Arghhhh… self-isolating in a small flat, on your own with Covid AND a three year old toddler, is hard.
If you’ve had to do something similar and come out unscathed, give yourself a big pat on the back.
My recent stint was emotionally (as well as physically) challenging.
All I wanted to do was be still and horizontal but, as you parents know, being a felled grown-up in the vicinity of a small person means you instantly turn into the ring of a WWF bout.
My head hurt.
My nose streamed.
Every limb ached and I felt fogged from head to toe but my little one still insisted on grappling me like he was Hulk Hogan.
Now – obviously – I’m very grateful I passed by this period of illness (and the last time I had Covid) without serious consequence but I did feel rough. Worse, in fact, than previously.
I could barely drag myself off the sofa. All I wanted to do was be motionless but that’s not an option with a pint-sized Mr Hogan commanding the room!
So, my son and I played games for a bit. We baked once, dressed up, read a lot and watched Disney movies. We made it through okay, but I also learnt a few things about myself after they uncomfortably bubbled up…
Firstly, going outside every day makes me feel I’ve accomplished something and – what I realised from this current isolation – is that I need to feel ‘accomplishment’ to feel good about myself.
This means if I can’t go outside or do anything other than muster a 2 minute game of snakes and ladders, I immediately feel my time has been useless (and therefore, what use am I!?!).
Reflecting on this new, jigsaw-like piece of self awareness, I suppose, I’ve always known ‘accomplishment’ was a thing. Now, though, it was highlighted to me in bright, bold and with surround sound so I couldn’t conveniently ignore it.
I brought awareness to my gremlins and challenged them – ‘What use are you to me? What negative impact are you having? What evidence is there that my worth hinges on accomplishment?’
Taking a reality check shone light on the falsehoods and inconsistencies I was thinking and feeling. I knew what was real and helpful, and what was just a story.
I know my worth is not about going outside, ticking things off a list, ‘achieving’ or anything else goal-orientated. Accomplishments can be galvanising and good, but they do not define how ‘good’ I am.
My worth is not validated by the external. I am enough just as I am – whether indoors or out – lying still or doing things.
Mindful practices were also very beneficial for me during these uncomfortable moments about accomplishment. I focused on what was happening in the present – on what my son was doing, on the colours and shapes I could see and I listened to the noises of my flat and noises outside. We watched the clouds from our skylights and touched the fabrics around us. These all helped to ground me in the now and in what is beautiful.
The second thing I realised – and this is hard for me to admit because of the shame it brings – but I snapped at my son a couple of times whilst ill. There was also the odd eye roll when he was asked me to play bingo for the 115th time.
Thanks to a lot of self-reflection and digging about in why I do the things I do, I caught myself after these moments and felt a swell of guilt. Being like this is not how I want to be – there’s a mismatch between my values and actions.
After I snapped and rolled my eyes, I apologised to my son and said I felt poorly and not like normal. I asked him if I could try again and do better.
I used a clear, calm voice and gentle words to express myself so he understood and felt no schism in our love.
He told me I’d done a good ‘try-again’ and we had a hug.
Sheesh, single parenting is like the best therapy money can’t buy!
Single Parents in Isolation
As our Covid days and isolation came to an end, I considered (as I have many times) how other single parents managed their lockdowns over the past two years.
Gingerbread states “Single parent families have been disproportionately affected by the impacts of the pandemic. Urgent action is needed to protect single parents and their children during the crisis and beyond.”
How did you cope with multiple kids at home and a job to do online?
What helped you manage if you got ill or tackled long Covid?
Did you feel lonely when stuck indoors?
My trail of thoughts went on….
Our recent time in isolation was both hard and good, which also sums up how the past two years have been for me. Lots of positives alongside more than a few negatives.
If you’d like to talk about anything that’s come up for you as a single parent during Covid, then please get in touch today.
A few weeks ago, I found out my ex – my son’s dad – is having another baby in June and, since, I’ve experienced much in letting go.
There have been multiple difficult thoughts, feelings and emotions from anger and panic to resignation and sadness. I’ve faced stuff I had no idea was lingering, along with crazy night time dreams (and these say a lot about my subconscious)!
Blocked fears, beliefs and opinions have been realised and whilst many aspects were intense and exhausting, I’ve also had a releasing and cathartic experience.
Studies show that the best ways to forgive and forget take an emotional form so I know this was the process which needed to happen for me.
