The Self Care Question…

How do you look after you when you have so little time?

I am always talking about self-care. We understand how important it is, but also how tricky it can be. How do you look after yourself when you have so little time?

Self-care is far from easy. When our self-worth is on the floor, we are over worked and lifes stress’s are all consumimg making time to nurture ourselves feels like an unnecessary effort.  We tell ourselves we don’t need it, that it’s pointless and self-indulgent, that it’s selfish.

But self-care isn’t selfish, it’s essential. We can’t do or be all the things we want to without taking care of ourselves. If your not on top and happy how can you be there for everyone else?

Of course, we may feel resistance around practising self-care.  We’ve spent so long putting our own needs below others whether that is as a mum, dad, friend, partner, or at work. Putting ourselfs first might feel at odds with your usual way of life.

We may also find that as we start to bring self-care into our lives, some of the people around us seem unsettled too. Change can be uncomfortable for us all – but that doesn’t mean it’s not necessary.

There are many blogs and articles on self-care on line and you have to find something that works for you and will fit into your life and family, but here are my top tips  to put you first

Make sleep part of your self-care routine.

Sleep can have a huge effect on how you feel both emotionally and physically. Not getting enough can even cause major health issues. But stress and other distractions can wreak havoc on our sleep, so take care of your sleep environment too. 

Exercise daily as part of your self-care routine.

We all know exercise is good for us, but do we really know how good it is? And if your like me a reluctant participant it can be hard to get on with it. But exercise can help you both physically and mentally, boosting your mood and reducing stress and anxiety, not to mention helping you shed extra weight, so even just a little bit is better than non at all.

Say no to others, and say yes to your self-care. 

Learning to say no is really hard; this is something that I have had to learn to do. Many of us feel obligated to say yes when someone asks for our time or energy. However, if you’re already stressed or overworked, saying yes to loved ones or co-workers can lead to extra stress, anxiety, and in my case irritability! It may take a little practice, but once you learn how to politely say no, you’ll start to feel more empowered, and you’ll have more time for you.

Get outside.

This is my go to self-care, when life is overwhelming or I need some space and peace and quiet I head straight outside rain or shine. I celebrate the silence! Spending time outside can help you reduce stress and help you sleep better at night.

Reflect on the positives.

In the evenings I write down the three best things that happened that day “what I am grateful for” they things that make you smile or go ‘yay!’ This puts me in a state of appreciation and gratitude. This will help you recognize things going right in your life instead of focusing on the negative.

Accept what is.

Sometimes you have to accept things as they are, the things you can’t change. Give yourself a break, take a breath and accept it. You can’t control everything so sometimes you have to trust that you will get to where you where you need be.

Finally be a bit selfish… do one thing today just because it makes you happy.

Whether it’s binge-watching your favourite show, getting lost in a good book, or zoning out to music, whatever “nothing” means to you, do it!

Mother guilt: My nemesis…

Mother’s guilt is only natural and is the consequence of wanting to be a good mother to your children. However, in the end it won’t do us any good..

The summer holidays are well under way and this is a time when I tend to reflect on the past year, how much my children have grown emotionally and physically and how proud I am of what they have achieved. But with this comes my own internal battle am I a good mum?

I truly believe that being a mum is the hardest job in the world, children don’t arrive with an instruction manual, just as you get over one ‘phase’ another one arrives to surprise you and we are constantly faced with enormous expectations from society, media, family and friends about what mothers “should be like” and what we “should do.” Then there is the ‘mum guilt’

Maternal guilt is the feeling of guilt, doubt, anxiousness or uncertainty experienced by mothers when they worry they’re failing or falling short of expectations in some way.

As a mother of two boys and with my own experience of serious mental illness I know only too well what mothers guilt is and what it can do to our self-confidence and self-worth. There are many issues I have felt guilty about with my own children but by talking to a counsellor and sharing with close friends I have learnt to accept that some things are just out of my control, and that my kids are wonderfully happy and secure with the choices I have made. 

I believe that all mum’s at some time will experience it, the feeling that we aren’t good enough, or that we are not doing the best for our children. Whether it is the choices we make for them, going back to work, not being able to attend a school play or event or even serving fishfingers and chips for tea instead of ‘freshly made home grown food’, it’s the constant battle we have to be the perfect parent and this is exhausting for us all. 

We wonder if choices we have made, such as what school to send our kids to, have not had far-reaching negative consequences, if a different path would have resulted in happier, more well-adjusted and secure kids. The choices we make are often very considered, but it still doesn’t stop us worrying about them. 

The truth is that no matter what we do right as parents, we tend to more often focus on our failings. Mothers then become their own worst critics.

The guilt and resulting feelings of shame drive feelings, thoughts, and behaviours and can show up in some of the following ways:

  • Depression and anxiety
  • Negative thoughts. 
  • Massive amounts of time and/energy focused on social media.  
  • Overdoing, overworking and overscheduling.  
  • Addictive behaviours.  

Counselling can help with understanding these feelings and finding the root cause of the ‘guilt’

If I am realistic I know that mother’s guilt isn’t going anywhere in a hurry, it is part of being a mum. When I think about my own mother, she has shared her memories of parenting and what she believes she could have done differently, so she stills has her own mum guilt and I am 45 years old! Maybe embracing it is the way forward? Or trying to ease it might be a better solution.

So here are my top tips for easing the mum guilt :

  • Be realistic– being perfect isn’t achievable, we all make mistakes and this is where we get the best learning experience. 
  • Look out for the ‘should’s – these come from other people’s expectations not your own. 
  • Pick your battles and don’t stress over the little stuff.
  • Stop judging yourself – your best is good enough- don’t compare yourself to other mums either, the chances are that they are struggling with mum guilt too!
  • Acceptance of what you can’t change and learn to laugh at things when they go array 
  • Be honest with your children, explain why you feel guilty. They will appreciate your openness and it will keep that all important communication open between you. 

It’s also worth remembering that guilt can also be positive, a catalyst to stop a damaging pattern of behaviour. As a Counsellor I often see women who wouldn’t instigate change for themselves, but will for their children, out of a desire to be a better mother than their own.

Finally remember that guilt means you care and that you are a good mum, all children really want is to be loved and supported – remember that you are trying your best and this is good enough. We’ve got this!

“It’s not about how much you do, but how much love you put into what you do that counts.” – Mother Teresa