I am a working mother in what feels like an increasingly time demanding world. It can be hard to keep my head above water and only very occasionally do I feel like I just might be on top of my game. I have found that working and parenting demand a decent self care kit!
Many is the day I feel I have gone under and I am gasping for air. I may have targets in mind each day but unfortunately making plans and achieving them are two very different things.
The joys of the school run
Yesterday, for example, I planned to take my oldest child to school before going to work, then meet with my team for our weekly meeting, deliver on two projects and then head home for an evening of attacking the washing basket … but the smallest thing sent my plans off the rails.
On the way to dropping my child off at school I encountered a diversion and then joined the back of a traffic queue caused by a tractor, which I followed slowly for 10 miles. Consequently I was late for my first meeting and was on the back foot for the rest of the day. It also meant I had to work late to finish my project deliverables and when I did get home I was in the bad books. Oh and the washing pile continues to grow!
So, how do I work with these ups and downs rather than let them get me down?
Listen to yourself
There are two really important things I have learnt in order to get the most out of any downtime I have. First is not to expect too much from those short moments. The other is to listen to myself and what I need. It takes time to accept and understand the range of emotional needs that require tending and then it takes practice in applying the solution.
Sometimes, it’s hard to listen to your own needs when there’s self critical noise going on in your head, or you become distracted by other people’s demands. These can be put to you so convincingly that you lose sight of your own feelings.
Creating a self care kit
I’m pretty sure everyone has a first aid kit to mend and tend to their physical ailments or injuries but what about emotional bumps and scrapes? Wouldn’t we all love a place we can go that is stress free, calm and welcoming? Somewhere where we can rest our weary minds for a few moments to give us the space to recharge. How can we attain that place for ourselves?
Finding each need and how to ‘treat it’ has been a journey and I have often found the ointments of restoration in the strangest of places. Yes, there are plenty of top tips out there but it can all become quite confusing and unsatisfactory if you don’t find the right thing for you.
You can accomplish a lot by carving out little bits of time
I’ve learnt that it’s okay to carve out time for myself. It’s not selfish or indulgent. It is essential, valid and nurturing for a happy and fulfilled life. Be kind to yourself. Ring fence your ‘me time’ and stick to it.
This can be a challenge in our busy lives where everyone and everything is demanding your time. But it can be managed and by starting small, just 5-10 minutes a day, spending time on something for you, will be incredibly empowering. Once you have done this and felt the benefits you can build on the success.
Making time for tea
I have started a love affair with home made herbal teas. I ditched the coffee, it wasn’t working for me. Yes, it was great for a boost to get me going in the morning, and I love the smell but it was setting me on edge.
I have created a small, short ritual each morning and evening that gives me a reason to take a moment, stop, breathe and reflect. I can then move forward with purpose and composure, rather than anxiety and fear. Making fresh herbal tea and lighting a candle gives me a sense of peace and harmony even if it’s just momentary.
I’ve also started to address my desire to do yoga and I have now made the time I need. I started 10 minutes of yoga relaxation week days and 30-40 minutes one day at the weekend. This act gives me a sense of accomplishment and desire to shape and create more time. My world has not stopped but has gotten better. I feel motivated to create more time rather than feeling a sense of failure for not making a 60-90 minute class.
Previously, I couldn’t imagine taking time for yoga in a day that already felt too busy. But I finally listened to some wonderful advice from Hilary McLellan,
“Would you speak to others in the way you speak to yourself? Contorting yourself is incredibly hard work and draining, what can you do for yourself to be free, to be you?”
It’s okay to be kind to yourself
The image of me contorting myself to life, really stopped me in my tracks. I pressed the pause button on the negative chatter looping in my head and took, what at the time, felt like an incredibly difficult step: I took a moment to let myself know it was okay to be kind to me.
Find the things that work for you. Start small, make them a habit and then either look for more things or extend the time you already take. Soon you will have a kit to manage the bumps and scapes life throws at you.