New year, new you, all the headlines shout enthusiastically. We might write energetic resolutions in our new 2018 journals, or we might shrink further back into the sofa clutching our Merlot and saying bah humbug. Whatever your approach to the new year, you can guarantee that there’s an element of transition about the passing of December into January, an anxiety or a sense of hope, whichever way you frame it.
My approach to resolutions this year is to call them Daily Resolutions rather than New Year’s Resolutions. I always feel that setting a daily intention is far more effective than creating a huge stone block etched with long-term goals, which seem unattainable and unrealistic once you hit the first inevitable pothole in the road towards it – the first runny cold day that;s a barrier to your Run Every Day, or the first toddler sickness meaning that you don’t get to the gym. And once we’re tripped up at that hurdle it becomes easier to slink back into “old ways” and then the inner critic takes the microphone berating your lack of achievement.
This week I spoke to the lovely Zoe Blaskey who has founded Motherkind.co, to offer mums a way to “reconnect to you in the mayhem of motherhood”. I love Zoe’s ethos – closely aligned to mine – about how we need to be gentle with ourselves and simply learn how to see the positive in what we’re doing rather than settling on the relentlessness and the feelings of failure that can characterise our daily mum lives. I had the honour of recording a podcast with Zoe, so watch this space for when you can listen to it. We talked about self care and how mothers can sometimes fall so down their own lists that it doesn’t even occur to us to take stock of how balanced our emotions are, what our internal dialogue is, how our body is feeling. That niggly back and neck might be crying out for you to rest, to take some time to breathe, to lengthen and meditate, to clear out the clutter of your mind and offer yourself some space. Zoe asked me what my go-to selfcare tools were in the moment, when things get all sweary and overwhelming. So here they are:
Breathe…so obvious, so boring…so underused as a soothing tool. We often live permanently in a state of fight or flight, permanently attached to our phones and the stress inducing white noise that is coming from them. We never think to stop and offer ourselves a moment of peace and pause. So for me, breathing is my immediate soother. Take a deep breath in through the nose for a count of 5. Long, wide, full breath feeling it releasing back into the ribcage and sides. And then sigh the breath out through your mouth, as if you’re fogging a window in front of you. The longer exhalation is a trigger for the parasympathetic nervous system to step in and take over: to take your hand, stroke your brow, make you some chicken noodle soup. This is your rest and digest system. And an essential counterbalance to your fight or flight. Humans were created to be alert for danger, for that sabre toothed tiger in the bushes. We need to look for danger as otherwise we would be eaten. But now, that seeking danger manifests itself in anxiety attacks in Tesco, or panicking about your parenting decisions. No longer life or death, but with the same physiological stress responses. So breathing lifts you out of that spiral, coaxes you back to peace.
Move. Moving my body is an essential. Imagine a pond. If there is no fresh water introduced to the pond over time, it becomes stagnant. The same goes for your body if you don’t encourage circulation, blood flow, fresh oxygen, a bit of a massage for your internal organs. Think about a cat, when it gets up from a nap it wouldn’t dream of not stretching. Humans have forgotten this instinctive movement need. Release mental stress by moving your physical body. Whatever that means for you: star jumps, squats – I always squat wile the kettle is boiling – roll downs, some yoga. Squeeze it into your day, little and often. Think about movement not “exercise” and you will reframe how you see your body, It might encourage lightbulb moments for things that are troubling you as you shift your mental energy as well. Move move move.
Verbalise. I always vocalise when I feel I’m at meltdown point. If I’m in the swirly whirl of a tornado induced by toddler craziness, no sleep, lost keys. I catch myself in the moment and say “it’s ok. It’s ok to feel stressed. You’re exhausted and overwhelmed”…say whatever you’re feeling, and say it to yourself calmly and out loud. Apart from anything else, it might make you feel silly and immediately release the charge of the moment. But it also validates what is happening and allows you a mindful pause. It’s ok to have those moments of anger, stress, chaos. Verbalising it makes it easier to pass.
Drink a glass of water. So simple. So easy to forget. Go and have one now.
Green space. If you’re feeling stressed, go outside and find yourself a tree to gaze at. Or a cloud passing by. Something not man made. Something that will lift you out of your moment and into the universe. Forest bathe.
Gratitude: a longer term tool, not necessarily for the moment, although looking for silver linings is a skill to be developed on the go if you can. Every day I write a gratitude list. The smallest things that were highlights: a cuddle from Freddie, a hot cup of tea. Or bigger things, a work offer, something unexpected in the post. intangible things: long term friends and their support and love; or tangible: the roof over your head. Gratitude enables you to foster a more optimistic outlook every day, which will inform your daily actions, decisions, choices every day. Which will create a positive cycle in your life, and crucially, enable you to develop a clock of resilience for those times in life which are more challenging and stressful.
Meditation: this one is a bit Woo woo, and lots of people roll their eyes and switch off. “I can’t meditate, I think too much”…well, that IS meditation. Mediation is shaking out the dust in your carpet. Think about your mind as gathering years of dust from your daily thoughts, actions, events, heartbreak, triumph. If you never shake it out, it will just layer and layer and stay there and fester and become vague and unhelpful. Meditation allows space for it to bubble up and be assimilated. Released. Digested. Forgiven. It doesn’t have to be a seated Buddha incense type meditation, although I that works for you then great. It can simply be SPACE. 2 minutes, 30 seconds of space and intent focus on your mind. Focus rather than inattention and distraction (phone, anyone?). Mindful rather than mindless. Sometimes uncomfortable, rather than numbing and avoiding. You will find clarity and peace. Go on, try it. Breathe.
I’m speaking at the Lucky Things event this Saturday, I was so excited to be invited by Sunita to talk about all things wellbeing in body and mind. I’m really looking forward to it, can’t wait to see you all there, so if you’re coming, come and say hi!
What are your selfcare tools? Do you have a toolkit at your disposal? You may have one without actually noticing it: gathering together consciously what seems to help you in those FFS moments into a selfcare toolkit list will make it easier to access it when you need it.
Why not make 2018 the year that you set an intention every day, to look to the positive, to break down your huge goals into smaller daily intentions, measurable and realistic.
Here’s to a healthy and happy 2018.