I coach women who are sick of feeling the pressure of their busy lives. The pressure to get shit done, to be productive and achieve. They are often exhausted and overwhelmed. I often hear them tell me there is never enough hours in the day. They are stuck on a hamster wheel and they want to get off. All they want is to feel relaxed and at ease. Who can blame them? Don’t we all want a life that is fun, free and light?
Our society is obsessed with productivity. We reward striving, doing and achieving. There aren’t many medals being dished out for slowing down, relaxing our taking care of ourselves.
Even within the self-help arena, we talk about me-time and self-care as a way of restoring our energy. A way of being more productive later and helping us get more done. There is a pressure and a forcefulness within this thinking and I think that endless pushing is what leads us to exhaustion.
Photo by Nick Casale on Unsplash
When I was at my most burnt out, I focused on everything I needed to get done. Every little responsibility and task weighed heavily upon my shoulders. Even after being diagnosed with depression, I remember thinking “I don’t have time to be ill!“
Being busy was my distraction. It was my way of ignoring that nagging voice inside that was telling me that I wasn’t happy. The voice that wanted me to stop and rest a little while. The little voice that wished I would indulge myself and focus on what I wanted.
Being a martyr to getting things done did not work. Eventually, my mental health made me stop. There was just no more being productive, I could barely make a cup of tea. I was focusing on the next step ahead of me anything more was unbearable.
That experience is why I am an advocate for indulging yourself, for play, joy and self-care. It is about feeling lighter every day. Life is too precious to feel the pressure and force of everything that needs doing. Relaxing for the joy of it without the push to get back to work takes guts. It flies in the face of everything that society tells us we should be doing!
Can you be brave and do nothing? What if you could slow down without feeling guilty and unproductive? I dare you to do relax, not because it will help you get more done. Relax because you can and are worthy of it!
Being stressed and overwhelmed seems almost an accepted normality at the moment. Like its just part of modern life to be exhausted and overextended.
I don’t think that it is just part of normal modern western society, we do not need to go live on a desert island and withdraw from modern life to feel at ease. It’s about stepping back from the expectations set out by others. It sounds so simple but it isn’t easy.
In my coaching work, I have had so many conversations with women saying:
“Relaxing feels impossible”.
“I feel like I am barely coping”.
“Nothing ever gets my full attention”.
“I’m so inadequate”.
One woman, I spoke to during my recent research described trying to hold back a tsunami of people and their expectations. The effect of living this way is often more than just being tired. It affects mental and physical health and it sucks all the joy and ease of life. It encourages low self-esteem and eradicates self-love. We feel less, not enough and inadequate. When we feel this way like there are expectations we just cannot meet. When we believe we should be doing something and we are not we start to think it’s our fault. We turn the blame inward.l We think we are lacking or inadequate. We question ourselves rather than the standards that are being set out for us.
If you think about it we get a lot of messages about what is expected of us. What to wear, how to behave, how our bodies should look, how to raise our children, how to treat our partners. How should we act at work, what our priorities should be? these opinions, ideas and attitudes all affect our experience as a woman. they shape our ideals, expectations and values.
In a single day, we can read magazines telling us how to drop a few pounds before Summer but also, how to make that amazing family dinner everyone will love. later on this same day, we will see articles on our social media advising us how to organise our day and 10 ten mistakes we are making that stop us being productive. Keep scrolling and you’ll find a post about how you need to make more time for yourself. Let’s not forget well-meaning family or friends advising us how we should deal with our children, or be surprised at the amount of childcare we use.
There are so many rules, so much advice and instruction, on what other people and society as a whole think about what we should and shouldn’t be doing. It is hard not to feel the pressure to conform and the guilt at not measuring up but at the same time, so much of this advice contradicts. It’s literally impossible to be everything to everyone. How on earth do you be the most amazing employee with a dazzling career, the most supportive and loving parent and partner? All the while, give yourself and your family and friends the time they all need, while being organised, thin and photoshop pretty but also healthy and also grounded, centred and calm while doing it all? Is your head spinning yet?
It is impossible, unrealistic and even unkind to try to be something you are not. Afterall, these standards are not our own. they are not the rules or goals we set out for ourselves. It seems so wrong to try to fit into a box that someone else created for us. Trying to tick boxes, standards for success our passing and failing as a woman. We as individuals and re diverse and unique. one size does not fit all.
