Inevitably every day a woman tells me about how much she needs a break, a moment of peace, some space to gather herself, a reprieve. Some days, more than one woman tells me about how stressed she is or how tired, or how she just can’t catch a break or her breath.
It doesn’t matter the age or marital status or whether the woman is a mother, I hear from all kinds of women that their lives have become unmanageable, unhealthy, out of control and that if they could just catch their breath, things would get better.
I can totally relate. Before I became a mother, I worked super long hours as a teacher and always promised myself I would rest during the next school break. Usually what would happen is I would get sick and be forced to rest because I was too sick to get out of bed. Not exactly the break I had fantasized about, but at least I was resting finally.
Then I would start the cycle again.
In the first few months after bringing our daughter home, I exhausted myself by trying to be there for her 24 hours a day. Even when it was my husband’s time to bond with her and to take care of her, I was hovering nearby at the ready to jump in and take over…just in case anyone needed me.
As the months wore on this constant state of being ready, of anticipation of coming to the rescue, wore me down. I was left mentally, physically and emotionally exhausted and scared to death I wouldn’t be able to be a good mother (or friend, wife or daughter). I knew I couldn’t sustain this pace of life and be happy.
Something had to change. I had to do something differently, in order to feel differently in my life.
So I started with some small changes. Things we all know we need to do, but rarely actually make happen.
I started with sleep. The advice about sleeping when the baby sleeps? I actually started doing that. I took naps when she took naps, I started going to bed earlier and pretty quickly I started feeling noticeably better.
Did I have to fight the voices in my head saying I was wasting precious time sleeping? Of course I did. After a while they got a little kinder, but in a culture where being exhausted is a status symbol, the pressure is real.
Feeling a bit more empowered because this seemingly small change made such a big difference in how I felt mentally and emotionally, I started making other small changes.
I made a plan to add more movement into my life. I first had to let go of the idea that a workout had to be an hour long ordeal at a gym with expensive clothes and lots of sweat.
I had to make peace with small changes being good enough. Again, we live in a culture that only celebrates huge weight loss, 6 pack abs and tiny waists.
I started walking with another new mama most days of the week. We met super early in the morning because now that we had tiny people we were up before the sun anyway. We would walk and talk and walk and talk some days for hours. We would take the kids to the park and push them on the swings until it was time to take them home for naps.
Each day I spent sleeping more, moving my body more and talking, talking, talking to my mama friend, the better I felt.
These small changes led to more small changes and over the last few years I have added many small daily practices to my life which have helped me feel healthier, happier and more sane than ever before. Most days I feel like my life is pretty manageable – I’ve got time to move, be quiet, read, connect with friends and family. It definitely looks much more like the life I had envisioned for myself.
I share this with you today to let you know you aren’t alone if you are feeling run down, exhausted by the pace of life. Not by a long shot. So many of us have been there.
There is a growing community of women who are making small changes in their lives and noticing a big difference in how they feel. We are supporting each other in our personal growth and feeling empowered that we are not alone in our efforts.
You are invited to be a part of this growing community. What small changes can you make today to feel more space in your life?
I would love to hear from you. Please tell me about where you need support in your self-care.