The Lost Art of Chill

You know that part in the movie The Alamo when Davey Crockett, as played by Billy  Bob Thornton, looks at the screen and says he is a screamer?  Well, I have a confession, I am a screamer too.  Honestly I am just a loud person in general. If I am happy I squeal with delight.  I laugh with my mouth wide open and my head thrown back.  I don’t cry, I sob.  So it would make sense that my loudness would carry over to when I am angry or upset.  Thankfully I am rarely genuinely upset and am very slow to anger, but once you get me going…

There was never rage or violence in my voice, just lots and lots of volume and frustration.  Due to that I had never really thought about the effect this had on the people around me until I started seeing myself reflected back to me through my children.  I would watch them scream a fit when they would get angry and to my embarrassment it took several years before I finally stopped asking the question “Where do they get this from?” and started taking responsibility for what I had inadvertently taught my children to do.

Once I realized that we had a problem I started a personal self improvement program that would help me police my response to anger. Below I will share with you all some of the steps I have taken and found effective.  Along the way I will share some songs that I find particularly helpful in my journey of learning the lost art of chill.

Xavier Rudd – Messages
1. Record yourself.  Ask your husband, your older children, your best friend, whoever you are around a lot and you feel free to be yourself around, to quietly record you on their phone or other handy device the next time you go on a big giant rip over something stupid.  Play back this tape to yourself until you can accept that yes that really is what you sound like.  This will probably be the single most effective step you take.
Zee Avi – Just You & Me
2. It’s true what they say old habits die hard.  So give your loved ones the tools to help you.  Explain to your children what you are trying to do and let them know that there are going to be days when you just forget.  If they are old enough now would be a great time to explain to them what a habit is.  Ask for their help in helping you remember that screaming when you are upset is not ok for them and so it is not ok for you either.
Now let’s be honest here, kids looove an opportunity to tell parents what to do and if given a chance they can and will go overboard.  In comes the code word.  Pick a word or words for your family that will be an immediate trigger in your brain that you are slipping into melt down mode and that you need to chill.  For our family it is “I’m Watching” feel free to use it but honestly it does work best if it is something personal to your family and situation.  Oh and please do caution your loved ones that over use of the code word will ruin its effectiveness.
Ingrid Michaelson – You and I
3.  Find ways for you to chill when you’re getting to your boiling point.  A few things that worked well for me was to first learn to become more aware of when you are merely a little hot under the collar vs. steaming mad.  This will take practice and time.  Once that is identified fall back on your list of chill.  Don’t have one of those?  Well of course not, at least not yet. But number 4 is going to help you with that.
Awolnation – All I Need
4. Make your personal list of chill and keep it on you at all times.  If you think it will help print off copies and place them in strategic places in your environment.  The dashboard of your car.  The inside of your kids closet for when you are searching for that missing shoe. Next to the computer.  Wherever you feel you are going to need it most.  Remember yours is going to be different from mine, it needs to be the things that calm YOU down. Below is my list to be used as a point of reference.
  • Look at your child and remember they are the one and only them and you only get one shot at raising them.  In life there are no re-do’s!
  • Listen to your chill album.
  • Change the environment.  Go outside, different room, stand on your head.
  • Ask yourself why you are angry.  Are you being selfish or lazy?  Is this a real problem or just annoying?
  • Remember that you do not get to pick your child’s memories.  At any moment you may be making a permanent lasting impression.
  • If you have already screamed remember it is ok to apologize and then explain why you are angry.
  • Is there a way to take a break from this situation?  Then do it.
  • You have permission to be angry or upset, you do not have permission to blow your top.
  • If it is not a real problem then LET IT GO and go do something fun with them instead.
Yael Naim – New Soul
5. What is a chill album?  So glad you asked.  For me music can have a very soothing effect.  If the same is true for you then make a play list of songs that can almost instantly put you in a good mood.  Your list should change around as often as your current favorites change.  I have a few tried and trues that stick around but for the most part there are usually at least one or two new songs that get switched out with older ones monthly.  The songs I have been sharing in this post are from my current chill album play list.
Middle Class Rut – New Low
(Video not appropriate for young children)
Need more?
  • Try forming a new habit, this time a good one, of daily meditation or prayer.
  • Are you a stay at home mom? Get outside, yes, every day.  Even if it is only to check the mail, just take a moment to notice the clouds or the scent of freshly mown grass.  Anything to connect you to a larger world than just the one inside your own four walls.
  • Find a hobby that relaxes you, practice it as often as possible.
  • Give yourself permission to get a babysitter and go out for a few hours.  I personally have a very short list of people willing to watch my 7 children for me, I think the sheer numbers scare them.  Even so it can be done if you are determined.  I usually average about 2 times a month sans kids, which is arguably not much but certainly better than never.
  • Print out photos of yourself during happy moments with your loved ones, real moments during your life not from a photo shoot.  Frame them around your house with little reminders stenciled on the glass or frame.  Remember this moment.  Happiness is a choice.  Make your days worth remembering.  Don’t have any of those type of photos?  Then take them as soon as possible.  Your children deserve to have a lasting physical memory of you with them during their childhood.

My three-year old daughter, Elizabeth. She is also a screamer by nature.

Michael Franti & Spearhead – The Sound of Sunshine
In closing I would like to address something very important.  Failing to have ever learned proper anger management is a very common problem and nothing to be ashamed of.  Something else that is very common and nothing to be ashamed of is a mental health condition.  I have dear loved ones and very close friends that have various mental illnesses.  That does not make them a bad person, or me a better person.  It does not make them weak, nor does it mean they love their children any less than I do mine.  If you suspect that your anger may be something beyond your control please seek help.  I have watched lovely human beings crumble to near collapse only to rise like a phoenix with proper medication and therapy.  You have a right to be happy and your children have a right to see you that way.
One of my sisters is schizophrenic and I love her very much.  I wish every day that we would have known to get her help sooner before her life was nearly destroyed.  Please, if you need help reach out and get it.
You do not have to suffer needlessly.
1-800-950-NAMI (National Alliance for the Mentally Ill helpline)
*This post was originally posted by Sasha on her private blog One Rich Mother as part of a Mindful Mama Blog Carnival hosted by the every peaceful and inspiring Zoie that writes the blog TouchstoneZ.

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