What do you do to turn things around when everything sucks? Do you have any go-to mood boosters?
I think every mum, and ESPECIALLY single mums, needs a few fail-safe self-care tools to fall back on in a slump. Because they happen. A lot.
There’s no shame in it. Coping alone is flippin’ tough.
I’ve always considered myself a strong, resilient person who can cope with pretty much anything life throws at me. But single motherhood has floored me several times in the (nearly) six years since I had my daughter. Anxiety and depression have become part and parcel of my life.
At the end of last year I was burned out, stressed and miserable. So I turned to my local talking therapies service for help.
My counsellor was great. She helped me see I was being unnecessarily hard on myself and encouraged me to be kinder to myself.
To be the best you can be, the mum your kids deserve you to be, you have to take care of yourself FIRST. That means having the self-awareness to know when you’ve reached your limit and now to bring yourself back from the edge.
At my counsellor’s suggestion, I made a list. I call it my ‘self-care first aid kit’. And it’s something I highly recommend you create for yourself.
Stick it on the fridge, or in the front of your planner or diary so it’s there for you to refer to when you’re ready to throw your kids, your laptop and your whole life out the window!
Here’s my self-care first aid kit. Maybe you’ll get some inspiration for what you can do to boost your mood when life sucks the big one!
1. Go for a walk
Unless it’s pelting down with rain/snow/hail getting outside for a walk in the fresh air, preferably someone green where I can ‘commune with nature’ is my no 1 choice for turning my mood around. Even 10 minutes out in the fresh air moving my limbs is a guaranteed to give me a boost and improve my energy levels.
2. Hit the yoga mat
A bit of me-time on the yoga mat always leaves me feeling calmer, nicer and more positive. But there’s no need to haul your arse to a class or find a babysitter. I’ve found the answer to every single mum’s prayers.
OK, she doesn’t actually know I exist, but most mornings she and I hang out for 15 to 30 minutes and do a few yoga moves together.
Her YouTube channel is a godsend. I wish I’d discovered her when I was stuck at home by myself with a tiny baby. Whatever your mood, and no matter how much time you’ve got, there’s a yoga class for you. From 5 minute quickies to full hour sessions there’s something for everyone.
AND IT’S TOTALLY FREE.
So take some time to recalibrate your brain and your body. Over lunch, when the kids are in bed, or as soon as you get up – whenever works for you. And, yes it totally counts as exercise.
3. Have a bath and read a book
My ultimate treat to myself is to run a bath, light some candles, put on a face mask and R-E-L-A-X with a good book.
Usually, I do this after my daughter is in bed so I’m less likely to get interrupted. But hey, why not run the bath whenever the mood strikes? If possible I then go straight to bed, and boy do I feel rejuvenated the next day.
4. Practice mindfulness
Yes, that old chestnut. Mindfulness seems to be everywhere, but for good reason. It works. Some days I manage to spend 10 minutes meditating, other times I just take a few moment to be mindful as I go about my day. I focus on my breath or listen to the sounds around me, bringing myself into the now.
You can also use mindfulness to help avoid ‘flash-points’ in your day. For instance, is it just me or do other mums frequently get into shouting matches with their kids on the way home from school? If we’re both tired and cranky, my daughter and I rub each other up the wrong way as soon as we see each other.
So my counsellor suggested spending even just three minutes meditating in the car before I pick her up to put me in a calm state of mind, and this seems to smooth the transition from work/school to home for both of us. Flash-point averted!
5. Go to bed ridiculously early
Lack of sleep is the harbinger of doom in my house. If I don’t sleep well everyone around me suffers. I’m grumpy, angry and then on top of that, I feel like a terrible person for being grumpy and angry.
When you’re self-employed the boundary between work and home becomes blurred, and sometimes it’s non-existent. For a while, it wasn’t unusual to find me still at my laptop until midnight desperately trying to get everything done.
I know better than to do this now. Now I start my evening wind-down and pack-up routine by 10pm so that I can be asleep by 11. And if I’m especially exhausted, as soon as my daughter’s in bed I get in bed too! When I wake up the next day I feel like a new person.
Yay for sleep!
6. Do something that lets your mind switch off
I’m a big fan of social media and know that it’s technology that makes it possible for me to live the life I do, I’m rarely without my iPhone. But this increased connectivity comes at a price.
It’s increasingly hard to switch off. You’re always contactable, always switched on to the world around you. As a mum, that means that you rarely have time to just ‘be’, to just be you – not someone’s mum, daughter, friend or colleague.
My counsellors best piece of advice? Find something to do that allowed me to switch off from all the demands placed on me by myself and others.
I played netball through my teens and early 20s, and her words reminded me that on the netball court I was able to switch off from EVERYTHING. Totally absorbed in what was happening on the court I could forget my mental to-do list and put my worries out of my mind.
So a couple of weeks ago I joined a ‘Back to Netball’ session and I loved it. My busy brain got a rest, and what’s more, I had fun!
Is there a sport or hobby you used to LOVE but have somehow let fall by the wayside? Maybe it’s time to resurrect it and put it on your list.
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7. Write it out
As a teenager, I wrote diaries religiously. I’ve always believed in the power of putting pen to paper to express emotions and process thoughts. But as an adult, I’ve got out of the habit.
Writing a journal is something my counsellor recommended as a way to process my emotions, and I’m so glad she did. I’ve been reunited with an old friend.
On top of journal writing, she also suggested I write a letter to someone towards whom I felt a huge amount of unexpressed hurt and pain. Through floods of tears, I wrote it and with her encouragement I to read it to her in a session, through yet more tears. The release and relief I felt was huge.
So next time you’re feeling hurt, angry or upset write it down. Free write, don’t edit as you go, let your emotions out. It’s not easy to do, you have to face those emotions head on, but I guarantee you’ll feel better.
8. Spend time with people who ‘get’ you
I’ve got a couple of friends in whose company I can feel myself decompress. I can be completely myself with them, I can share my woes and they won’t judge and know I’ll always end up laughing no matter how bad things are.
These are the people I turn too when things are rough. Nurture these friendships so you know you can call on these precious people when you need to.
Single parenting is one of the toughest gigs you can get. Also being self-employed means you’re on two of the biggest journeys of self-discovery you can ever undertake.
You’ll learn new things, have new experiences and gain a whole new awareness of yourself, your abilities and your limitations.
You’ll discover hidden inner strength you never knew you had, but you’ll be pushed to the limit like never before.
Doing all this alone is a HUGE challenge. But it’s totally worth it. So do yourself a favour. Put together your own self-care first-aid kit so you’ve got the tools to help you when the going gets tough.
What are you going to put in your self-care first-aid box?