I feel exhausted...
Anyone else? Those early mornings, the interrupted nights, the constant demands on our time and energy, the worries... oh the worries! If it isn't our little ones stealing our sleep, often our racing minds can do just as good a job. Worrying and planning and whirring whilst the rest of the household sleeps. And never stopping, even when, right now, we're not actually moving much. Juggling a job on top of all of this is liable to leave us feeling utterly drained.
Motherhood taxes our energy bank like never before. It is a time when we're not just tired. We're absolutely exhausted. And the current challenges of lockdown and worries about work, finances and health make it even harder to find a way to recharge.
The problem is when we don’t recharge - when we don’t top up our energetic bank balance we are left depleted and less resilient against the every day challenges of motherhood. We can easily see a dip in our mood, a rise in our irritability.
It’s so important that we give ourselves permission to rest and restore. This can often feel impossible in motherhood where good sleep might be completely inaccessible and there’s no time to pause.
But there is so much we CAN do to help nourish and reboot that nervous system. We just need the knowledge and tools - and of course that permission.
The nourish app is jam packed with ways to unwind and nourish, relax and restore. All within minutes. Of course, there's longer exercises too. From breathing exercises, to restorative yoga poses, to mindfulness to yoga Nidra, to nutrition for energy and balance - there really are so many ways we can support ourselves.
I had a really tough time around the birth of my first child. My father was critically unwell and I was in a state of grief and shock. It's no surprise that my experience of birth was traumatic with that maelstrom of emotion. But it was also labouring in a hospital that was overstretched, pressuring mums to get on with it and I felt rocked to my core. Energetically I felt completely bereft, emotionally I was trying to split myself between the joy of celebrating new life while grieving for my poor father, and physically I experienced a serious tear and it literally felt like the bottom of the boat had fallen out.
I held my precious angel in my arms and wondered how I was going to look after her when I wasn’t sure I had enough in me to look after myself. I felt afraid, alone, exhausted and deeply sad and it was tough getting through each day. The words ‘enjoy every moment’ still pierce me because it was a time shrouded by grief and stress, punctuated with the most enormous love and desire to give every cell and fibre of my being to my baby. There was just nothing in the tank.
How did I cope? I reached out to numerous practitioners but it took a long time to find the right fit. I eventually found an amazing postnatal depression counsellor (I don’t know if it was PND, grief or complete exhaustion and to me it doesn’t really matter, any human would’ve felt like I did) who in partnership with me created a new self-care toolkit. All the things that I used to do to nourish myself became inaccessible when I became a parent – I didn’t have the time, the space, the finances, the energy and I felt guilty as hell.
The deepest lesson I learnt at that time is that if I didn’t nourish me, I was rubbish at nurturing those in my care and if I couldn’t do it for me, I had to do it for my little girl. My daughter deserved a mother who was healthy and whole, with the energy to cope with the demands of parenthood… and it’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon! So we set about carving new healthy habits that were do-able during the chaos of those early days and this is how one ‘micro moment’ at a time, self-care (and the love of my husband and family, and damn good therapy) put me back together.
Sleep deprivation: for anyone that has suffered with it, you'll know only too well the effect it can have on your mental health. Chronic sleep deprivation for 2.5 years with my son was the catalyst for my PND & brought my mental health crashing down. So what do you say to a mother who is struggling with sleep? How might your words effect her? Here's some (fairly honest) home truths from me...
Back then, meeting up with mums I knew usually lead to the subject of sleep. Whilst I was teary eyed & shaking from the physical and mental weight of it all, the mum would think it helpful to tell me how brilliantly their child slept, "He's been sleeping through the night for months", "He still naps for two hours". Firstly, I'm really pleased you're not going through the nights my family are having. I wouldn't wish it on anyone. But I wish you hadn't just told me that. My day just got a little harder and the dread I have for tonight is now weighing heavy on my mind. I can't begin to describe the anxiety these comments cause - the tightness in the chest. The physical heartache and longing for just a few hours uninterrupted. The frustration. The guilt. The shame. The relentlessness of it all. Please celebrate your sleep wins with a mother that gets it. Not with a mother who longs for it.
Secondly, I know it comes from a good place, but a desperate mother has tried every trick, gadget, routine and read every book on sleep ever written. What a sleep deprived mother needs isn't sleep advice. Please refrain from giving it unless she specifically asks for it. Everyone has an opinion. This only adds to her exhaustion. What she needs is space to breathe. Space to be heard. Space to feel angry, sad, frustrated. Space to feel normal.