WHY NO-ONE SHOULD SURVIVE PARENTHOOD

[First published in Natural Parent Magazine, September 2017]

I often get asked the question, how do you do it? I am a mum, I have two small children, two businesses and I love kickboxing and fighting competitively. To other people I guess I must sometimes look a little ‘superhuman’. I’m not.

Just over a year ago, I was drowning in overwhelm and had lost complete sight of what life looked like outside #beingmum. From the outside, I was still grinning, but beneath that smile I was feeling the physical symptoms of stress and my confidence was lacking. My children and my schedule were ruling me. I was tired. Mornings were the worst, and from there we just descended into chaos every day. One child would niggle at the other or spill something and I would be so tired that I would just immediately shout. I wasn’t really shouting at them. I was shouting at it all to stop. I couldn’t enjoy my children or be fully present to share the precious moments with them because my line of coping had been crossed. And this made me feel terribly guilty. Guilty that I wasn’t meeting my own expectation as a mother, guilty that I was shouting all the time, guilty that I felt I needed more than ‘just’ this to feel fulfilled.

Motherhood had definitely pushed me into a weird state of autopilot, a bit like treading water.

I felt like I couldn’t give 100% to any area of my life due to the fact I was constantly multitasking. I’d get the things done that I needed to each day for my family to survive, but I had forgotten to do the things that filled MY cup and sustained MY health. I found myself in a constant state of overwhelm and unsure who to reach out to for help. I think a lot of my mum friends felt the same, but none of us would say out loud that while we were all surviving, we definitely weren’t thriving.

Then June last year I was given the chance to train to become a Life Coach. As I progressed through my training I realised that this status quo wasn’t OK. To just survive parenthood is not good enough! The precious moments, the important people in our lives, the beauty around us all matter just as much when you are a mum and I realised that I had stopped noticing them because of the autopilot, the sleep deprivation and overwhelm that had become a daily part of #beingmum. I had disconnected from the people who matter most to me; close friends and my best friend, my husband. I could now see that the reason I was unable to stay present in any one thing was because the next thing I had to do was pulling me along. I realised I had a responsibility to look after myself and be healthy and happy in order to be the best mum I could be to my children and for them to be healthy and happy as well. Just surviving was not OK. I had to dig deep and start investing in me, even though that felt rather uncomfortable.

So that’s what I did. Through becoming a Certified Life Coach, I was coached myself, and slowly began to fill my own cup again, and with a full cup, I am now able to fill the cups of my children, the cups of my friends, and the cups of my clients.  If the overwhelm starts to kick in again, I have strategies I can go back to that unpick the overwhelm, and gentle reminders to look after myself that I keep in what I call “My Little Book of Golden Heart” that I made for myself.  No-one can pour from an empty cup. And motherhood is a life experience that deserves to be enjoyed to its fullest. Children grow up too fast before our very eyes.

Through Life Coaching you peel back the layers of your life, like an onion so to speak. You become aware of the things that are overwhelming, draining, or flat-out making you miserable and commit to working on them one-by-one. With the plan in place, the overwhelm lessens and you start to feel happiness every day again, feel glimpses of hope that life can be all that you want it to be, and you pursue it with excitement. You design a life you love.

To design the life that you want, instead of surviving the life that you currently have, you need to start with the intention to make yourself and your needs a priority. In an aeroplane, if there is an emergency, parents are told to put their own masks on first, so that they are then able to save their children. Life is no different and if you don’t, your plane will crash, just like mine did. Don’t step over that line into barely surviving, work on you for your own and your family’s benefit.

So now I hear you ask, but where do I even begin?

HERE ARE MY TOP TIPS FOR DESIGNING A LIFE YOU CAN LOVE.

