Anna is an experienced psychotherapist and Surrey-dwelling mum of boys. She specialises in motherhood and mental health and has recently co-launched Blöm Cards. She is a yoga lover, a coffee drinker and an Instagram obsessive, often found sharing her day and insights at @mamas_scrapbook.
It’s a joy to welcome Anna to the blog:
Top 3 mental health tips for busy mums
You can’t pour from an empty cup. We’ve seen it cursively written in Instagram squares and dotted over Pinterest. Let’s face it, as mums, we might have full hearts, but most of us have bone dry cups!
We exist to ensure that the needs of our children are met, that they are generally content and out of trouble. We get used to their language of need, the little nuances of their moods and emotions. But in the process, we often lose sight of our own. We spend time scrabbling to find find that mystical thing called ‘balance’, wrestling mum guilt and expending our energy on getting through the days intact.
But what about YOU? Where do your needs fit into this? Where do they get met? Do you even know what your emotional needs are? When did you last think about how you feel?
You’re not a machine. You cannot pour from an empty cup. Our culture is about being ‘okay’, being efficient, doing it all, being it all, having it all. It’s about giving out without giving up. But that’s not sustainable, and gosh, don’t I know it. Not only in my work as a Psychotherapist, but in my own life.
Here are my three top areas for you to invest in to ensure that your mental and emotional needs are being met. Spend time exploring and considering how you might invest in these areas, and I can assure you, you will lessen your chances of depression, anxiety and stress.
Find your tribe
It’s all well and good having an army of friends and a buzzing phone but the important thing is how much you let people know you. Really know you. That transforms friendships that are good for a rant and a laugh, into supportive relationships that will positively affect your mental health in a deeper way. I’ve got many friends I’d chat with, but a close handful of friends I talk to about the messier stuff.
Friendship is a risk. It’s a risk of vulnerability and letting people in. It’s about sharing life in all its messy richness. It’s about knowing that you were simply not made to do this thing called ‘life’ alone. It’s about showing the side of you that needs others and allowing yourself be helped.
Vulnerability enriches and deepens relationship but it takes strength and a daring to believe that you’re worth knowing. If you don’t believe it, then it takes risk to trial it, to test it, to share, to show more of yourself.
This has been my journey. It started with tentative baby steps around people I knew cared about me – sharing little bits of my inner self and being astounded that they didn’t turn and run. Each venture of vulnerability introduced me to increasing depths of friendship. Not everyone will understand you, not everyone will like you… But let yourself be known with the right people, and you’ll find a taste for the friendship that only vulnerability brings.
I’m the queen of efficiency. My morning routine is akin to a choreographed dance around the kitchen. I’m a driven mess of perfectionism. My mind argues that slowing down is s an indulgent waste of time. It’s not. Intentional rest is utterly vital for mental health.
Rest is a challenge. It needs to be added into the diary so that it doesn’t get squeezed out by never-ending to-do lists. Intentional rest isn’t about collapsing onto the sofa and zoning out to the drone of a box-set, it’s about slowing down, winding down and being kind. It’s about not treating yourself like a relentless machine that you own, but something valuable that you are.
How can you introduce at least ten minutes of intentional rest into your day? Purposeful rest lowers blood pressure and calms the mind. I’m doing a month of ten minutes yoga a day and it’s been incredibly anchoring. I’m also not taking my phone into the bath! It’s the little, intentional things that refill your cup
I’m not talking about being kind to others. That’s far easier! I’m talking about being kind to yourself.
We have a constant, internal dialogue with ourselves. It’s something you may not even notice or think to change, but I believe it’s the single, most powerful conversation of our lives. It feeds directly into self-esteem, value and worth.
What tone does your internal voice take? Is it forgiving, compassionate and patient? Or is it critical, bullying and quick to anger?
Think of your lovely son or daughter. Now imagine that you heard someone speaking to them in the manner you speak with yourself. Is it okay? If they heard that dialogue day in, day out, would it benefit or damage their sense of self-worth and esteem? So, what does it do to you to hear your dialogue and to have certain messages consistently reinforced?
You need to start becoming aware of this dialogue and start talking back to the negative voice. Start introducing a kinder, more patient tone. If you have to think of the most loving person in your life, and how they would respond to you speaking out these harsh words, then imagine what they would say, and repeat itto yourself!
Openness with the right people, support from people who care about you, and investing in yourself are three vital ingredients for good mental health within motherhood. You are worth the investment, mama.