Firstly, I felt deep anxiety and anger. Those two beasts rose their ugly heads high with my fear of change and numerous unhelpful ‘what if’ scenarios surfacing.
‘What if’ my ex and his girlfriend end up like he and I did?
‘What if’ my son isn’t loved as much as the new baby?
‘What if’ my son doesn’t see his dad as much?
‘What if’ my son is impacted and worse-off, and additionally (more selfishly), what if my life is also affected?
Thankfully, I was able to voice all the above to friends and family – those who have my back. They listened to my stuff, told me it’s just stuff and then listened some more.
In essence, I was wanting to control the uncontrollable.
I can’t control these things and nor should I. My ex is free to get on with his life as I’m free to get on with mine, and I do trust he does as well as he can by our son (as he trusts me to as well).
I was also passing judgement on things that haven’t happened, pouring ill-will on the imagined. This serves absolutely no purpose to anyone or anything, and does nothing to aid letting go.
After all the ruminating and worry, I felt flat and tired. I wanted to hide away so I rested my weary mind and took time out from over-thinking.
Feel The Feelings
Then, came a wave of sadness and I cried.
I really cried.
Belly wrenching tears over aspects I had no conscious clue were there.
The realisation that, regardless of how things where at the end of our relationship, at the start, my ex had made me feel very special. I really loved him then and was still holding onto the idea our son’s conception and birth was something unique. I had no idea this remained a thing for me.
I also cried over the fact that life may well be different going forward for my son. It could be better (when he gets a little brother to muck about with) or it may be worse, no one knows. Things will be as they’re meant to be, and that goes for any impact that comes for my life too.
Through my tears, I finally came to accept the idea that maybe my ex and I just hadn’t been right for each other. Perhaps things would work out well with his girlfriend and this family he was creating?
Perhaps I needed to leave my stories in the past now and truly move on?
Perhaps the time was right in letting go for me and everyone involved?
All of this stuff was a big and bitter pill to swallow but something else came after the tears…
Through feeling the feelings, allowing them to be and accepting their presence as a gift for me to learn from, I was able to get to another place.
I faced, processed and released tethers I had no clue were tying me up. True freedom is on the other side of that.
I made the choice to fully forgive my ex for everything that happened as well as for the version of events I was holding on to.
I wish abundant joy, love and happiness to him, his girlfriend, their new baby and the family they’re creating alongside the boy he and I made.
I also forgive myself, sincerely and profoundly. There has been nothing wrong in me feeling the way I have or for blocks in my subconscious. I have simply been living a real and powerful human experience which I can now move on from and let go.
Today, I have a new life ahead of me and I rest in a place of love and light. Today and all the gifts I have are what are important.
My son has two parents who love him, he is a joy and a gift to us. He has 3 half siblings from his dad, every one a gift to my son and the world.
My son has wider family and friends who adore him and they support and guide both he and I.
I have a career I love which serves others purposefully and powerfully.
We live in a beautiful place and have good health.
We are blessed.
Last week, I wrote a card to my ex’s family. I hadn’t heard from them in the two years since I left but I felt compelled to tell them they are always welcome to come and see my son and I anytime they like.
I received a card back, telling me their door is always open to me too.
In letting go, I’m seeing a whole host of new wonders on the horizon for my son and I. I’d missed these before whilst I was still half looking back.
I’m excited for he and I to go grab them now…
IF YOU WANT HELP TO LET GO OF FEARS, BELIEFS & OPINIONS HOLDING YOU BACK, GET IN TOUCH HERE TODAY. I CAN’T WAIT FOR YOU TO GET STARTED!
There are two words within ‘single parent’ and, for me, they highlight very different aspects.
‘Parent’ and parenting involves you and your child/children so two or more individuals. It’s about togetherness, not solo activity, and is something you and I both know all about involving lots of love, interaction, respect, care, clothes washing and good snacks!
The second word in single parent is ‘single’ and that can vary a lot between us.
I didn’t become a single parent through choice, which creates one distinction. If you went into being a solo mum or dad knowing that was how it was going to be, you might not need to come to terms with your single status for too long. You may choose to date again sooner rather than later or perhaps you may not. Either way, being single and a parent was a choice made (and an awesome one at that).
If, however, you became a single parent through other circumstances such as bereavement, abuse or the breakdown of a relationship, then the idea of dating once more may be further off (if at all).