  • Set your intention

“Everything that happens in the universe starts with intention”

If you don’t truly have the intention to change life ‘how it is’, you won’t be able to create life ‘as you desire it’.  You must intend to change

  • Make a commitment to follow through

This includes making a commitment to prioritise you.  Don’t make this bigger than it is, it is the small choices we make as mums that can impact in so many areas.  Start by asking yourself some questions:

  1. Do you know what your needs are?
  2. Are you living your daily life with your needs in mind?
  3. If not, do you know why not? If you aren’t clear on your own needs you will continually run into trouble trying prioritise them.  Make a commitment to filling your cup:
  4. First, decide what you need to fill your cup – make a list
  5. Next, establish if each need is being met, just put a tick or a cross next to each one
  6. Next to ones with a cross write why you think this need isn’t being met. Your answers will undoubtedly fall into one of 3 categories – too busy, not a high enough priority, or a physical/cost/other barrier like “I can’t afford to…”, “I can’t get anyone to look after the kids, so that I…” etc
  7. What needs to change so this need is met?
  8. Is the change realistic/achievable?
  9. If not, what is an alternative that will have the outcome you need so your cup is full and your whole family thrives?
  • Prioritise discovering a way to connect to your inner self

I ran a 30-day challenge recently called the Happiness Habit.  I wanted to discover my way to a deep, unwavering happiness and a feeling of embodied peace and calm. I invited other mums to do the Challenge with me.  Every day for 30 days I asked questions to get us thinking about our emotions, mindfulness, self-care and gratitude.  What I realised at the end of 30 days was that everything I needed in relation to these things was inside of me, so I committed to connecting to my inner-self more regularly.  I am trying to do a morning meditation before my children get up and notice the sounds and beauty of morning that are so uplifting and spend some time by myself not doing anything.  Think about what will work for you and treat this time like any other appointment by not cancelling on yourself to do the laundry or more work.

  • Set your intentions

I know, I’ve already said this, but I can’t stress more how imperative strong intentions are to designing a life you love.

One of my favourite ways of setting intentions is through Vision Boards. They let you play with the idea of what would happen if you could choose what comes next in your future. They are an excuse to get creative, they relieve stress and they let you have fun with possibility. Through the process of creation your vision becomes clearer, your hope and motivation increases, your stress reduces and you remember that you are more than just mum; which gives a feeling of empowerment and identity.

If you are reading this and thinking, that sounds great, but where would I find the time to create a vision board? I invite you to spend half an hour with me for free, with the goal of getting you out of overwhelm fast. Life Coaching is powerful. It is effective, but it is gentle. And I am a mum, I know what it’s like to live this crazy life of mum. I have been where you are and I revisit that place even now. The difference is I have developed a set of tools and strategies to get myself quickly out again.

Nowadays I am not surviving parenthood. And nor should anyone else. We should all be living a life we enjoy, one we have designed with intent, one that fulfils us. We all deserve a life full of health and happiness, and by looking after ourselves first, by filling our cup, we are able to fill the cups of others and look after those who matter most to us and ensure their lives are full of health and happiness as well.

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Spring Clean Your Life

The trees are beginning to feel comfortable in their summer coats of green and the birds are in paradise drinking the sweet nectar from the blossoming flowers. Families are beginning to feel the anticipation of summer and are mowing lawns, clipping bushes, weeding vegetable patches and beginning the spring clean. We are doing exactly the same.

IMAG1197.jpgThe thing I am allowing myself to think about as I lose myself in the therapeutic task of cleaning and clearing is how, when you start to live the life you have designed for yourself, you realise how much of LIFE YOU’VE MISSED by previously living in a whirlwind of things that weren’t serving your happiness.

Things. I’ve always been a nostalgic lover of holiday memoirs, shells that smell like summer, anniversary cards and the like. I’m also terribly bad at saying no to gifted toys or getting rid of toys, even if the girls no longer play with them. This wasn’t a huge problem until I couldn’t get on top of my to do list and clutter just started growing everywhere! I was always trying to catch myself up  in terms of chores because I committed myself in too many directions, so there never seemed to be time to tidy up/organize/sort. There wasn’t even time for meaningful activities unless I had taken us out of our home to those facilitated by others and even then my head was in what I needed to get done when I got back.

So a really sad realization for me as I finally started to let go of this life of chaos to start living a life on purpose was that the majority of how I’d chosen to spend my time wasn’t serving my family’s happiness either, even though I thought it was. And the most ridiculous thing? My intention had been the opposite! I was doing all of it for them, but in doing that I forgot what I needed to do for me, so that my head was clear enough to efficiently plan my time.

