I’m constantly faced with mothers whose minds can’t stop spinning, who are wearing themselves out trying to get through their ever growing list of “things to do” and are overwhelmed and emotional as a result. Why do we find it SO hard to put our well-being above the driving need to get stuff done?
I am sure many of you might now be saying: “that’s all very well but the washing HAS to be done and the shopping HAS to be done and the cooking HAS to be done….etc etc”
But if you go down with the ship, taking your children with you (because if you are stressed, your child is stressed) will it be worth it?
I am busy. Too busy. And I know better. I study this stuff for a living and I work with mothers every day who are prime candidates for post natal depression, anxiety and what Rick Hanson calls Depleted Mother Syndrome – all because we try too hard to get things done, rather than trying hard to resource ourselves to be the kind of parent our child needs: tuned in, lovingly connected and responsive to their needs. We can’t do this when we are running on empty.
I’ve tried many different things to try to get through the Things to Do List – thinking I will relax and refuel once I have completed it. But every day new things get added and before you know it, the very thought of the thing to do list becomes a source of stress in itself.
My worse strategies:
1: Multi-tasking – very seductive, because it creates the illusion of using my time wisely by getting more done and gives me the sense of being a go-getter, in control, blazing a trail and kicking goals! In reality it dramatically reduces performance and drains energy faster and ……read more here….
2: Choosing the less important but quick things I can get done without thinking (my brain is fried from lack of sleep after all) which once again, gives me the illusion of control and progress but means that although I have checked my email, am up to date with Facebook and have put on that load of washing, I haven’t done anything to resource myself and refill my energy reserves, haven’t made progress on the things that really matter and end the day feeling disheartened and dissatisfied in how I have spent my time.
3: Coffee! Yeah it is great for the first hour but then I realise I am dehydrated and crash earlier in the day than I would have done. I can’t work out what my natural energy cycle is during the day because I have masked it with coffee and I start feeling locked in to the roller-coaster of crutch-supported bursts and rough landings.
4: Push through: Yep, I have done this even though I know the research shows that I am far more likely to stick to my goals and make the positive changes I want to if I am on my own side, showing myself kindness and understanding rather than standing over myself with hands on hips and the whip cracking to soldier on. This is the one that keeps me working after the children have gone to sleep, beyond the time that is useful and makes it harder for me to switch off and drift peacefully off to sleep – what I need most to be at my best!
My best strategies:
1: Pause: To take 2 minutes to close my eyes, breathe slowly and regroup clears my mind of the panic rushing through the day creates, resets my stress response so I can feel more settled again and gives me the perspective I need to make wiser choices about “what next”
2: Connect with other adults: It’s so easy to say it’s too hard, I don’t have enough time, I will get less done – but social connection is one of our most important resources for well-being. People with low social connection (fewer people they want to connect with) experience more anxiety, depression and higher inflammation and a shorter life than smokers, the obese & those with heart disease. But if you feel highly connected to those around you, you will live longer, recover faster from illness, have greater well-being and better physical health and immunity. And it fills us back up again to connect to others! We are social creatures and we come alive around those we love and who care for us. They offer tangible support and a sense of belonging and togetherness. So it’s something I always make time for.
3: Check in with my intention for the day or the hour, and use that to guide my time management. I have written an intention based time management guide to help mothers with this and it is free this month with my online course (use affiliate link here). It helps each day be filled with what connects me to the joys of life, reminds me that my deepest wish is to be there lovingly with my children and helps me cross less important things off my list completely!
4: Prioritise Self Care: All of these points add up to this but it is worth putting up in lights – for our own sake as well as our children. As Rick Hanson says in our interview inside the program:
“if you care about children, take good care of mothers”.
This means getting outside to breathe in the fresh air, doing my self compassion and mindfulness practices, having fun and making sure I notice, savour and am grateful for all the good around and within me – not just what I get done.
I hit the wall (or more precisely the floor) before I had the sense to start prioritising self care as a mother. But you don’t have to. You can start today, before it gets any worse, and resource yourself for motherhood – it is after all a life-long marathon we have signed up for here, not a sprint. And the ones who enjoy the journey, who feel calm, confident lovingly connected to their children very clearly invest in their well-being, manage their emotions and energy levels and enjoy parenting!
If you would like to join a community of mothers who are doing exactly that, mastering what works and regaining their best selves, please join us here…