Things may vary again if you are not in contact with the other parent, have difficulties or, alternatively, if you amicably split from them and are happily co-parenting together.
In summary, our situations regarding singleness will be as unique as we all are!
Whatever is happening for you today too, know this is okay. Things are as they need to be right now so don’t worry or think anything should be different. Be in the present, focusing on your daily joy and thriving. Gingerbread cites an average of 5 years for single parenthood so the rest will come if and when it’s meant to.
My Switch for Change
I’ve been single for almost two years now and it has been an enlightening time. Not only have we experienced a global pandemic which, often still, blows my mind but it has also been a time where I truly came to terms with my single status. Then, I revelled in it and, finally, realised I would love to love again.
So, about 6 months ago, I signed up to two dating apps but I was conflicted. I experienced a pull towards what I ‘should’ be doing (looking for romance) and a push back to what felt more comfortable (namely sitting around in my pyjamas).
Then, came The Switch. I realised I needed help with my conflict around dating; I was blocked on certain things.
My biggest problems were eye-rolling at guys on dating apps, backing away from messaging and having a fairly stinking attitude to it all. If I did deign to meet someone and start to like them after a few dates, then I would panic and act like a different person – stumbling around, floundering in low confidence. Would they like my back? Would this go anywhere? Was I good enough?
I had a classic case of wobbler attachment – often avoidant, sometimes anxious, rarely secure.
Basically, a lot of b*$hit was evident in my behaviours and thinking but – whilst I could see things were wrong – I had no idea how to shift them. My nonsense had started to become worryingly automatic.
So, I deleted the apps and got some much-needed coaching on my blocks. I knew I couldn’t get past them on my own, regardless of how self-aware I am.
Over the course of some months, I learnt a number of important things:
In my past two relationships since my twenties, I’d put my partner before me. Their happiness had been more important than mine; I’d backed away from personal wants, needs and desires in favour of theirs.
I also had few boundaries set for myself. I didn’t know what I did or didn’t want so I was opting for the seemingly more straightforward option of being with no-one.
As the people-pleaser I was previously, I would find it hard to speak up on aspects I wasn’t happy with. I internalised and withdrew from confrontation, having poor communication skills in romantic relationships.
And – do you know what – as soon as I saw these things for what they were I had a true ‘ahhh haaa’ moment. I understood the b*$hit, knew where it came from and, most importantly, I was released from it.
And – PHEW – what a bloody relief that was!
I now love myself first, no matter what.
I am truly happy and this will remain always regardless of whom I choose to romantically love again.
I have boundaries for myself, voice those clearly, and I don’t people-please. I simply say how I feel, what I’m thinking and open up to all my vulnerability and honesty with love and kindness.
About 6 weeks ago, I loaded up those dating apps again and it’s like I’m a different person towards every aspect of love, romance and dating. I have genuine happiness and joy towards it, whether I meet someone through that means or in regular life. There’s obviously no rush, with Covid restrictions too, but what’s crucial is I have no negativity towards any aspect of dating. The energy that surrounds it is peaceful, fun and buoyant and I know that won’t change.
What is meant to be, will truly be.
I look forward to meeting the awesome someone who’s around the corner, looking for me too!
I’m not going to lie; this month’s blog has been a difficult one to write. I’ve attempted 3 different topics. Getting nearly done every time, only to abandon by the finish line and, I know exactly why this is.
It’s because something is shifting within me and I’m needing a moment to catch up.
It’s like my brain (for blog writing) and soul (that’s shifting) aren’t in sync so whatever topic I choose doesn’t hit the spot as it’s not currently representative of where I’m at. Where I am isn’t where I will or need to be just YET.
I’ll try to explain a little more so maybe you can recognise this for yourself too.
I did a webinar for a good number of attendees. It was my first (so I was a little nervous) but I’ve done workshops for years and was prepped, ready and excited. Everything leading up to it had flowed easily.
But, when it came to the actual event, I could feel myself being out of flow. Something was misaligned. Feedback from attendees was good but I felt I stepped away from my real self. I was overly caught up in concern for the outcome…
Would people like the webinar?
Would they get value from it?
(Bottom line) Would they like me?
Questions like this had bounced around, holding me back.
My ego was in the driving seat and a deep-rooted fear of not being good enough had been unmasked.