TIME. It is one of the biggest burdens on a parent I think. Feeling like we’ve not got enough of it to get the stuff done we need to in a day, or too much of it sometimes when the day becomes long dealing with the arguments of siblings, witching hour or even just one too many imagination games and we feel ready to clock off.

However, one really important thing I learned from respected personal development coach, Jim Rohn is that no one has more or less hours in the day than anyone else, it is just how we choose to spend them that is different.

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One of the key things in designing a life you love is time management. It is a key focus of my Design Your Life Ultimate Experience.  A simple concept when you break it down and learn some tools you can always go back to in the future when life tips out of balance.

One of the things my husband always says is that I am like the puppeteer of our family’s happiness. If I start the day in the wrong way it impacts everyone. This is a huge responsibility to carry on my shoulders and so I designed a morning routine that serves everyone, but especially me, so that I feel more empowered to own that role in a positive way now and start the day on the right foot.

It is too late to change the fact that my second daughter missed out so much of me because of the overwhelm I let consume me.  Just looking at all the photos I took of my first daughter today as I spring clean poignantly reminds me of all the moments I captured of her because I experienced being in them with her at the time they happened! A spring clean signifies a clean slate. A washing away of regret and feelings of ‘I could have done better’ to make space for intention to do better and live more.

What does your annual Spring Clean signify for you? What is your situation? What brought you to read this blog and what resonates with you from it?

I will look forward to hearing from you

Much love, Clare X X

How To Let Go Of Stress

The Design Your Life blog series has been about how, as Mums we are notoriously busy, often with few pauses or chances to catch our breath, and how this affects us.

Read on for a Guest post by Kirsty Salisbury, Wellness Coach about how we can let go of stress.  And why we should!

It can often seem like a never ending mission to ensure that everyone else is going OK.  That the kids are still breathing, there’s food in the fridge, lunch boxes in bags, and that everyone has at least one matching pair of socks to wear…  Throw in trying to look presentable, have a job, while keeping the house semi hygienic, and that juggling act is almost certain to fall apart. Whether it does or not, I can guarantee that stress is never far away.

Perhaps you’ve felt like you’re on a constant roller coaster with stress, up and down, up and around.  It’s the ride you never realised you had tickets for, yet here you are – swooshing up and down, side to side and flying loop de loop.  Just when you think that things must be about to even out, that gut curdling dip and rush of cortisol hits again.  I can totally relate.  There was a time not so long ago when my doctor actually diagnosed me as being ‘addicted to stress’.  Yep, I had become so familiar with those roller coaster rides, that I had unknowingly started creating drama and stress just to feel the exhilaration of the roller coaster ride.  A little confusing to say the least.  On one hand I hated what it was doing to me, and on the other, I needed that rush to feel like I was doing what I should be, trying hard enough, and achieving enough.  I was pretty much living on caffeine and chocolate and I was a mess.  My gut was in tatters, my emotions all over the place, I barely slept, and I shocked myself each time I burst into tears with simply no explanation.  On one hand I was addicted to the drama, and on the other hand I just wanted to scream “Let me off!!!”

Stress is a good thing, but ONLY in the right circumstances.  Like when we need superhuman powers to run from a wild beast chasing us, or to escape an attack or before an exam/presentation, or escaping a life threatening situation.  But ongoing or frequent high stress brings no value into our worlds.  In fact, it can have very serious effects to our health and wellbeing.  Ever heard the term ‘worry yourself sick’?  Well, there’s a reason this saying exists… because when we let stress take over, the rise in health risks can also take over.  Research suggests that stress increases the risk of heart disease by 40%, heart attack by 40%, and stroke by a whopping 60%!  Not to mention inflammation, ulcers, hair loss, sleep deprivation and depression.  It’s believed that in some areas that 3 out of 4 doctors visits are stress related – yes 75%!*

But what can we do about this?  Well… we can start to look out for ourselves for a start.  Begin taking time for ourselves, and doing something that serves no purpose for anyone else.  It’s amazing how this can help us to refocus, let go of the stress, and to see things in a positive light.  Things like getting out in the sunshine, going for a walk, joining up for a short course, coffee with the girls, or that dance class you’ve always wanted to try out.  Meditating, yoga, breathing and relaxation techniques can do absolute wonders too. Anything that is going to start to refresh our thought patterns.  Next, is to be aware of how we fill our time.  The people we hang out with, the TV shows we watch, what we look at on social media, and the amount of things we try to fit into our days. Spending just 15 minutes a day doing something truly relaxing can make all the difference to how we see the world.