We need to ditch the rules and expectations, literally. I know what I want for myself and my life. Society sometimes clouds that judgement. Advertising tells me I want that product or to look like that girl in the ad but in reality, I don’t. All I want is to be loved and accepted. That starts by loving me myself and accepting who I am.
It is hard to stand out and carve our own standards. We want to fit in and be accepted by others. We want to feel happy, secure and loved. The people we admire tend to be the ones who create their own path and live it with confidence. The more I learn about life, the more I realise the way to become one of those people comes from within me more than it does from anything or anyone external.
So if we are ditching the expectations set out for us that leave us in the very scary place of not knowing where to get our rules from. What are we expected to do, who are we and what is our place? What we need to do is get in touch with our own inner guidance, our conscience, our instinct and intuition. Whatever you want to call it. The point is you get your rule from there you measure yourself from standards you set for yourself not the magazines, your partner or colleagues. Knowing within yourself what your values are and what your boundaries are is what matters. You are not needing any validation from anyone or anything else. There is a lot less pressure when you are living up to your own standard.
Set your own standards for yourself, what is good enough to you? How you want to show up in the world, how you want to treat others. Focus on what you value Look inward for guidance, create your own values and beliefs. Try living by your own rule book rather than the one society gave you.
Being a mum is hard work, any mother will tell you that. There are always errands to run and things to organise. Making time for yourself can feel like the last thing you have time for. The thing is if we continually put off our own needs we can become stressed and burnt out. We can become stuck in a hamster wheel of striving and doing and lose touch with our own needs and desires.
When I say that making time for yourself is important, I talk from experience. I used to live my life from the neck up. I was so out of touch with myself. My focus was on everyone and everything external. My mind jumped from task to task. Life centred around my overflowing to-do list and responsibilities. My focus was always on what everyone needed and what I had to accomplish.
I ignored the nagging voice from within telling me to slow down and to make a change. Self-care was put off in favour of the more “productive and sensible” daily tasks. I was being a selfless and exhausted martyr which understandably lead to depression.
Looking back, it feels like my body was forcing me to stop and listen by mentally shutting down. I had no choice but to stop and realise that I wasn’t happy. I was behaving like superwoman yet felt like I never measured up.
I worked with a life coach and a counsellor as part of my recovery. Both encouraged me to acknowledge how I felt and accept it. I had been denying my inner voice and ignoring my feelings for so long that it took considerable effort on my part to start listening to myself again. This process of relearning has been transformative. Today, I try to ensure my inner voice and intuition a have chance to be heard.
Learning how to listen to your body and intuition can be difficult if you are in the practice of ignoring them. We often ignore our needs in favour of what is expected of us or seems like the “right” thing to do. Re-learning how to listen to yourself is a process. As part of this process, you need to find ways to slow down your noisy and cluttered mind. By quietening and grounding myself, I could hear what my intuition and body was telling me.
I tried yoga and meditation and found that the movement of yoga really drew my focus inward. Quiet moments with a cup of tea and also proved to be a mindful and meditative activity for me. I struggle with traditional meditation and often find it hard to maintain my focus. After reading about mala beads on a yoga blog, I decided to give them a try. I really liked having the focus on the beads and mantra as they really help draw my focus inwards and slow the pace of my thoughts.
These days I like to consult that voice from within. Self-care, yoga and meditation are all ways that keep me in tune with my intuition and body. They keep the internal clutter in check so I can listen to when my body wants me to relax or when my intuition is telling me to be brave and take a wild step into the unknown.
As a busy mum, this process allows me to take care of myself. I do not put down time off repeatedly anymore. I listen to when my body is telling me that I need something.
Ignoring how I felt did not help me get more done, it did not make amazing things happen. That total disconnection from my mind and body actually made me ill. I am able to maintain a much better mental health now because I focus on having a good mind-body connection now.
My mind also feels calmer and clearer. There are not as many to do’s and responsibilities rushing through my mind. If stress builds up, I can notice it and take the time to slow things down. This means that I usually approach life in a calmly and rationally rather than being rushed and frazzled. I can see when I am behaving like I am superhuman and remind myself that I am just one person and I can only do so much.