‘It has to be perfect’ ran through every part of me and my old brain felt an immediate threat to survival.
In my previous life…
Before my son came, these feelings of discomfort would likely have led me to run away from doing webinars again. A classic ‘flight’ response.
I might also have blamed external factors such as being a little tired, the internet connection or timing the webinar wrong. I would have been hard on myself or other things.
Now, I see my feelings for what they are – ego encircling a false old belief and, with that awareness, comes the ability to accept what’s there, call it nonsense and let it go (getting the new brain in gear).
I have 20 years of experience in what I do. It was my F#*ing First Time (as Brene Brown calls it) so finding a new way with the new is standard. It certainly won’t be putting me off doing them again. In fact, I’ll be doing webinars on the 28th of every month from now on in (there’s no getting rid of me – lucky you!?!).
My soul is shifting to a place where good is good enough. Ego and erroneous old beliefs are not holding sway. Serving and helping others are my reasons for moving on, this is not about me.
I’ve also had a chat with the part of me that feels panicked by being imperfect and given it a metaphorical hug with the words…
‘Off you go, back inside. There’s no need to worry. This is grown-up woman stuff here.’
I know I’m stepping into the next stage – where ego goes, flow is constant and I know I’m good enough. This is the place that doesn’t stop me. There, anything is possible.
Maybe you’ve had this too?
Perhaps you’ve had situations where you do something and your experience of it is markedly different from what you expected (maybe a job interview)?
If you have, I invite you to take a moment to consider how things played out…
What can you learn from what happened?
What false beliefs or ego tethers held you back?
How, then, can you gain your flow more constantly?
Hopefully, with this brief re-look, you’ll identify areas that aren’t authentically you. This means they don’t need to feature anymore. Call them out, hold them to account and then let them go. Don’t hold yourself back. Be your own cheerleader and counsel instead!
I hope this blog gives you a moment to pause for reflection as we move into February and, I wish you peace in the continuing UK lockdown. These times are tough. For me, there’s a different feel to March last year, with the weather and lack of novelty adding a more sombre tone.
Give yourself time, patience and compassion in these upcoming weeks. See your inner states (mental, physical, behavioural and emotional) for what they are – transient – but also with messages about blocked areas or limiting beliefs as these can be unstuck. You can and will get to the other side, rest and rejuvenate before Spring comes!
Christmas and New Year is tough for single parents, tougher than other times of the year (and Christmas 2020 is a standout one for us all) so I’ve written this blog post to ease us through this festive season with genuine joy.
This year, I aim to fully enjoy myself by approaching everything with presence, acceptance and the 5 secrets to Single Parent Festive Wellness.
I now know that Christmas shines a big, fat light on my singledom (for me, it even tops Valentine’s day) but this is okay. I’ve accepted it, all is well, and I don’t plan on being single forever! Right now, everything is just as it should be.
The twinkly, glowing media images that reel off happy family after happy family with mums AND dads are what they are. The fun festive bits of this season which accentuate no other adult being around (such as how excited my son gets by decorations) are simply experiences I currently share alone. Regardless, I am grateful for them all.
The split care (if you have it) of children over the holidays can add tough feelings. I know I felt it last year and in the run-up to this one. Are your children with you Christmas Day and Boxing Day, or with the other parent? Maybe you aren’t seeing your child this New Year due to Covid and are feeling the loss of that already. Arrangements vary from situation to situation; more so this year than any other as many of us will additionally be absent of extended family.
A Happy Christmas 2020
I invite you though to not fight those negative spaces; to not be annoyed by the switches or of the times we’re currently in. To stay in the negative or to paste on fake positivity will serve us single parents little gain.
The sun will rise and set on the days of this festive season like any other year. I know I’ll be trying very hard to be present to all the experiences I have. We have choice in how we interpret what life brings. As Shakespeare wrote ‘there is nothing either good or bad, only thinking makes it so’.
So, whether you’re parenting totally solo in Christmas 2020, whether you’re apart from your children, or together with them and others but without a romantic partner – I want to share with you my 5 secrets to Single Parent Festive Wellness. I hope these secrets bring peace, fun and joy at the end of a year like no other.
The 5 Secrets…
1/. Do things that make you feel good…
When we focus on giving our children the best possible festive experience, we can forget to take care of ourselves. So, this year (and every year!) spend some time doing things for yourself that you enjoy. You can’t pour from an empty cup, so have that soak in the bath or take time to read your new book. Do things that make you feel special, grounded and are just for you. You are your own person, as your children are their own too, so enjoy being you!
