I’d like to introduce to you Bella, a mum of two lovely twin girls and a British qualified cognitive behavioural therapist and mindfulness teacher. Bella specialises in treating adults with depression and anxiety. She also runs mindfulness courses and workshops for individuals and businesses.
Today Bella is sharing some advice for mums, I’m sure dads could benefit too. Bella writes about what she finds important a as a new parent and how to be more confident in your parenting.
Over to you Bella…
When anyone asks me how family life is going I always reply with the same three words “work in progress”. For me learning how to juggle the demands of supporting a family and myself is definitely hard work. Making some changes to the way I behave and the way I think has helped me to take care of my emotional wellbeing.
Battle that inner critic
We all have inner critics lurking inside our heads. It’s normally the judgemental voice we hear that criticises us and puts us down. Mine piped up regularly with regards to motherhood. So many doubts and worries. Am I doing this right? Should I be doing more? Coping better? People with strong opinions would feed my inner critic and make me doubt myself. Plus sleep deprivation meant my brain was definitely not working at its best, resulting in more anxiety and questioning. The most important step for me was to be aware of my inner critic, and to know that it’s my choice how much attention I give it. I try to adopt a more friendly tone in my head, that of a good friend.
Be honest and share
If someone asks – I tell them how life is and I’m honest about it. This often results in getting some support or kind words when I need them or feeling appreciative when I’m in a good space and can share it. Sharing has reduced so many struggles, offered me immense support and made me feel part of a much bigger parenting experience. At times I am the one able to offer some support and can be the person providing some reassurance. We have ups and we have downs – and both have to be acknowledged and celebrated.
Shift your focus
Emotions and feelings come and go – both your own and those of your children. At times I feel my emotions are directly tied to my girls. I can wake in a seemingly great mood and observe as it disappears in a puff of smoke as one of my girls has a meltdown. Yet after so many of these episodes I have learnt that both my emotional lows and the girls are fairly short lived, and that in focusing on something else I can shift my mood quite rapidly. Using your mind to shift your focus and re-direct your attention elsewhere can be so helpful. I try hard to intentionally think about other things which can transform the way I feel (see practising gratitude below), and of course – they way I interact with my girls.
Gratitude is mentioned a lot nowadays but often people are unaware of the science behind it and why it can be so helpful. Thanks to evolution our brains are hard wired to notice danger and be aware of threats. Thankfully neuroscience has taught us that our brains are also very flexible and can change and adapt. This means that we can shift our brains to a more positive state by consciously noticing the things that benefit us in our lives. Everyday see if you can take time to note down 3-4 little things that you are grateful for that day. A cup of tea, a piece of cake, the sun shining… Noticing things to appreciate helps your brain release dopamine which makes you feel better, so gratitude becomes a dose of magic medicine that’s always available.
I practise mindfulness in one form or another a lot throughout my day. When I eat, when I drink – I use these as cues to stop, breathe and check in with where I am right now. How am I doing? How am I feeling? These little pauses can really help me to tune in, observe and give me time to take a breath and not react on auto pilot. I do this a lot at dinner times in my house as that’s the classic time for emotions to get heated. After preparing a delicious meal I find my heart is quite invested in wanting my girls to enjoy the dish and eat it all. Sometimes they have other ideas and when they behave in ways that really press my buttons – mindfulness gives me a chance to press the pause button before reacting. It’s almost like I can see the unfolding drama about to spiral out of control and can rescue it by stepping back and taking a breath to connect with myself.
Let go of perfectionism and control
Flexibility, going with the flow and letting go of control have been huge life lessons for me. So often my girls dictate the pace and I have to let go of the structured plan I had in my head. Quite often I have to make choices: play with the girls or tidy the mess, get out with the girls or hang the washing up. I try to imagine myself in 40 years time and consider any regrets I may have. I’m pretty sure I wont be saying ”I wish I had spent more time washing laundry”. As Gretchen Rubin wisely noted “the days are long but the years are short”.
If you liked Bella’s advice and would like to find out more, contact her at Being Well.
This tip comes from me – you don’t have to do it all alone, don’t be affraid to ask for help, it will make your parenting easier too.