Let’s face it. Parenting in the digital age can be challenging. Sure it's great to be able to connect with your child on a whim, but this also means you get to be on call every second of the day.
Beyond “Can you pick me up at practice?” parents can also find themselves receiving random texts (requests) such as, “Can you pick me up some French fries?” or “Mom, when are you coming home? I need a ride to my friend’s house.” It was only recently, after receiving one of these requests, that I found myself saying out loud, what a pain in my neck.
Here is the thing I've learned about neck pain: Modern day conveniences have created a rather sedentary lifestyle. Now we can pretty much avoid going out and instead order our products, gifts, and even groceries online. This has led to a lot of slumping over, rounding our shoulders, and dropping our chins to check our phones and computers.
Think about it. The average head weighs roughly 8 to 10 pounds. If you're always placing your chin in front of your shoulders – rather than stacking the back of your head directly over the top rim of your sacrum – your neck and shoulders strain to support the weight of your head.
Take a physically imbalanced body and couple that with statements such as what a pain in my neck, and it really shouldn’t come as a surprise that you feel tension and tightness in those areas.
Here's the thing: Your body is always eavesdropping on your thoughts and feelings. It is a terrific listener. Tell your body you have a pain in the neck, and it will obey your command. Just like you might push yourself to run further or get up in the morning even though you want to keep sleeping, your body will eventually succumb to your beliefs.
Being a parent can sometimes feel more like being a taxi driver or a doctor on call. So how do you parent in a way that your body doesn’t have to take the brunt of your frustrations? Here are three ways to keep yourself balanced and free of neck pain:
See transitions as an opportunity to be in the moment rather than to get to it. So often parents run around trying to get everything done so they can eventually relax. I'm sure I don’t have tell you that list of yours will never be done. If you haven’t learned already, there's always more.
Let yourself land while you're moving about. For example, in a parking lot before entering a store, take three breathes – inhale, inflate your abdomen, and exhale to deflate it – before getting out of the car.
Notice what you say out loud. Notice if you complain about your commute (it's such a hassle) or yell at the car in front of you (come on, why do I always get behind a slow car when I'm in a hurry?). Keep in mind that words are energy, and statements like these are energy depleters. They zap your physical and emotional body causing you to feel drained by the simplest things.
Instead of it is such a hassle, consider the commute is my time to unwind from the day. Instead of I'm going to be late, consider I choose to let go of control. Notice how this frees the tension in your body rather than contributing to it.
One of the best exercises you can do as a parent is give yourself a chance to stretch your body at the end of the day.
Here's an all-around good one: Stand up tall, take your arms over your head, and clasp your hands. Place your feet and inner thighs together and lean side to side. This stretches your arms, legs, hips, and chest. Then take your arms behind you and interlace your hands. Allow your neck to release, moving your right ear to your right shoulder and left ear to left shoulder. BREATHE.
Taking care of yourself helps you stay connected to what is important – your physical and emotional well-being. Sure, life can be challenging. But you can influence your experiences through self-care, parenting with awareness, and committing to practices which alleviate pressure and allow more ease.