  This piece of advice will mean different things to different people. Typically it can mean that new mums keep less appointments and have fewer visitors. Or the advice of “do less” could also be followed by saying no to more than one or two play dates per week or allowing your kids to ‘only’ play one sport per week to ease the load off your mommy-chauffeuring. Additionally, I would suggest you look at your day or your week and consider what feel the least nurturing to you, the least doable, and to figure out what it is that is giving you the most stress. Be thoughtful, though - sometimes the most draining things are the things we don’t register like social media, watching TV, unhealthy relationships and driving. These activities are draining, they steal your time, are over stimulating and highjack your nervous system.

Meditate - Check in with yourself, how are you really feeling? Once you really know it will be easier to find ways to care for yourself. To be a mother who has the time to listen, the time to care, and the time to cuddle her kids (again and again), you must first be a woman who is taking care of her own needs, listening to her inner voice, and prioritising herself. It may feel selfish (I still battle with this). There are no two ways about this. You cannot give abundance to your loved ones and your surroundings, if you don’t give it to yourself first. The 1giantmind platform has a supportive way to help you get comfortable with meditation, and no, you do not have to sit in lotus position and defy gravity - quite the opposite, you need to get real and get grounded.

You don’t have to take huge steps from the start on your minimalism journey. Perhaps, start somewhere small, get rid of the clothes you don't use (unused clothes from the past 6–9 months), plan your meals 4 days in advance, shop online, remove Facebook from your phone, and add 1–2 hours of something that you really crave into your weekly schedule (a yoga class, going to the hairdresser, getting a massage, and the like) and see what comes from that. When it comes to practicing minimalism, a little goes a long way. Allow more of the good things into your life and it will help weed out the bad. You just need to start. 

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As a fellow mum (of three wonderful girls) I really know how challenging and exhausting being a mum can be at times! 

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