My 7 year old daughter is learning about filling her cup at school at the moment.  It’s beautiful.  The teacher has literally helped them to decorate cups with their names on them, and they have all been stuck to the wall.  At any point, a child can write a nice word, or draw a picture, and pop it into one of the named cups.  They are also learning how their activities can fill or empty their cups, and how the people they spend time with do that too. She now knows what types of things give her energy and happiness.  Something us adults need to know too.  The other day, things had gotten her down, and I was met with a truly sobbing child at the school gate (yes, the kind of sobbing where snot goes everywhere).  Once in my arms all she had to say was  “my cup is empty” and in an instant I got it.   She felt empty, and needed some love, and best of all – we didn’t need to navigate the other 100+ questions to try before getting to the bottom of her emotions.

So why as Mums, are we not doing more for ourselves?  Allowing ourselves to get off that stress roller coaster and to do more to fill our own cups?  When our cup is full, we can offer a lot more to the world, and everything seems to have so much more perspective.  They don’t need to be big things.  But things that give us charge.  Now is the time to go and do these things.  A little time each week to make sure that our cups are getting filled as well.  It will feel great to switch out the cortisol for some endorphins.  Overall, if we can reduce our sources of stress, we can connect better with ourselves and experience more joy.  This makes us feel better, look better and actually be nicer people in this world.  My challenge to us all is this:

Do one thing each day, (no matter how small) to love our inner selves.  Even deep breathes are like little love notes to ourselves.

*https://www.stress.org/stress-is-killing-you

A recap of Kirsty’s ideas to let go of stress!

Get out in the sunshine, go for a walk
Join up for a short course
Have a coffee with the girls
Take that dance class you’ve always wanted to try out
Meditate, try yoga
Use breathing and relaxation techniques
Try anything that is going to start to refresh our thought patterns.
Be aware of how we fill our time – the people we hang out with, the TV shows we watch, what we look at on social media, and the amount of things we try to fit into our days.
Spend just 15 minutes a day doing something truly relaxing to make all the difference to how we see the world.

Kirsty is a Wellness Coach and Speaker.  She inspires others to reach their full potential, no matter their circumstances or restrictions. Personal crisis is inevitable, but it’s how we deal with it that she believes matters most.  She is the host of her podcast ‘Let’s Talk Life Design’ (www.letstalklifedesign.com), and loves enabling others to share their incredible stories along with practical strategies to living a life filled with purpose.
Find her at:

http://www.kirstysalisbury.com
Facebook: @kirstysalisburyofficial
instagram: @kirstysalis

5 Easy Ways to Take a Breath from Life this Weekend

We’ve all done it.  Overcommitted ourselves, said yes to everything, tried to please everyone and got to Friday feeling drained, grumpy, anxious and ready for the floor to open up and swallow us!

Here are 5 easy ways you can take a breath and enjoy your weekend with your family, greeting Monday feeling refreshed and energised!

1). Don’t be afraid to say “no”

Gift yourself this weekend for you.  Don’t feel afraid to say no to those who want to encroach upon it, even if they are family or friends!  Say something like, “I would love to (do so & so/help you), but let’s organise it for when I can devote my full attention to you, OK?” Then, when you feel rested and ready you can set a date moving forward.

2). Identify your needs, and fulfill them!

We all have basic needs that need to be fulfilled for us to be content. I am actually an introvert.  I require time by myself, on my own, otherwise I feel a little crazy.  I don’t get that much anymore now I have 2 children, so I end up feeling a little crazy a lot!

You might need to be surrounded by others.

You might be an introvert like me who has a close friend who needs to be constantly surrounded by others… you see where I am going with this right?

When our fundamental needs aren’t being met we start to feel frustrated, bitter and burnt out.

