Feeling stressed? Need an activity to calm those rushing thoughts and quell the thoughts of thousand and one things currently bouncing through your mind? Take my advice and raid the kids’ rooms for the perfect solution to a turbulent mind:
1) Puzzles: Now if your children are under 4, this may not work quite so well, as the calming power of puzzles lies in there being just the right amount of challenge. Putting together a four piece farmyard puzzle is possibly not going to tax your brain sufficiently even if you have managed to survive a day on only 2 hours sleep having been up all night with a teething 2 year old and a feeding baby!
I find that anything ranging from between 50 and 200 pieces requires a bit of effort and concentration and, as such, manages to fully absorb you in the task at hand for a few peaceful minutes.
Clearly, the whole idea of puzzles is that you complete them alongside your children and – I admit – sometimes this can work. Despite my competitive nature and over-powering urge to take over any situation, I have managed to spend many a puzzling session working in companionable silence with my offspring as we combine our efforts to complete a glow in the dark Scooby Doo spectacular, but I must confess that I also enjoy it when we take a puzzle each and I get the satisfaction of knowing that the final outcome has been all my own work. A reminder to myself if one were needed -and it definitely is – that even if I am in a rush, I should try harder to allow my children the time and space to complete tasks (like laces, or zips, or hair brushing) on their own, rather than jumping in to sort it quickly and deprive them of the satisfaction of a job well done.
2) Lego: Yes, I know it is the most painful thing known to man when you tread on it with your bare feet. Yes, I know it is beyond frustrating when the crucial piece ends up in the hoover, or in the cat, or – God forbid – in the digestive tract of a younger sibling, but Lego is great isn’t it?
When your children are in the mega block stage, there is nothing better than building a tower as high as you possible can make it (and yes, again, you could do this with your children if you really must, but you know you want to have a go on your own when they are in bed too), but when they get older and the Lego sets start to come with 50 page booklets….well that’s where the fun really starts!
There is something strangely therapeutic about following instructions step by tiny step; building block by colourful block; watching the piles (from the carefully sectioned and labelled bags 1,2 and 3 which quickly morph into disorganised chaos) decrease and the construction slowly take shape. There is beauty in creating something whole from something initially so disparate: if it is not too melodramatic to say so, then I would add that it can be a cathartic and healing experience. In the hectic life of parenting, where so many things get left half-done (well, they do in my world at least!), then taking something from start to finish and seeing it complete is a rare treat.
3) Colouring in: I have saved the best until last here, folks, because you and I both know that there is nothing so transcendentally soothing as time spent colouring in. Not drawing, mind, at least not for me: my drawing skills are so poor that this is generally a frustrating experience with little in the way of beneficial de-stressing! But colouring in – that long forgotten art of staying in the lines and trying to keep the pen strokes even and neat – that is a de-stressing therapy that should be offered immediately at all spa destinations.
Now my children are a little older, they have gathered a small collection of the ‘doodle pads’ of my youth: you know the ones where you have a repeating pattern to colour in, often in intricate detail? Not only do I LOVE these and relish the opportunity to enjoy them now in adulthood, but they also bring (as do many things now my children are a little older) that lovely, warming blanket of reminiscence. As I colour, I find myself transported back to my own childhood and flashes of long-forgotten memories are suddenly presented to me with such clarity that I am shocked to find I am not, in fact, 9 years old once more and happily seated in front of my Flower Fairies Illuminated letters colouring book.
The grown-up world may offer us all sorts of stress-relieving solutions, and many of them work very well, but for real nourishment for the soul, I’d recommend you attempt to capture your inner child and ‘le-go’ of the stress!
First published by Families Solent East
04/03/2015 10:10 am