At last week’s online Mamas’ Retreat in Mamas’ Everyday Retreat, we talked about our hopes and worries.
We took a moment to notice all we've achieved in the past few months.
We shared ways that we can look after ourselves - and we thought about what we needed to put in place now to help us get through the weeks ahead.
When I asked “What would you say to encourage another mum who is looking ahead to the winter months, and feeling fearful and overwhelmed right now?” so much wonderful wisdom was shared that I thought, on this wet and windy rather grey half term day, I’d gather some of it together to share with you - just in case you need a boost right now. Even if you contributed some of these words yourself - they are also for you.
Maybe you’re looking ahead to the continuing pandemic and feeling overwhelmed. Maybe you’re struggling with a wet ‘more of the same’ half term. Maybe you’ve reached your ‘coping’ limit for the day, and you just want to run away, drink wine or lose yourself in crappy TV - to be anywhere where the kids will leave you in peace for a few moments.
Maybe you’re doing fine right now - but you don’t always feel that way - and you’d like some words to save and hold on to for the next time it all feels too much. These are they.
However you are right now, take a moment to pause and absorb some words from the wonderful brave wise women of Mamas’ Everyday Retreat:
“This will pass.
Take it one step at a time. Take each day as it comes. Take it day by day.
The sun rises and the sun sets. Each day is a gift, but may not feel like it.
A lovely friend once wrote to me "Even the darkest nights have their dawn eventually" and it is so true, even when we can't see it at the time.
Look for the little things that lift you.
Small steps, eating well, drinking lots of water. Treat yourself like a small child meeting basic needs.
Make time to nourish your mind, body and soul… they are all important. You and your happiness, your resilience, your needs, are important.
Take action and make plans when you feel the strength to do so, but try to be kinder to yourself. Be mindful of self criticism.
Remember you are not alone. Stay connected, and talk if you need to. Keep talking.
Link up digitally (or not) with loved ones and groups. Talk to anyone, but keep positive people as close as you can, to get warmth from them when you need it. Remember, you have us.
Instead of doing everything and then resenting it when no one else steps up, be clear about your boundaries - what is yours to do, and what isn't. Claim that time for you.
Accept help when it's offered, and ask for help when you need it. So many of us soldier on, when accepting help would be better.
Know your own self worth, because your best is good enough.
Get the family photographs out to remind yourself of all the good times, your accomplishments, and all you have still to look forward to.
Put in place a few nice things that you can anticipate with hope (a Halloween party for you and the kids at home, a socially distanced meet up for lunch or a day out, a special tea, reading a new book, a walk) and give yourself a break from being in charge of everything.
Wrap up warm and head outside. Find a coat that makes you feel amazing. Get a scarf and hat and gloves that make you feel completely cuddled. Go for walks around your local neighbourhood. Notice the little things that give you joy. Explore your love language and look after yourself in the ways make you feel deeply loved. Get a SAD lamp. Get some vitamin D pills. Try a slow cooker or a soup maker.
Take solace from hibernation. Breathe. Enjoy the snuggly stuff, the indoor stuff. It's the best time for hot baths and scented candles and easy quick pampering, much better than summer.
Winter is about hunkering down, eating lovely food, snuggling, slowing down, reading, watching good things, listening to good things. Creating soul warmth. Lockdown becomes hibernation. And hibernation is never a bad thing. It is a time of rest. Basically we become bulbs. And then next summer, we bloom.
Don’t forget - you will bloom.”
Such beautiful words and suggestions. You are good enough. You can slow down. You are deserving of help and boundaries; cuddles and kindness; tender care.
Often, when we capture words like these for others - that we also need to hear ourselves - we’re surprised by how much wisdom, kindness and empathy we can muster when we’re supporting someone else.
How is it possible to reach into our hearts and find these words for others, yet struggle to remember these thoughts in the moment when we most need them ourselves?
So much of that is rooted in a lack of self compassion. It’s a theme that I find myself returning to with almost every coaching client. Most mothers aren’t kind enough to themselves. Even though we spend so much of our time soothing others, we don’t soothe ourselves through the challenging moments of life. We don’t hold our own hands as we struggle, or forgive ourselves for our mistakes. We don’t encourage ourselves along with kindness in place of criticism - making it harder to take risks, or to move our lives in another direction.
But it’s possible to change the way we think and the way we speak to ourselves. Not to quiet that critical voice entirely, but to turn up the volume on the voice that is kind - the one that offers wonderful advice like this for others. That’s something I’ve done for myself, small kind step by small kind step, and it’s something I do for the amazing women I coach.
Perhaps today it starts with repeating the words of an email like this to yourself, and really listening. With reminding yourself that you matter, that your feelings are valid, and that it’s OK to pause and look after yourself - even if you’re having to do that every day right now.
It’s OK to lower expectations of yourself when you’re feeling low, anxious or overwhelmed. That isn’t a permanent state. It doesn’t mean you won’t achieve what you most want.
Instead, it means that you’re learning to listen to what you need, instead of just the needs of others. That you’re learning how to build the strength, resilience, clarity and compassion you need to move you forward towards the life you most want. Listen, rest when you know that you need to - and when it’s time, that inner voice will be just what you need to reshape your future.
If you’d like any help, I’m always here. I’m loving the coaching work I’m doing with some wonderful women, supporting them to find hope, resilience and new opportunities through these challenging times, and I’d love to help you too. You can find out more about the coaching I offer here - I’m always happy to have a free initial chat to see if I can help or direct you elsewhere.
If you’ve been feeling lonely in recent months, you might also appreciate this blog I wrote for Sea Soul Blessings: Lonely in a pandemic: six ways to soothe COVID loneliness.
Last but not least, if you didn’t join us for last week’s Mamas’ Retreat last week, the whole discussion is worth a revisit - it was such an empowering and supportive evening, with amazing mums sharing their realities right now, and offering each other encouragement and empathy. Just we need to move on into a more wintery season with self compassion…