2/. Let go…
As single parents, we are masters at juggling and managing an array of life. We run the household, provide income and are there for our children day and night. Striving and giving, but all this juggling can make it hard for us to let go of the reins. We can lose our ability to let things be. Surrendering control is empowering, peace-giving and on a higher plain for not only ourselves but for our children. So, surrender to that which you feel resistance over and let peace envelop your soul.
Do this as much and as often as you can. Laughter is a powerhouse of goodness for your physical and mental health. Avoid too many news updates and instead, laugh at movies, play games and mess about. Our children are better at this than we are (as well as lots of other things, lol) so look to them for guidance! Laugh every day and laugh hard.
4/. Live mindfully…
Enjoy all the moments that Christmas 2020 and New Year give for what they are. Focus on whatever is happening with all your senses. Really experience it, don’t let thoughts about the past or the future fog your mind. Look at a mince pie as if you’ve never seen one before! As your children open their presents, watch their faces and feel the energy they exude as they pull paper and ribbon apart. You’ll get so much from this.
You might think this is hard to fit in (whilst getting everything else sorted) but movement of our bodies reaps enormous rewards. Doing at least 30 minutes of cardio exercise each day is great for us in mind, body and spirit. If you can do it outside, then even better! I get out and about with my toddler every day and I have an exercise bike in my bathroom for when he’s in bed. Yoga, pilates and weigh bearing exercise is also key for muscles, flexibility and overall health.
Enjoy this festive season. Catch up with others virtually, love the moments you have and look to the future for what Christmas-es will be like.
I wish you and your families health, happiness and joy for 2021. Thank you for supporting this blog and my work with single parents.
If you or someone you know would benefit from coaching in 2021, please let me know. It has all the potential to be their best year yet!
(Photos by Chad Madden, Kira auf der heide & S&B Vonlanthen, Unsplash)
There just wasn’t a lot of fun anymore. A lot of busy-ness. A lot of doing this and that, holding everything together. A lot of toddler love, which holds my heart never endingly, but every so often I’d still feel the engulfing absence of former fun.
I was a single mum, growing a mini-me single-handedly.
I managed a home and ran a business. In fact, I ran three with sporadic income. A hopeful entrepreneur.
Responsibilities and aims here, there and everywhere but I also knew my blessings – opportunity, education, a wonderful son, health and loved-ones.
I still missed a little bit of grown-up fun though.
Dressing for a date fun.
Dancing all night fun.
Laughing so my grin stuck fun.
There wasn’t much of any of this.
Not only was I missing fun but I realised a fundamental part of me was missing.
I wasn’t much fun myself anymore – not much fun to be around or be with. I was serious now. Everything was important, committed, tough but that’s just how it had to be. What did I have to complain about? Suck it up. I made these choices.
There was a sense of self-harm about it, self-flagellation.
Deep down, I longer for fun and not only for its sake but also, very clearly, for my mental health.
Fun is important.
Fun manifests fun.
Fun brings joy, endorphins and stress relief.
Before, I had always considered myself a fun person and without it I was missing a lot of positive energy. Not good for me or my son, so, I decided to stop stopping grown-up fun and to start having some.
The aim was to document everything on Instagram as ‘100 Days of Fun’ but, then, Coronavirus happened and this wasn’t fun for anyone. No dancing for the world, shopping off, dates on hold, the economy tanking and people dying. It couldn’t have been bleaker. I felt helpless for others and fearful for and of everyone. What was happening to us?
I decided to stick to my fun 100 days. Stick to Instagram. Stick with doing something good consistently as I needed it now more than ever and maybe someone else would like it too.
I improvised and did collage instead of shopping, laughed on video chats with friends and danced alone in my flat. I went for walks with my beautiful boy in beautiful places and I took photos of dishes I cooked.
What was more important though for me than anything was the process of it all.
The process of thinking of something fun to do that I could post about. The process of being committed to showing up consistently. The process of initially feeling this new project was a chore and of pushing through to then find it joyful. Every part was therapeutic during a time when the world was in limbo.
I began to look forward to posting my next fun picture and did it one day after the other, again and again, until there were 100 of them.
