I’m not a devoutly routined person; but find it helps keep me on track for important things I try to do for myself.
It’s so easy to get swept up in the busy-ness of being a wife, mother, friend, carer, cleaner, chef, everything-to-everyone in your family, there is often no room left for yourself.
I found myself slowly falling into that trap, or more accurately, found myself stuck there. So I started getting up at 6:00am to get a workout in before anyone else started the day. I easily slipped into this routine, as I had a history of getting up early when I was a Detective back in Australia, to ensure I still managed to find the time. It fit like a well worn glove. I was up, sweaty, motivated and recharged, all before anyone else in the house had opened their eyes. It set a wonderful tone for the day; my mood was better, having taken that time for myself, I ate healthier as a result and it was important for me. After having a baby, then a pandemic hitting, my usual ways to get my body back to what felt good or comfortable for me had been stolen, like so many others.
So when anything happened to disrupt my morning routine, it really bothered me. Sure, life happens and I’m understanding of that. But when you’re feeling highly motivated to accomplish a goal and you persistently keep getting knocked off track, it’s highly frustrating and demoralizing. Setting an earlier alarm helped sometimes…..(Not quite the 5am Club but close!) but with sick kids back to back, a husband with a job that takes him away two days a week, as well as a hobby that takes him away for days on end towards the end of the year, interruptions began to add up.
When I get knocked off track, or more importantly, feel like I get no time for myself, I can spiral easily. I’m tired from being up with a sick kid, or one of them in is my bed so I don’t want to risk waking them up early, or I’m just so exhausted I sleep through my alarm, my mood and mental health spiral hard. I think “That’s it, my day is fucked” and I can feel disheartened, pessimistic and like my day is completely ruined, all before 7am. I can be grumpy, have little patience with the kids and eat like shit because why not, my day is already destroyed, I may as well eat something that will make me feel better...if only for an instant.
Obviously this kind of mood and lifestyle is not sustainable.
I was then introduced to the idea of Self Compassion.
To be honest….I was initially like umm, ok (there may or may not have been a bit of an eye roll) How can this work?
I was recommended the book “Self Compassion” by Kristin Neff and, as I tend to do, listened to it as an audiobook. Not everything she spoke about in the book spoke to me; but perhaps it’s not supposed to. I looked at it like when I was a freshly graduated police officer; I learnt valuable lessons being exposed to things other officers did that I liked, appreciated and respected, as much as I did when I saw things I despised, was shocked or saddened by. I learnt what to do and most definitely, what not to do.
So that’s how I experienced this book. Things that didn’t vibe for me, I just let go of and moved on from, but the things that truly resonated with me, hit me hard.
Learning to practice self compassion, for myself and especially when it came to my parenting and dealing with challenging moments, has offered a monumental shift for me. When I feel things aren’t going the way I want, plans for self-care are getting interrupted and I’m on the verge of that negative spiral….I stop. Physically, emotionally and psychologically. I stop. I breathe. In deeply and exhale out hard. I close my eyes and actively clear my mind and only focus on one thing; self compassion. I talk myself through whatever situation I find myself in that’s causing my overwhelming frustration.
“Ok,” I’ll say to myself “Your workout isn’t happening today. Just face that. Deal with it, accept it. I know you wanted it, but your kid is sick and all your energy for today is being put into being a good Mum. That is more important. Give yourself today. You can get back on track tomorrow. It’s ok to take a day if your kid is sick and you are exhausted. Afterall, tomorrow is another day.” (You might recognize my favourite Gone With The Wind quote at the end there :)
“Your kid is having a meltdown. Ok, not ideal and all you want to do is scream at them right now, but stop. Just stop. They are little and feeling all of their feelings. Take a breath, you yelling will only feed into their meltdown and make it worse. If you express calmness and quiet, it will help them get to a place of calm and quiet. Go sit down, tell them when they are ready for a cuddle, you will be there. Stop everything else, nothing else matters right now, in this moment.”
I know it might sound silly, but I swear to god, it works! It actually works. It can be for 5 seconds or 5 minutes, however long it takes you to feel your mind and body accept the transition into self compassion. For me, it’s like a wave of calm comes over my mind, body, heart and soul.
It helps me get to a level of acceptance, ready to soldier on, face the next challenge, with my mind at ease, having bounded over that initial hurdle, which easily could’ve knocked me down for the day (and in the past, definitely had.)
Brene Brown also discusses the topic in her book “The Gifts of Imperfection”.
The concept of Self Compassion was completely foreign to me three months ago, so don’t feel daunted by it if you’ve never heard of it either. I obviously knew how to display and express compassion for others, no matter their circumstances or disposition. If you have a heart, it’s pretty easy to have compassion for someone else. But turning that lens around, allowing self compassion into your life, can be truly powerful and life changing, for the better.
If it’s something you choose to open up to, truly embrace it. Self compassion is not just two little words to say; it’s an exercise, a skill that takes practice. To get better at, be competent with, and experience the benefits of.