What I also notice from this practice is that I am aware of when I need to drop tasks from the to-do list. I have a bad habit to try and do everything all at once. By taking time to slow my thoughts and to really listen to my own inner guidance. I can look at the things that aren’t really that important, the things I do for expectation’s sake or the tasks that aren’t that urgent. I can prioritise from a calm and clear headspace.
Learning to listen to my own inner guidance has been something I have had to learn. It takes practice and a lot of trial and error. Yoga and mala meditation has been such an integral part of this process. They have helped me draw my attention inward and slow my mind down. This slowing down has given me space to really work out what matters to me. It helps me work out how I want to show up in the world. The type of mum I want to be and importantly what I want and need from my life.
January marks my 1st year of being a life coach. I started my business back in early January 2017. I was so full of enthusiasm and excitement. There was a clear and vivid dream for my practice and I couldn’t wait to make it a reality. This first year has been a total rollercoaster, full of highs and lows. As I reviewed my first year I decided to put together a list of things that I have learned about having a coaching practice.
I am immensely proud of everything I have achieved and learned over this last year. I am looking forward to building on that foundation with all my lessons to help me this year.
If I met someone who was just starting out in their 1st year as a life coach, I’d be incredibly excited for them. I think I would have to hold myself back from gushing about the journey they are away to take and all they are going to learn.
The thing is I cannot claim to be an expert or a guru.I have a good part of my journey still to come. There will be self-doubt in the quiet months or when an offering just doesn’t appeal to my customers. Ultimately, it all comes down to why I do this job. Why I am prepared to feel nervous and proceed with a new idea. Why I am ok with the strange hours that fit into different time zones. The fear of public speaking and the nervousness of putting myself out there.
I became a coach because I want to make a difference. I want to help women who feel how I used to feel every day. Through coaching, I want to help them work out their own next steps so that they can live a life that is happy, fun and free.
One of the fundamental values of my coaching practices is accessibility. It is important to me that anyone who is interested in my work can try out the tools easily. Not everyone wants or can afford a one to one coach. Sometimes you want to try things out and explore them before you make a purchase. Others may not need a personal coach but want to access some of the tools as part of their personal development. It is important to me to offer to share my work as well as sell it. I really love what I do and want to share it with as many people as possible. That is why I create free offerings when I can. I create recordings, worksheets and videos to share the tools that I think are useful. I have been doing this on my blog and social media.
I had all of these offerings scattered around my site and throughout my social media channels but I wanted to make things easier to find. This is how I came up with the idea to create a resource library. Every freebie I create will be stored in this library. You can come back whenever you like and download anything that feels really useful. There is no need to trawl through my blog looking for that download you saw and thought you would download when you had time. Everything is stored in the library!
The resource library is a great way to access all of my freebies and offerings in a handy collection. I have included some snippets from my popular e-course, The 14-day Refresh as well as a link to my recent video challenge on youtube. You will also find any free worksheets or printables from my blog too.
“Do not judge a story by the chapter you walk in on”
I think we are all guilty of judging others We compare what they do or say to our own actions and values. As a mum, this can be so divisive because the focus is on where we are different. It focuses on who is passing and failing, who is good and who is bad. These comparisons include who has an easier life and who has it harder. Who deserves sympathy and who does not.
The problem with these judgements is that it is all very cut and dry. it assumes we know exactly what is going on in other peoples lives. Just because something looks effortless to those around us it does not mean that how it feels to us on the inside.
I created this video of my youtube channel all about this topic. It has been inspired by my recent research with other mums about their experiences of motherhood, their careers and managing their lives. I was struck by how many of us feel like other mothers have an easier life than. What we don’t realise is that this is unintentionally judging other mums. We are making assumptions about how other people feel about their lives. We look at people from our own perspective and assume they have life sorted.
Every parent faces challenges even though what we struggle with may differ on our situation. Not one of us gets an easy ride, there are all days when we are up against the wall. I think that is really important that we recognise this. By doing so we can support one and other through this crazy journey called motherhood.