On September 23rd, the day after the Autumn Equinox this year, I put my final day on Instagram. This 100th post showed a picture of my son staring adoringly at a tractor and its’ trailer. He loves tractors and the effort he put in inspecting every inch of it made me smile, so, I took a photo and shared it online.
Doing 100 days of fun has shown me some things. That setting myself a challenge and sticking to it feels good, pushing through the uncomfortable parts of change gets me to a place of ease and positivity and doing fun stuff brings fun back into life. I hope you enjoyed my 100 Days of Fun too.
Here’s looking forward to all dancing all night again soon! Wishing everyone a wonderful start to an autumn of more fun…
It’s here! The sun, strawberries and sandcastles of a British Summertime. How wonderful!
I love this season and I love a bit of camping in the great outdoors, but a recent trip made me realise camping can, concisely, sum up the hardest thing I find about being a single parent…
PHYSICAL EXHAUSTION (camping can be bloody hard work).
Maybe it’s also that I’m getting on a bit (42, I know I don’t look it – lol) but doing every job that needs to be done for a camping trip is tiring. Never mind adding in everything that’s needed for a toddler’s camping trip too!
It took me nearly 2 hours to gather together everything required, from every cupboard and drawer in the flat, and squeeze it in the car (and I still forgot stuff). Then, there’s the getting to the site, unloading, erecting and sorting the tent, bedding, tables, chairs, roll mats, food, toiletries – followed by a succession of early mornings, sweaty days, chilly evenings, bbqs, lack of fridge etc. etc. etc. – all happening with toddler in tow.
Camping in the summertime, on your own with a little one, involves a lot of physical work – lifting, shifting, moving and sorting – whilst continually ensuring my son doesn’t kill himself on a tent peg or guy rope.
I was physically spent and it’s at these times I find single parenting hard.
There’s just not much left in the tank so playing a new game or reading another story is an effort rather than a joy, but, I also understand for me to be on good form I should employ tried and tested actions which keep me on track (whether I’m camping or anywhere else):-
Firstly, I listen to my body. I didn’t used to do this but would then burn myself out and catch some illness or other. In current times though, more than ever, it’s key to look after our health so if I feel tired, I rest, chill and try to get an extra hour or two of sleep.
I also generally slow down and do less in the daytimes for a couple of days. I don’t push on and I don’t, in any way, compare myself to others (we don’t need to hike/cycle/swim every day). My son and I hang out, read, colour, play and laugh at home – whether that’s in a tent or flat. Instead of cooking a big dinner with lots of components one evening, we might just have beans on toast. I make life simpler.
I always make sure I practice self-care. I am kind to myself, giving myself a foot rub with oil as a treat or meditating and listening to the birdsong outside. Treats can never be over-estimated!
The last and most powerful thing I do is to be in the present moment with gratitude. I am mindful to whatever wonder is happening and I am grateful for it – my son playing with his cars on the picnic rug outside our tent, to the sun setting across the far hills or to the crackle of the barbecue getting going.
These strategies always set me straight, be it in the summer (when faced with the unenviable task of rolling a tent back up) or in the dead of winter (whilst climbing 4 flights of stairs to our top floor flat with 4 bags of shopping).
I just slow down.
I live in love and congruence with my body.
I am grateful for life and its’ joys.
And it generally does the trick, exhaustion goes and energy flows.
Hopefully these ideas might help you too if you (‘re mad enough to) decide to camp with a toddler. We’ve got our next trip already planned ?!
There’s a time in the evening as a single parent – when children are asleep and you’re on your own, when the washing’s done and the toys are packed away – there’s a time that can be both a wonder and a horror.
My evening times used to be filled with loneliness. My horror.
After I’d put my son to bed, I’d feel rudderless. My sense of purpose missing. Loneliness would creep up from the evening gloom and sometimes hold an icy grip for the whole night.
I wouldn’t know what to do with myself.
As a single parent, nothing emphasises being alone more than evening time. When – seemingly – the rest of the world is cosied up together, having a family meal or nice group stuff, the fact you’re on your own is never more-starker than when the sun sets and you’re within the four walls of home.
To fill this void, I’d reach for the phone, remote control or a glass of wine. I’d swipe Tinder, trawl social media or be so bone-tired I’d vegetate with television until sleep.
And these things weren’t all bad. They’d fog things up a bit, help while away the hours and make any bad feelings less sharp but they also left me in limbo. No further forward onto the path of wonder that I knew was mine to have and that would – in turn – make daytimes with my son even better too.
