If you’re finding life, the struggle with the juggle, the rollercoaster… hard, it’s so easy to slip into a feeling of failure. To be blaming yourself for not keeping all of the balls in the air, shaming yourself for finding it tough when in many ways you feel very lucky.
I wanted to share with you a lightbulb moment (you know I love a lightbulb moment) I had at the beginning of the first UK pandemic lockdown in March 2020. It feels so relevant, and is something I keep returning to:
Something clicked last night. I cried tears that I knew would sting in the morning. Trying to work out why even though my home is FULL of the things I love, my family, my job, I felt so…needing.
Life has become stripped back. What has remained here, in my home is my family and my work.
Both require me. Lots of me. All the time.
I look into their faces and I want to see them, to hear them. But it’s like wearing headphones with the radio stuck on. My mind is busy and fast, and loud. I’m there but I’m not.
I answer questions on autopilot. Realising seconds later that I’ve agreed to chocolate as I serve dinner. Charlie, my son, calls my name 5 times. I hear him but I don’t.
I want to be here, yet my mind leaps like a confused frog, from present to future. The weight of the to-do list, food shopping, emails, people I need to check in on, sits on my shoulders and in my heart.
And then I realised what I was hungry for. Lazy discussion about everything and nothing. Being with those who don’t care whether or not you provide a snack or an email.
I miss the 23-second conversations had whilst leaning against a friend’s washing machine, interrupted by fights over toys. I miss the presence of a friend.
I know we have phones and zoom. It’s something. But it’s like being served a softening poppadum when you’re hungry for the full curry shebang.
I miss just BEING with. Just being me, with no expectation, request or agenda.
Those playdate half-conversations never felt long enough. The kid free supermarket dashes never felt quite enough space. But they clearly gave me more than I realised. And I miss them. Little mini respites from the intensity. Little things that fuelled and refilled us more than we knew at the time.
I took a lone walk, called a couple of friends, and came home feeling so refreshed, and known. It helps.
Maybe it’s just hard because it’s hard. I know some people have it ‘harder’. But this is MY hard’
If this feeling resonates, here are some tips that might help:
- Make time for yourself. Be it a snatched ten minutes here, an early retreat to bed with a book instead of a phone, a bath over a speedy shower. You might have to fiddle with logistics, to ask for support in facilitating those moments of space, but prioritise them as if your family depend on you being refilled and refuelled.
- Try to avoid the temptation to invalidate your feelings with gratitude and positivity. They are powerful tools, but ensure that you’re bringing them ALONGSIDE your feelings, rather than forcing yourself to feel grateful INSTEAD of overwhelmed. You can feel both.
- Breathe. Literally. When we are stressed, we our breath is impacted. You might breathe more shallower, higher in your chest, you might clench your jaw or skip a breath all together. Become mindful of your breath, slow it down and deepen it. It helps calm your nervous system.
- Bin all the ‘should’s right now. I ‘should’ be doing more, I ‘should’ be better. Right now the focus needs to be on surviving and nurturing your mental health.
- Adopt a mantra to help ground you. When I realise I’m slipping into a sense of failure I repeat ‘It’s hard because it’s hard’. It introduces a little compassion into my mindset! We all need more of that.
- Seek support in whatever way you can. I spent many years of life fearing being a burden, but I’m realising that sharing the burden with the right people doesn’t mean I am one.
- Work on your self-esteem. Often the reasons we find it so challenging to reprioritise ourselves is because, deep down, we don’t believe we are worthy of kindness, from ourselves or from others. Have a look at my Week on Worth Course as a great first step into sending your self-esteem on an upward spiral.
- Check your inner dialogue. If you’re critical and bullying, try and imagine what a kind, compassionate friend would say. Introduce a kinder voice where you can to counteract the critic.