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Embracing restraint: nurturing sustainability in a hectic world

Ironically, the holidays can be challenging. Especially with kids. You would think: “finally I have got time with my kids without distraction from work or other routine tasks”. 

And then the kids are acting out, perhaps because they are outside their regular environment, are with other kids and grownups than usually, and the regular routines fall away. Or because they are finally spending time away from their digital devices and all the pent up thoughts, emotions, and energy are coming out.

What ever it might be, the consequence is that you as a parent are in full action mode. Whereas you might need a break too.

So this summer during our staycation, I find myself to be two different people sometimes. 

One that is patient, calm and can see that my child has needs of her own that need my loving attention. It’s not easy for her during the holiday time, being an only child. 

The patient one

Whenever I manage to pull her away from mobile phone, tablet, or TV, the first question is : “So what can I do now?”

If I let her be and don’t come up with a solution, she becomes irritated and starts complaining about the place where we are, about me being different than her dad, the weather, the mosquitos, the dog, “I am bored”, and so on. The list can be endless – feel free to send us your own 😉

When I am the patient one, I start engaging with her and brainstorming about different options. About playing a game, going for a walk with the dog, binding the school books, going for a mountain bike ride, etc. And then we get somewhere constructive. Where my child’s energy becomes happy, engaged and we are having a good time together.

The impatient one

The other one of the two “Me”’s is stressed, has a lot of things on my mind and a short attention span that cannot see my child with her needs. When I am that one, I become annoyed with my kid’s inability to wean herself off the digital devices and find other things to do. Because I am busy with my own stuff, like cleaning the yard, working in the vegetable patch, organising a gathering, answering a friend on WhatsApp, and so on.

And like anger, stress begets stress. My kid responds even more short fused than usual and the atmosphere becomes tense, which the harmony-desiring part in me is unhappy about.

And this is just but one example. This dynamic applies to so many other private and work situations. If you are bit like me, perhaps you can relate to this.

This is why I love the concept of “restraint” that I learned from Richard Rudd, author of the “Gene Keys”. He speaks about the gift of restraint. That might not sound so exciting, but such a crucial gift that we all have access to if we think, speak, and act consciously. 

When we act out on stress, we actually increase our own stress level and the levels of everyone around us. On the flip side, when we completely suppress the sensation of stress, it bottles up and explodes when the critical steam mark is passed.  If instead we aim to “strike a balance between two extremes of energy – in this case, the energy of activity and passivity”, we can find the sweet spot of energy that is locked in stress and pour it into a form that serves us and others.

Here an excerpt from the chapter on stillness:

“The gift of restraint requires a great deal of patience and an understanding that everything in nature moves at its own speed. Particularly in the beginning, things appear to move slowly.
The moment we try to rush an idea, we disturb the ground in which it is sown. You can see from this how easily humans fall victim to stress.”

If I zoom out to the bigger picture of our current planetary state, I see a similar dynamic at play. In our mad day-to-day rush we consume and use resources in a unsustainable manner. Perversely we do so without much joy often – most likely because we are too stressed to stand still and allow ourselves to marvel at the riches of our life.

Imagine exercising the gift of restraint on a global scale. Imagine what would become possible if we hold back from consuming and using the way we did. Like when we become conscious/ mindful of how we live. Let me just name three that I am currently keenly aware of:

Buying food

  • Choosing locally sourced and seasonal produced
  • Planning meals and using leftovers more creatively
  • Eating more plant- based meals


  • Opting for public transport, car pooling, biking, or walking
  • Staycationing

Consuming news, other digital information, and even conversations

  • Digital detoxing by setting designated times from digital devices
  • Being selective about you engage with – quality vs quantity – 
  • Thus avoiding the constant dopamine release – only to plunge into the dip when disconnecting from the digital device
  • Engaging in meaningful conversations that promote understanding and positivity 

I see a world where we are in reciprocity and balance with nature, where we are not over exhausting our planet. A world where wild animals have enough space to roam and live their lives, without the infringement of human activities. Where all people are well fed, clothed, and have dignified dwellings and work – and not only reserved for a couple privileged ones.

Would you like to talk more? Book a free 1-to-1 introductory call with me: Nadja. Let’s see how we can support you in your sustainable efforts.

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