Take a moment this weekend and identify the top thing you need to feel happy, fulfilled and unstressed:

  1. More downtime
  2. More ‘friend time’
  3. More sleep
  4. Something else?

Now figure out how you can get it!

3). Disconnect after baby goes to bed

As a business owner, the minute my children go to bed I start working because I feel overwhelmed by what I have missed during the day.  This leads to late nights, an overactive brain and a grumpy mum the next day!

You might not have a business, but feel all those unfinished tasks from during the day (folding washing, a phone call, the dishes, food prep, etc) need to be done now you have time.  What if I told you that time could be taken for you to wind down (or connect with your partner) and there is a way to support tasks not going unfinished during the day?

Make sure you hit me up on that question because I will answer it for you!  For now, just take one night this weekend to switch off and focus on you and what you want to do.

4) Set aside time for breaks in your day

This is a big one, especially on a holiday weekend like this one when the kids want to do the Easter Egg Hunt, your partner wants time to do some DIY, you need to make sure the cupboards aren’t bare because the supermarkets are shut and the Mother-in-Law has to have family dinner this weekend.

Stop.

Breathe.

When can you set aside some time to go for a small walk or do your favorite stretches/yoga poses/exercises ALONE?

Fresh air, some meditation and some exercise are the most re-energising things I know.  The challenge is to commit to doing them, so start the good habit this weekend of taking some time out for you.

5) Identify what you love & who you love and do & be with only that

This is another big one.  In my Design Your Life Ultimate Coaching Experience we look really hard at these things so you spend more quality time doing what you love and being with the people you love, rather than feeling obligated to do stuff you don’t like and waste quality time with people you don’t care that much for, but your kids love them, or you work with them etc.  I know it sounds a bit harsh, but our days (and lives) are so very short!  And we spread ourselves so thinly and feel obligated in so many different directions.

Spend some time this weekend thinking about your ideal life.  Who is in it, what are you doing?  I also have a guided meditation here on the blog that is all about being the architect of your dreams and building your ideal life.  If you’d like to listen to it, email me nzessentialmum@gmail.com.  Click here to talk to me about Designing Your Life!

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Much love X X

Why I Made the Decision to Design My Life

So, this is what my life looked like not so far back in the past…

I had a brand new baby, I was taking both my girls to Play Centre, I was taking on responsibilities there, I was trying to be the perfect mum – attachment parenting, breastfeeding, healthy food, seeing the Naturopath, trying to never lose my temper, putting far too much pressure and too many expectations on myself.

I was trying to get Essential Mum off the ground and running, whilst working out a sales contract I held onto because we were pressured by the weight of financial stress that was so heavy I felt sick to the pit of my stomach.  Many weeks we just didn’t know how we would be able to pay our bills and the mortgage.

I felt obligated in so many different directions that I didn’t know which way was up. I was stressed, I was exhausted, and by rushing from one task to the next constantly I was missing being in the moments as they happened and losing the true beauty of them.

I was disconnected from my new baby girl, my older baby girl and life itself.  I was exhausted.  And yet I was going over and above for the wonderful crowd of women I had attracted with Essential Mum because these women inspired me and motivated me daily. I wanted desperately to help them more than what I was doing already because in that I felt a sensed of purpose stronger than anywhere else in my life.  That was when I decided to train to become a life coach.

And that was when I changed my life.

And now I have come full circle. What I mean by that is that it’s now time to share on what was so powerful for me. Because I see you; hiding behind a smile that disguises how unfulfilled you feel.  I know that your “together” shell hides how inside you’re falling apart. Your silence tells me everything it needs to.  I hear you because I was where you are and I want to help you.

In September I am launching my Design Your Life Ultimate Experience for 6 inspired and open mums.  The steps I will take you through across 8 weeks are exactly those that I took myself through to get out of the overwhelm and focus on me and what I needed for my health and happiness.  I will help you strike a balance between what you love to do and your obligations, so you’re not over-committed and exhausted.  I will help you design a life that brings you happiness, every day.

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I still have days where I fall apart, but what helps me come back together again is knowing the steps to get myself back into balance.

If you want to feel in control like this, start living on purpose and shift out of overwhelm into purpose, click here to read about my Ultimate Experience!