Those of you who have young children, grandchildren, nieces or nephews or can remember back to the days when your kids were toddlers will understand the exhaustion that comes with the relentless demands of a small child. Feed me, play with me, look at me, don’t look at me, I need the toilet, I don’t need the toilet (when they clearly need the toilet), I can do it, I can’t do it, me, me, me, no, no, no, now, now, now. It’s pretty demanding and you need some energy and some boundaries to manage it, so that everyone survives the “terrible two’s”.
If you’ve been following these blog posts, you will know that the demands of everyday life and how we manage them matter significantly when it comes to our current and future health and wellbeing. It matters to the pain system too which is designed to protect you from future harm. When that toddler does eventually go to sleep and you get on with cleaning up their mess, preparing meals, trying to get some exercise, organise the calendar and other work-related activities and maybe a couple of hours on the sofa watching the latest must see thing, it’s no surprise that weeks and months of that can lead to persistent headache, back ache and the rest.
Children grow up. Some quicker than others and we gain some wisdom. We learn to pace ourselves. How to prioritise things. We learn delayed gratification, negotiation, reciprocity. We learn how to assess the things that are good for us and those that are less good for us. We learn to figure out what nurtures us, what drives us, what holds us back or what pushes our buttons. Under pressure we revert back to being the toddler who gets frustrated and overwhelmed and we can have a bit of a tantrum. Perhaps not quite in the same way as a two-year-old but something shows. If we bottle up that frustration, it’s likely the pain system will speak up to help us realise we need a better system.
Every parent knows that part of managing that toddler is to accept that they will be demanding. They are difficult to negotiate with and you have no idea from day to day or moment to moment what that demand might be. Maybe it’s something nice and wonderful like a little stroll hand in hand in the sunshine or maybe it’s playing with glitter that you know and have to accept, is going to go everywhere. Whatever it is, that toddler is going to dictate the foreseeable future. It’s non-negotiable.
Every parent knows that rules and systems are necessary as toddlers need boundaries to feel safe and secure as they inevitably test those boundaries. They want to know the safety net doesn’t waver. Every parent knows that if you want to get anything meaningful done today you are going to have to get it done before the toddler gets involved. That might be before they get up, after they have gone to bed or are otherwise being taken care of at nursery or with the other parent. Your to do list or better still, your success list (the things you will actually get done rather than hope to get done) requires no interference from the toddler. You need to be organised, have a plan and have some boundaries.
Let’s face it. There is no getting away from the fact that your email/inbox is your current toddler. It decides how your day is going to go. It’s demanding. It’s relentless and it could swing your day in all sorts of directions. You can have great plans on getting things done and productivity and all the rest, but your toddler email has other plans potentially but inevitably.
Here are a few very basic and obvious suggestions to help you cope with that digital toddler who needs some boundaries so your pain system doesn’t boil over:
- Say hello to your family each day before you say hello to your phone.
- No phones at the table.
- No phones in bed.
- Get something concrete done on your success list before you look at that inbox and allow the toddler to dictate the day. Starting each day with a win matters.
- Accept that tomorrow is another day. You can’t meet every demand of a toddler every day. It won’t stop. Those emails are going to keep coming even after you are dead and gone.
- Register that trying to be on top of your inbox does make you anxious but you can use other strategies to help you cope. Exercise for instance. You absolutely don’t care about your inbox after you’ve done 20 burpees. You can leave it until tomorrow and keep those boundaries in place.
There are many demands on your time and energy and there is only so much you can do on any given day. Boundaries and priorities are essential to get through each day. Your pain system is the Ultimate Mentor that speaks up when you are trying to cram too much into your day or set the expectations unrealistically on yourself. We all need systems and understanding of those systems to mange our actions, activities and attitudes towards our health and well being for now and for our future self. Managing the email toddler is just one such thing. The Health Hexagon explores more ways to help you keep checks and balances on the 6 essential factors that will govern your future self.
The irony is not lost on me that this post about putting boundaries on your exposure to email is most likely to find it’s way to you by email. With any luck its one of the positives of having a toddler. We certainly learn a lot about ourselves from them.