Christmas is a special time of year. If you have children around you then I think it is even more special. Creating magic for them and seeing their joy is one of my favourite things about being a parent. Spending time with family and having time to relax is also really special.
As I type “having time to relax” I do find myself chuckling on the inside. Christmas and relaxing are often to words that do not go together for mums. Let’s face it, Christmas time also means that there is a lot of work to be done. There are the presents to be bought, wrapped and sent to where they need to be. Of course, there are the decorations to be hung, both inside and outside. There are cards to write, works Christmas parties to attend, the Secret Santa to take part in, the list goes on.
Part of creating that magic for children involves the Christmas parties, the school shows and plays. The extracurricular activities your kids attend will no doubt also have a special Christmas event or arrangement. Remembering to dress your kid in something festive on that set date sounds so simple. For me, it can become an anxiety-ridden issue because I am certain I will forget it amongst the billion other things that I have to do and remember.
Let’s not forget the food, chances are you are doing some sort of food preparation too. Whether it is buying, making or helping with food preparations in the run-up to Christmas and not just on the big day itself. Christmas pizza from the shop around the corner is yet to become traditional celebration food. Workplaces, schools and friends and family often want offerings too.
Then there is the emotional work on top of all of this. Christmas is a time for families but so often this brings out the family drama. I think everyone has some variation of Christmas discussion or dispute in their family. It may be the annual debate of who never takes a turn to host Christmas dinner, what is to be done with those relatives who cannot be in the same room together. Each family has its own seasonal drama that is so often left to us to manage or co-ordinate.
Christmas may be magical but is also exhausting. It is not easy to get through this time of year without feeling stressed at some point. Whether it’s trying to find the toy your daughter really really wants and knows Santa will find because he is magic or deciding you are just not going to bother with cooking a big traditional meal to be told by the family that you really must make a bigger effort. Keeping cool, calm and focused on what really matters isn’t a simple task.
I lose sight of things when I get busy. Busy leads to stress and then that leads to the crazy lady who thinks everything needs to be done yesterday by me and me alone. When the to-do list is huge and the deadline of Christmas day is getting closer and closer. I am so convinced I will forget what I am making for the school Christmas fair and will be condemned to showing with something clearly bought 5 minutes ago from the supermarket (and of course we all know that showing up to a school event with something from the supermarket is really the worst thing any human can do!).
I start to forget that it doesn’t matter. That nobody’s childhood will be scarred if I can not find a flaming fingerling. My kids will survive if we forget the Santa hats for the Christmas show. We will all survive as the loving family that we are.
So my plan this year is to remember what I care about and ditch the rest. For me, this is fun, family and food. I love to cook so I won’t be trying to create a Christmas pizza tradition anytime soon.
There are the things I will inevitably forget and that’s ok. I will, however, try my best to remember that Christmas is about precious time with family and friends. It’s not about rushing to see everyone and do everything as fast as I can. I can try to let things be as they are. I undoubtable will not have enough time for everything on the Christmas to-do list.
Somethings can not get done and we can still have a nice Christmas. I will cross out pointless or unimportant things rather than tick them off the to-do list. I will try my best to leave the tidying and organising until the last minute. That I am prepared to suck at and be behind with. I’d rather play a board game with my kids or hear them rave about what they think is under the tree.
Christmas is magical and it’s hard work but it is time to be done with trying to get everything done. It is impossible and its stressful and we don’t need to use up our precious energy
Recently, I have been talking with my business coach about my message and my ideal clients. To anyone who is not a coach or entrepreneur this basically means that I am working on what I want to say through my work and to whom. It is who I want to help and what subject I want to coach them on.
I had several experiences from my own life that felt like important influences but it has been hard to pinpoint my exact message. My experiences as a stay at home mum, with burn out and depression. My time as the partner or an offshore worker and later a working parent and as well as a foreigner all seemed relevant. They all seemed linked to the people that I want to work with but I couldn’t connect the dots. My coach suggested that I talk to other mums about their experiences so that I could distinguish where I really wanted to focus.
To date, I have spoken with 12 women about their experiences of motherhood, working, juggling responsibilities. I have been lucky enough to talk with women from different cultures, some are raising their children in a culture different to their own. Others have lived in the same area all of their lives. Some women that I talked to had returned to work straight after having children while others had become a stay at home parents. There were stepparents who were living as a blended family and women who were part of a nuclear family. Some were part-time workers, entrepreneurs or women working from a home office.
