Well here I am at the end of my 31 Days of Self Care for The Blurt Foundation and this is how I got on. I chose this challenge because I go back to work this month and, I thought, now more than ever, I needed to remember me. As I prepare me and my family for a big change. These are the things I did, what worked and what needs more work.
This is a “could do better.” In fact all round I could be eating better. Throughout my life I have turned to food when I am stressed, bored or feeling low. At times like this I turn to the wrong things, which in turn makes me feel worse. Even though I do always endeavour to eat well, I know that under pressure I am reaching for the wrong things. I am not preparing food in advance and at times during the month I have felt out of control. The benefit of my focussing on breakfast for my 31 days of self care has been that, even when it has not been great, I am making a conscious effort to think about it. If I wasn’t doing this it would become subconscious and I would most certainly lose control completely.
Preparation is key. It is something I will need to do when I am back at work. Preparing breakfast, lunch and dinner the night before. Getting out uniforms, clothes, packing bags, clearing down, putting on washing and the dishwasher. All jobs for the night before, making sure the path to work is smooth the following day. It takes a huge amount of mental effort, but overall the preparation is essential to reduce the chaos. The starting point will always be preparing my little bowl of porridge and frozen fruit ready to be taken out of the fridge and popped in the microwave.
This is another “could do better”. Partly Little Miss teething but also late night blogging/social media. Sleep is really important to me as it has a huge impact on my ability to parent, work or cope. Without good sleep I become very low and unmotivated. I have really been working hard this month to get the blog to a good place. I know it will suffer when I return to work and I have even less time. Unfortunately it has begun to take over my evenings. I even find myself finishing link ups at 3am when I am resettling Little Miss on the boob. I must plan some early nights that do not include social media and, on nights that I do, a cut off time for the blog. Especially now that I am going to be getting up with the alarm again.
This has also been hit and miss. Mostly depending on where I am or what I am doing. Endeavouring to drink enough water whilst juggling monkeys is hard. Remembering to pack enough water whilst out and then remembering to actually drink it. If you get chance of course. My three have a habit of helping themselves to both their stash and mine whilst we are out. I am regularly left with the dregs of a bottle, a headache and grumpy temperament.
Drinking water is essential. Not enough can trigger a physical reaction that lowers mood and mental functioning. Just listening to your body and responding with a glass of water can make a huge difference to your mental wellbeing. When I am back at work and the monkeys are back at school I can keep a closer eye on this. However, as part of my 31 days I tried to be preemptive rather than responsive. Drinking a large glass of water before leaving, therefore reducing the chance of becoming dehydrated. My constant need for a wee was not helped. But it gave me a clearer head to deal with the stress of finding a toilet with all three monkeys in tow.
4) Live in the right now
Following the disorganised brainwave of Mr LMR and his impromptu garden camping trip with the older monkeys, I had to find happiness in the right now. A night of regular toilet trips and a midnight fall out between the monkeys and Mr LMR. The monkeys finally got settled in the early hours. I was beginning to get annoyed with all parties and the lack of organisation. I get very stressed when the balance of life in the monkey house is disrupted. It is why I rarely agree to nights out or sleep overs. However, I am beginning to understand that I cannot control the outcomes of everything. By letting go, I can begin to enjoy the right now.
As I get ready to return to work after 13 months off, it is something I have really tried to work on this summer. I wanted to appreciate this opportunity to spend to time with my children without the distraction of work. I didn’t want to spend it cross and frustrated. By taking a moment to embrace the chaos I have discovered three lovely, funny and slightly crazy little monkeys that I am hugely proud of. This feeling was worth so much more that a few fleeting moments of feeling in control.
This is something I was already doing but the response on social media when I posted it was amazing. I recieved a number of messages and comments about how this simple act can be a life saver at the lowest points in life. Not only does it make you feel physical better, feeling fresher and cleaner can lift your mood. It is percieved as an achievable goal but for so many it is a daily mountain that means giving attention to yourself that mentally you feel you don’t deserve. At times where I foresee troubles ahead I allow extra time to enjoy my shower. I mean as a mother of three it is equivalent to a day in the spa some days.
During the 31 days I reinstated a daily ritual I had lost since having Little Miss. My Liz Earle Daily Facial. It takes 5 minutes after my shower and is just a few moments of pampering. I always ask for the products for my birthday or at Christmas which gives me a years supply or thereabouts. It has always made me feel worth the effort. I have done this every day for 31 days and I can safely say it is back for good.
This was a one off. I was feeling unwell after being given the gift of a horrible virus from the monkeys. Just making time for a soak in the bath helped immensely. This really was a day in the spa. A soak in the bath is such a rare thing these days, but so simple and, with a little bit of planning, and communication with Mr LMR, achievable. I loved it.
With my imminent return to work, I have been required to arrange settling in sessions at day care for the monkeys. Over the month I have been afforded two hour sessions of alone time to run, time out when I was poorly and time together with Mr LMR. These are all things that I have missed since Little Miss was born. Before I became pregnant for what I knew was the last time I had planned to commit the time my baby needed. Breastfeeding has meant that Little Miss has been y constant companion for over a year now. Although I have missed her my body has needed some time to feel me again. This time has made me feel stronger and prepared me for the days I will soon spend without her back at work.
One of the most enjoyable sessions away from the monkeys was a couple of hours spent alone with Mr LMR. We ran together for the first time in seven years. We took a steady pace and really talked for approximately 5k. Often as parents you are in conflict over everything from who should get up at 3am to how to control the pack of wild monkeys that you produced. Your relationship is often the one most neglected. Mr LMR is my greatest support and ally. He has helped me, often silently, at my lowest points since he has known me. For that I am hugely grateful.
I will let you read about my declutter here and here as they were both recent posts. This is an ongoing project as I continue to rid my home of pointless objects, my mind of unnecessary noise, and my life of digital interference. In preparing for the big changes this month reducing all three has helped me focus on what is important, navigate the negatives and achieve a better level of confidence going forward.
I can recommend doing one or all three on either a small or large scale. Our two days camping highlighted this best. Having time free of the clutter of life with only the basics to live made, monkey juggling extremely different. I mean you have no idea how much your monkeys move around in their sleep until you have to share a confined space with them. It was a time when I remembered how to laugh at myself and loosen my grip on my unrealistic parenting goals. No option when you are surrounded by trees to climb and mud to stomp in.
10) Just Breathe
I undertook this task throughout the 31 days. Every time I felt tense or out of control I took the time to step back and just breathe. I revisited the quiet part of my brain and took moments to myself, rather than running around trying to achieve everything on the to do list.
Going forward into September with all the changes afoot, this piece of self care is free, manageable and essential. On my working days, I will need to juggle tired and angry monkeys. Start the 7am nursery drop off and 5.45pm tired and cranky pick up. I will only get the worst of my monkeys on these days, their best bits being enjoyed without me by others. At these times I will need to breathe, let go of the guilt and frustration and look forward to the moments I do have when I am not working. I need to breathe and remind myself that I am doing my best for all of us.