A pandemic. Coronavirus. And motherhood.
Three words to have co-existed for well over a year through no choice of our own.
Talk about hard work. None of us saw it coming. And to say it’s been hard is an understatement. But what could we do? What did we do?
Well, we carried on. Because that’s the only choice we had. Us mums are the best at coping, putting on a brave face and just getting on with stuff because we have no other option but to!
The consequences of battling through however are a chronic feeling of burnout-feeling beaten down after the past year. This is certainly how I'm feeling and it’s similar for a lot of my mummy friends.
The good news though, is things are looking up.
I’m not an avid news reader personally, but rates of Covid seem to be coming down in the UK, summer’s on its way and signs of normal life are resuming. June the 21st looks promising so let's keep all fingers and toes crossed.
But what if we’re struggling with things like frequent low moods or simply not feeling as good as we’d like to after a year (ish) of lockdown life with kids in tow?
Of course, it’s no surprise we may feel this way due to the sheer lack of support from the stay at home rule, and not seeing anyone apart from the kids and partner? No wonder we feel like we’re going mad (we’re really not)
First off, I invite you to take a breath here, inhale, exhale... and remind yourself that you’re surviving the worst disaster since world war two.
What we’ve been through is one of the biggest disasters in history, so I’d be surprised if you’re full of beans in any case. And we’re still riding the wave of the pandemic, affected by lingering damage of social distancing or the small fact that our lives changed instantly for the worst overnight (I still struggle with making eye contact wearing a mask)
I for one will never forget listening to Boris give his ‘stay at home’ announcement on the 10 O’Clock news… and the stats of the effects of the pandemic on mums are proof of the reality of all that we’ve been through. The Independent reports that postnatal depression tripled during
the pandemic. That’s an increase to 41% during the lockdown period compared to 15% before the outbreak began.
Yet as hard as it’s been, there’s been no other option but to grit our teeth and get on with it, has there? Which is what we’ve done.
So now things are looking brighter, it’s the perfect time for mums to somewhat recover from the year of … (insert your chosen word here. I’ll use nightmares)
If you’re seeking ways back to feeling a bit more like yourself again, read on. To start, we’ve got to recognise and accept what a year it’s been.
Accepting and sitting with this is key to moving forward. If you’ve never journaled before (which essentially means writing down your thoughts) then I highly recommend doing this.
Grab a notepad and pen and once the kids are in bed, sit with yourself, make a cuppa and write your answers to these journal questions.
Don’t be afraid to get vulnerable here-your journal is for your eyes only.
- How am I feeling about the last year?
- What did I do well considering the circumstances?
- What do I wish I’d done differently or better in retrospect?
Journaling on these questions will give a good base to start from, and a way to tune back into yourself. Do take your time and make it a calming exercise, don’t rush it.
Come back to your answers to the above questions a day or so later and reflect, and really be kind to yourself, allowing whatever needs to be written down to be added on.
Journaling is one of the most effective ways of getting in touch with the inner self, well and truly, and as a bonus when written by hand acts as a mindfulness practise, bringing us back to the present moment. I do advocate pen and paper over computer/phones for this exercise.
I also want to talk about the topic of self care as a means of getting back in touch with yourself.
It’s the word of the moment. I see it everywhere and I’m so pleased about this because it’s important, but not done enough in reality. One of the toughest parts of being a mum is remembering who we are at the best of times, let alone following the year we’ve had. And the reason is because we put the needs of our kids or partners ahead of our own more often than we admit, and the longer this goes on for, the harder it is to connect to ourselves.
Therefore, checking in with yourself and prioritising your needs is part of getting back to being
When your needs are met, you’ll feel better, plus have the energy to offer yourself to others as a result, so it’s a win win. The whole family will feel better as a result of you prioritising yourself when you can. I wouldn’t be surprised if there's a flurry of self care advice coming to you over the next few months, because it’s true what they say, you can’t pour from an empty cup.
With self care, it’s important to note that it doesn’t just mean a bath once a week or a trip to the coffee shop. That can be self care, but I think it’s something much deeper.
I see self care more akin to self compassion.
Self compassion means we treat ourselves how we’d treat others if they were struggling. So if we’re being compassionate with ourselves, we’d tune in and ask ‘What do I need right now and how can I get that?’
If you need to escape the house for an afternoon, you’d speak up and arrange it. If you need a night off to yourself, then go for it. Our needs as mothers are not something to brush under the carpet and forget about. Our needs being met is paramount to how good we feel so when we strive to meet our needs, we’ll feel so much better because of it.
The truth is, when we address our needs (such as a better night's sleep for example or an afternoon out with the girls) we’re more likely to enjoy being mums and be a better mum as a result.
Our children also learn from us directly. They’re watching us the whole time, so to have a mum who prioritises her wellbeing is somewhat of a role model when you think about it. So don’t be afraid to voice your needs and ask for what you want, and take it when you can. Everyone will benefit from you doing this.
Self care can also mean doing nice things for yourself which help you feel better, such as daily exercise, a walk in the fresh air, meeting up with friends, cooking a healthy meal or taking an afternoon nap.
It means prioritising yourself when you can, which in turn will create a happier home environment. And a happier you.
Another thing to start doing is to celebrate your wins of the day, big or small! Before going to sleep at night, do a mental download of everything that went well and that you did well.
It can be things like not shouting when the juice gets split on the floor at tea time, or keeping calm when your toddler’s screaming just won’t stop no matter what you try.
We all need to celebrate our wins as mums because too often we zone in on the negatives and then the dreaded mummy guilt creeps in. When we focus on the wins, it boosts our self confidence and gives us the drive to keep going and to make tomorrow a better day.
There’s no set curriculum for how to be a mum (to my knowledge) but by introducing a journaling practise, a touch of self compassion, and celebrating your wins, you’ll feel so much better.
These are regular practises that I do daily, and they really have helped my sanity levels over the past year.
Mums are the heroes of the pandemic if you ask me, and we all deserve to feel good. You really have got this mama. I believe in you!