With such a diversity of backgrounds in experiences, I really gathered a wealth of varied information. The funny thing was that many of these stories had similar themes and experiences. I have grouped together the common themes to show you the similarities.
Every woman I talked to highlighted support as a key concern for them. We all need support in doing our paid work, domestic labour, and child rearing. Without that support, life feels difficult, draining and busy. Many talked about not having enough support with childcare, work, or household chores. Many felt that having trying to either do or coordinate these tasks without support was difficult. There were many different sources of support that were highlighted in my discussions were supportive family members living nearby, affordable childcare, having a supportive partner and family-friendly legislation.
For example, I spoke to one woman who had made huge changes to her circumstances so that she could have more of a partnership in the domestic chores. She had also managed to find reasonable, flexible childcare. This allowed her to have time to work as well as child-free time to spend with her partner or with friends. This support gave her a new level of freedom that meant she no longer argued with her partner about who was more tired and who needed a break most. She had downtime for herself as well as for getting tasks done. She said the levels of partnership and support in her life helped her feel happier and more at ease.
Every woman also highlighted situations where they felt misunderstood or judged. I spoke to stay at home parents who felt like no one understood what they did all day. I also heard from women who felt like their families didn’t understand why their homes were not spotlessly clean.(it’s worth noting that the complaints were being addressed to the adult females within the home).
One woman told me about the partner who didn’t understand why his wife NEEDED to work for her own sense of self. I spoke to other women who felt misunderstood by their employers for needing to take time off as a parent and were then being labelled as not committed to their career. In another interview, I heard a woman talk of her resentment at the assumption that she would take the responsibility for any compromises that were to be made. When a child was sick or childcare fell through. It seemed an assumed part of her culture that she would take time off and do any juggling.
Without understanding from those around us we unsupported, alone and judged. We are less likely to reach out for help or be honest about how we really feel.
Many talked of the competitiveness of other women of the judgements we place on each other. The woman doing the school run in her pj’s was lazy and lacking. The women who appear in full makeup and the latest fashions, however, were judged to having it all or being bitchy. Every woman I spoke to claimed that there was another group of women who had it easier. I spoke to the stay at home parent who told me it was easier for the parents that worked to have time for themselves. Later that same day I spoke to a working mum who claimed that the stay at home parents had so much more time to indulge themselves and their children. It appears that we all feel like the grass is greener on the other side
Almost everyone I spoke with talked of how they resented or envied the women who had it all together, the ones who appeared to make it look easy, the “Pinterest mums” as many described them. The ones who had time for their children to do amazing creative projects and organise the house using clever tips who also had read all the articles on being more organised and productive. The ones with an amazing appearance and children who also were well turned out.
Many felt lacking in comparison to this stereotype and others had given up trying to compete. There were even a few women I spoke to who doubted it was even possible to be that person, however, each woman I interviewed could clearly identify another life situation where others had a better deal whether it be to having supportive families living nearby, those with better childcare, those who stayed at home or those who worked.
A few of the women talked about feeling like they were struggling and drowning in their lives. They felt that they were just one step away from making a mistake or failing. Two women talked about personal struggles with their health or personal problems while also trying to keep all the regular tasks going too. They talked of feeling swamped and pressured by everything they needed to do. They also spoke about guilt and sadness about the things that they were extra difficult or impossible due to their personal situation.
I spoke to a working mum who felt like her kids suffered because of her work. She felt guilty about never making enough time for them. Another said she felt like going part-time would mean she missed opportunities for promotion or new projects. There was also the stay at home mum who struggles the juggling of daily tasks and caring for her family. She found it hard to get everything done while not forgetting anything or letting something slide. There was also one mum who felt guilty that her health prevents her from playing with her daughter. There were some who clearly said it was impossible to juggle everything without something having to let go of some of your expectations.
Some women talked of a feeling of being behind and never quite making the grade. They describe a feeling of being overwhelmed by responsibilities and expectations. One woman called it a “tsunami” of people and what they expected of her. Another spoke of this same sentiment, of being so busy and stressed. She said felt like no-one ever got the attention they deserved whether it be personally or professionally.
