Toddlers -little balls of energy! Certainly spirited at times… well, Miss EEE certainly is. The first steps of ‘toddler’ stage have been quite often exhausting for us as parents. We have spent a lot of time trying to negotiate with our little girl, navigating tantrums that I thought would be reserved for the ‘terrible twos’ and taking it in turns to settle her through yet another sleep regression. Quite often I hear myself saying this stage has been a ‘challenge’. Today I thought I would try and draw some positives from our current situation and have a think about what I can learn from Miss EEE. Yes, she’s a little firecracker at times, but she certainly has a zest for life that I would like to get a bit more of for myself. Read on for 5 top tips on how being ‘more toddler’ could improve your mental wellness.
1. Live For Now & Single Task More
As we enter adulthood, modern life seems to push us into thinking that multi-tasking and always thinking about our ‘to do’ list is some kind of measure of success. Toddlers have a different method. Getting engrossed in play is something Miss EEE seems to be expert at. You could say single tasking is her specialty. Being mindful and present in the ‘now’ is something I find really helpful for maintaining mental wellness.
Multi-tasking is often cited as a way of being more productive. Sometimes though, it is this urge to do more, to achieve more, to plan more, that can tip the balance of our mental health in the wrong direction. Trying to become more aware of when we need to take a step back and absorb ourselves in what we are currently doing or being mindful of our current environment now can really help reset the balance and bring some inner calm.
2. Worry Less About Others Opinions of You
This is my nemisis! My internal monologue is one long train of worries about what others think about me. I don’t think it’s just me. The rise of social media feeds these anxieties for many of us. Striving for the holy grail of ‘perfect’ is exhausting and to what end? To ensure others view us in a certain light? Not very helpful for mental wellness.
Again, Toddlers seem to totally boss this area too. They have no hang-ups yet about what others think about them and let’s face it. Why should they? I don’t judge Miss EEE when she wants to prance around the flat with her knickers on her head! Live and let live is how I like to treat other people. Now it’s time that I start to afford myself this same generosity – my toddler has helped me to see that.
A therapist once said to me, “Why is it any of your business what anyone else thinks about you?”. It really stopped me in my tracks. That said, I do often forget and second guessing what other people think of me seems to be my default factory setting. What I plan to do is become more aware of my internal monologue and try and challenge myself to care a little bit less each time I notice I’m assuming I can read another persons mind. I know Mums have super-powers but mind reading is not one of them!
3. Enjoy Simple Pleasures
Play is a valuable way toddlers learn about the world around them. They don’t need fancy technologies to do this. When Miss EEE’s new car seat arrived and the box was waiting to be taken down to the rubbish bins this was perfectly illustrated. She played for hours in that box.
This got me thinking about what simple pleasures I could start to re-introduce into my life to support my mental wellness. Pleasures that don’t involve scrolling endlessly through social media or mindlessly watching trash TV. A few suggestions:
- Read – A great way to take your mind off the stresses and strains of daily life and unwind a frantic mind. If you haven’t got long, why not grab 5 mins and immerse yourself in one of the food love stories on here.
- Walk – Get out in the fresh air and release some endorphins. Hell, if you have nowhere to go then just walk around the block. A change of scene can be a really good way to reset an anxious mind.
- Breath – as we enter adulthood we forget how to breath the way we were built to. Watch your toddler breath, their little tummies puff up and down. Next time you feel tense or uptight, check your breathing. Perhaps a few deep belly breaths could help you to regain a small amount of control.
- Feast – The ritual of cooking and sharing food with loved ones is a real joy. If you’re looking for inspiration, check out our recipes here. I always think there’s nothing like sitting down with friends and family around the dinner table to get conversation going.
- Play – we forget the importance of play as we become adults. Let’s have more fun. Why does everything we do need a purpose? Play with your little ones or re-connect with an old hobby. Indulge yourself. I dare you!
- Cuddle – Physical affection is something humans need. If you need a cuddle don’t hold back. Find a loved one and ask for some lovin’.
- Dance – This one again gets the endorphins going. Stick on your favourite tunes, sing at the top of your voice and dance like no one is watching. When I’m feeling low Miss EEE and I have a mini dance party and even if it’s just for those few moments, I feel connected to her and reminded that life has a purpose.
Sticking with what’s familiar to us can feel like the safe option. The need to keep ourselves safe is inbuilt. Sometimes that can get a bit out of kilter though and Anxiety can creep in. A toddler has no choice but to explore new things because to them the whole world is new – every smell, every sight, every noise, every feeling. I think the below snap is the perfect representation of how a toddler so often very boldly takes their first independent steps into the unknown. Do we always need to fear the unknown? I would say, to preserve our mental wellness it’s important that we sometimes embrace the unknown.
Be bold in the way you view the world and all it has to offer. Push yourself to explore new things and engage all five of your senses when experiencing these things. Whether it is big travel plans, visiting a new park in your local neighbourhood, trying a new cuisine, applying for that dream job at work. We all need boundaries to keep us safe but how will you ever know if those boundaries are needed if you don’t push yourself outside of them occasionally. I have written about this a bit before here, when I took a trip into central London with Miss EEE. I treated it as a bit of a science experiment at the time. My conclusion – I should definitely push myself to explore more!
5. Get More Sleep
The average 18 month old probably needs between 10 and 14 hours of sleep in a 24 hour period. Yes, as adults we need less, but we still need more than some of us get in order to maintain our mental wellness. Sleep deprivation is of course par for the course when you’re a new parent to an extent but I think it’s important that you find ways to maximise your Zzz’s as far as possible. A lot of the advice about good sleep hygiene for a toddler can also apply to you as a parent.
- Switch off from screens before bed – ideally about 2 hours before bed turn off all screens. This includes backlit e-Readers. Pick up a good old fashioned paper book why not?
- Nap – Perhaps more applicable/ achievable if you are not working as you can sleep when your child sleeps quite often. If you are a working parent however, there is no shame in catching forty winks on the sofa once your babies in bed, while your dinner’s in the oven. Make sure you set an alarm though!
- Prioritise your sleep – I wrote a post about guilt free self-care not so long ago (here), where I talked about how I had decided to just leave my floordrobe where it was and get myself all tucked up. It may be helpful to think about what you really MUST do before you go to bed rather than what you think you SHOULD do. You wouldn’t tell your toddler they need to finish threading pasta onto a string before they get to go to bed so why would you treat yourself any differently?
Sleep is such an important part of my self care routine. It may be worth paying more attention to for you too if you want to improve your mental wellness.
I would love to hear how being ‘more toddler’ works out for you. Please feel free to leave comments below or get in contact at firstname.lastname@example.org.