Yet again it seems like a long time since my last post. Things have been pretty tough here, with a family member unwell and also finding myself under threat of redundancy. I suddenly have a whole lot of decisions to make that I wasn’t expecting to face, and my insomnia has come back with a vengeance. I’ve begun to write a new post several times, but just haven’t been able to find any words to share with you all.
Things aren’t really any easier for me just yet, but over the past week I’ve been thinking a lot about the best way to weather this storm. As a mum, wife and manager, I normally try and just keep on going, relying on to-do lists, convenience food and coffee to get me through the day and keep things as normal as possible. Unfortunately when things are uncertain or there’s a long-term issue this coping strategy becomes unhelpful, stopping me from having a chance to reflect and making me feel guilty if I don’t keep everything running as smoothly as normal. I wanted to share some of the approaches that are proving more helpful and sustaining in the long term in the hope that they’ll be useful for others too.
- Get outside: The photo above was from this Sunday – we’ve been blessed with glorious Spring weather here in Hertfordshire and so the whole family spent a lot of time outside this weekend. Even on grey days, I’ve been making a real effort to get out for a walk or a cup of tea outside and I find it really helps my mood. I know daylight is very helpful for most of us, but I think there’s also something about being outside surrounded by nature that helps bring clarity and perspective when I’m under pressure. Plus a run around outside is the perfect low-effort way to entertain an inquisitive preschooler!
- Talk to people: Tell people what you are going through and how you are feeling, even if these feelings change day to day. Let your partner know what you need from them, let friends know why you may not be on your best form. Speak to people in a similar situation – I’m lucky to have close friends at work, so I’ve been taking a lot of time to discuss the job situation and work through options and have found this massively helpful. Allowing people to see you struggle doesn’t make you weaker or a failure, in fact admitting times are tough allows those who care about you to support you or suggest solutions you may not have thought about. If you really can’t face talking to the people closest to you, consider counselling or other talking therapies – I’ve found this really helpful in the past and a good therapist will also help you find other healthy coping solutions to get you through difficult times.
- Notice the good things: Sometimes when life is overwhelming and a new crisis seems to loom every week I find myself in a negative spiral where I expect every next thing to go wrong. Taking some time to notice the little positives, like M giving me a cuddle or five minutes enjoying my favourite green tea in the sunshine, is massively helpful for me. I’m not trying to suggest that these things somehow balance out the really tough stuff – that’s still there, it’s still horrible and it still needs to be got through. Taking time for gratitude does however remind me that things really aren’t all bad and gives me a bit of perspective.
- Remember to prioritise self-care: Everyone’s needs are different, but when I am stressed and under pressure I’ve tended to drop the things that make me feel good as they feel indulgent or like too much of an effort. Sadly though this often leads to a cycle of feeling worse and worse as I become tired and tense. I’ve been drinking a bit more than normal recently, eating a lot more convenience food and not exercising as much as I’d like, and it’s time for me to draw a line underneath this and get back to the behaviour that works for me. Self-care isn’t just about fitness and food though; making time to look after yourself more broadly, whether by crafting, watching your favourite shows, taking a hot bath or taking time out to go and have a cup of tea with your best friend are all equally important. No-one is superhuman and it’s even more important to give ourselves space to rest and play when life is hard – in the long term it makes it much easier to cope.
- Cut yourself some slack: This sounds simple but I personally find it really difficult, which is why I have left it till last! I hate giving up on plans, and am excellent at beating myself up for being a bad parent, unproductive colleague or rubbish friend when under pressure and forced to do things differently. However I’m beginning to realise that when we face really difficult times, we need to give ourselves permission to be a bit slower, to take time out from our social group, to eat more cake than normal – and it’s OK, because our energy and brainpower is all being directed towards the current problem. It’s natural to feel angry, burnt out or upset by events and need to do things a little differently, and that doesn’t make you a failure at life or a lesser person. Do what you need to do to get through this phase, let others help you and be kind to yourself – you don’t need to maintain a perfect facade.
What do you think about this? What would your best tip be for someone facing difficult times?