These 12 women have a lot more in common than their connection with me. They all expressed a desire for support, understanding, they felt pressure to one extent or another over expectations and competition. They all struggled to meet time and emotional pressures and expectations. I am so very grateful to each of them for there honesty and their willingness to help. Some sent me articles that related to their experiences and some offered to discuss things further. So if you are one of these women and you are reading this post, thank you!
I have learned so much over this last few weeks. It seems that every one of us is juggling and striving to get everything done. We all find that challenging and stressful. In this way, we are not alone!
Next time I see a mum who is exhausted, maybe I can let her know that I get it. Hopefully, my own experiences of winging it and failing are more than disastrous and funny. Sharing my story of the day that I put pepper in my coffee or when I took my daughter to the wrong gymnastics class hopefully remind her she is not alone.
I think it is important to be open and honest about our experiences without the guilt. This is a legitimate part of being a mum today. Not one of us has it all together or figured out! I think that we can laugh and find comfort when someone says me too and understands. We have all been there and likely will be again!
I also think that we could help each other by being a little more forgiving. It seems none of us has it easier regardless of our situation. No one is exempt from these stresses and pressure. I want to try to be mindful of judging the mum who has loads of family nearby to help out or labelling someone else as having it all together. We are all doing the same hard work no matter how it looks from the outside.
With regards my work, I am feeling much clearer now in terms of who I want to help. I want to focus my work on helping those women who feel like they are struggling against a tsunami. The women who dealing with burn out. The ones who feel like they are lacking and never quite making the grade. I want help the tell them that life doesn’t have to feel like that. You are doing your best and that is making the grade. I want to help that feeling where you are trying to hold back the tide and it feels impossible. To help them find space to slow down both physically and mentally. I want to be able to share how the coaching tools I have learned can help them.
To date, I have always focused on helping women to take care of themselves and show themselves more love. I am realising that is only part of the story. When you feel like all that you do is rushed, pressured or inadequate, making room for self-care feels impossible. I know from experience that living a life like this leads to burn out and even depression.
The work I do as a coach can help you work out your priorities. Coaching can help you look at things in new ways so you can work out what you want to let go of. It can help you regain that spark and joy and working out ways to end a life of feeling exhausted, pressured or inadequate.
I have created a new offering and I am super excited about how it is going so far. If you haven’t already heard, The self-reflection challenge is made up of 30 light and encouraging videos. Best of all this challenge is free and self-paced and has no end date! This challenge will be ready whenever you want to catch up on videos, start it all over again or share it with someone.
How you see yourself
What self-care means to you
Self-love and compassion
What really matters to you, dreams goals and other magical stuff!
The challenge covers a wide range of topics to help you reflect in a fun, useful and maybe even a little challenging way.
Sharing what you are learning from each video is a great way of getting the most out of this challenge. Let others encourage you and also let others know what you think about their comments.
I will be answering each question along with you so you can get to know me a little too. I have to admit that I am feeling the fear and doing it anyway with this challenge but I believe who we are, deserves to be seen, showed off and celebrated. Our dreams and ideas are important!
I talk about self-care a lot as part of my work. I probably talk about it so much because I used to be so terrible at it. Self-care was the first way I began to make changes in myself and become more aware of my own needs. It took a lot of practice to make time for myself without feeling guilty or unproductive. I’d feel selfish and indulgent anytime I spent time on myself. I’d feel there were more important things to be doing. It took me a long time to realise that self-care is an act of self-love.
Eventually, it finally clicked that spending time on what I needed to feel good was important for me and those around me. When I am at my best I am a better parent and partner. My work is better, I am more present in what I am doing. I am also more able to support others when my own needs are taken care of.
So, I have created a video talking all about my favourite ways to take care of myself. I am experimenting with using video and this topic felt like a great one to play around with on camera!
These are my current top five self-care activities. I use these activities and loads of other ways to refuel and care for myself. They are my ways to relax and play and be creative. They help me feel well and good when life is busy and stressful when I feel like I am constantly on an errand for someone.
What did you think of my video? I’d love to hear your thoughts! Leave me a comment and let me know what your favourite ways to take care of yourself too.