I am definitely enjoying the slower pace of summer and the time away from my normal routine while on vacation. Today I'm sitting in a lodge in the beautiful White Mountains of NH and looking forward to a swim in the pond this afternoon after a quick hike through the woods. Nature is an essential healing tool for me to get centered when life is feeling overwhelming.
Speaking of overwhelm, you may have seen this recent article on postnatal depletion. I could certainly relate. After nearly 10 years of mothering I still have to be vigilant about keeping my tank full and finding ways to not slip into depletion mode. Yes, at 7 and 9 my kids are not as demanding on me physically (I'm not carrying them everywhere and I'm not breastfeeding) but I am hyper aware of their needs. I have to be careful to not let my default be to tend to them first.
Our society is unfortunately not designed around providing good support for families. Combine that with all the pressure we put on ourselves, no wonder there's so much depletion.
One thing that has helped me is to identify the warning signs that I'm heading in that direction. I have a lot of practices that I use to keep myself on track but if I'm not paying attention, they fall by the wayside and I start to suffer. Yours may be different but I'll share mine so you can get a sense of what to look out for. Also below I have some quick fixes and long term solutions to depletion.
- Quick to anger or tears – this is my number one cue that things are off.
- Hating my apartment – walking in the door and immediately feeling heavy and only noticing the things that are a mess rather than appreciating where I live.
- Lack of motivation – feeling like it's too much effort and too hard to do anything.
- Feeling overwhelmed and frantic with all there is to do – the amount of responsibilities can feel crushing and paralyzing.
- Spending free time in front of the tv or on Facebook rather than on things that will actually make me feel good like exercise or working on my business or hanging with people I love.
- Craving sugar and junk food.
- Avoiding talking to friends or family.
Quick fixes: the things that will help in the moment—to shake me out of my crankiness and paralysis.
- Exercise—even a quick walk outside or a 2 minute dance break works
- Meditate—2 minutes can make a difference
- Journal—get the worries out, find clarity
- Gratitude practice (writing down 5 things I'm grateful for or 5 good things that happened today every night before bed)
- Alone time
- Getting outside in nature
- Time with my husband
- Consciously choosing to be present with my family, even when the dishes are not done
- Time with or a phone call with friends
- Reading inspirational books
Long term tools:
- Advance planning for the above quick fixes so they become a regular routine rather than something I should be doing that I never have or make time for
- Deep inner introspection—identifying habitual thought patterns and root causes of suffering so that they can be acknowledged and moved through.
- Knowing who to ask for help and then asking and receiving it!
- Consistently and persistently connecting in to my life vision so that my days are not always random and chaotic but intentional and focused.
- Creating community and both sharing and receiving wisdom and support.
- Self love. This is deeper than self-care which can sometimes feel like a band-aid. Self-love means accepting myself for who I am, warts and all, so that I can live from a place of well being and comfort in my skin rather than being controlled by fears and doubts. This takes practice and doesn't come easily for me but when I apply the same gentleness and acceptance I have for my kids to myself, I am much more able to be present, loving, productive and healthy.
- Support—sure, you probably could do it alone, but having help can make it so much easier.
With practice these long and short term tools can be the habits to replace the not so useful ones—the ones that come up in times of stress and overwhelm. And with practice I can also accept that some days I will spend a couple of hours watching mindless TV while enjoying some ice cream without feeling guilty!
Wishing you all a lovely summer and I'd love to hear how you're doing.