I was also lonely in a way that previously living on my own had in no way compared to. Then, if I wanted to see others, all I had to do was walk out the front door. Now, as my babe lay sleeping, I was in and faced with myself, my thoughts, my fears and every other nasty meh that appeared in the psyche.
Until that was, I decided to make some shifts.
Shifts primarily in how I saw myself.
Shifts in how I cared for myself.
Shifts towards those things that healed and helped me soar.
No more wine or mindless screen time. No more Tinder swiping without being ready to go on an actual date (lol). No more ex thoughts and, most importantly, no more feeling bloody sorry for myself!
I chose to choose differently.
Instead of loneliness, I did things that helped me feel good.
I worked on my business. I read interesting books and articles. I watched movies that made me laugh, cry and yell. I called friends. I drew, collaged and journaled. I Facetimed those I love. I invited my nearest and dearest around for food and tea. Sometimes I did yoga. I went on my exercise bike. I lit candles, massaged my feet and meditated. Sometimes I got an early night.
I made time for positivity in all its facets.
There was positive relationships, accomplishment, good emotions and meaning. All the key ‘pillars’ of positive psychology as proposed in 2009 by the psychologist Martin Seligman.
Aspects that also have great support are the app Frolo, where you can connect with like-minded single parents in your area, and Family Action who provide support to those experiencing social isolation.
After some time, my single parent evenings began to feel good. Really good. I started to enjoy the prospect of the few hours around dusk. My evenings felt full of love, just like the love that’s in the day with my boy.
Evening times now are about a love for myself and a love for others in the world. It feels like a full life even if I don’t leave my living room. Loneliness lives elsewhere and instead the darkening time is filled with warmth, joy and contentment. My wonder.
I recently read a quote by Steve Chandler – “busy-ness is laziness”- and it made me stop.
Stop and take note.
Stop and pause for a moment.
Steve says that ‘being “too busy” is not the optimal state as it’s a state of chaos, not a state of focus’.
I stopped to notice my own internal and external busy worlds. The worlds I had created for myself (not created by anyone else except the odd demand from a toddler). I then asked myself if my need to feel busy was actually about something else, and perhaps it was doing more harm than good!?!
You see, I have a pattern that runs in my life. Maybe you do too when it comes to being busy!?
Most of the time, I have quite a lot of energy. I play and buzz about with my son. I catch-up with loved ones. I fill time with interesting things and I take care of my mental and physical health. It’s busy but in a positive way.
However, when it comes to my working life, I push myself and I push myself and I push myself with stuff. As Bec Heinrich puts it in her Ted Talk, I have the ‘Doing Disease’.
This thing to do and that thing to do.
My thinking pattern runs something like this… ‘I must endeavour in lots of activities because struggle, strife and volume of effort will lead to success’.
In reality though, it often doesn’t in the ways I hope, and you might find this too.
What invariably happens is that after a period of some weeks or months of major effort, I’m left feeling too tired to show up in all the ways I love and want to be present – for my son, myself and others in my life. All I want to do is retreat and replenish, which is pretty much impossible when you’re a single mum running a business.
So, Steve’s quote arrived in my consciousness at exactly the right time. I wanted there to be a better balance and decided to give myself space and kindness. I would push less and ‘be’ more. I would see what emerged.
In the Harvard Business Review’s 2010 study of 343 businesses (conducted with the Economist Intelligence Unit), they found that firms that “slowed down to speed up” greatly improved their top and bottom lines, averaging 40% higher sales and 52% higher operating profits over a three-year period. Perhaps I could gain more personally and professionally as well?
I spent a month reading, meditating, sleeping well and being fully present with my son, loved ones and on events in the world as they unfolded. I noticed. I reflected. I looked on things inwardly as well as outwardly.
I saw what busyness gave me…
A good hiding place.
A place to hide from fear!
When I worked during this month, I focused on just one or two activities, not a flitting between half a dozen or more. I wasn’t distracted. I allowed things to be and I sat with discomforts, not diffusing them with (self-imposed) tasks or actions to complete. I let thoughts, feelings and actions evolve.
And it’s been good. Really good.
I’ve felt more rested, more energised and the directions I have taken have elicited much more. From enhanced connections with others, to a greater sense of compassion and contribution for the world. Aspects that have naturally occurred have been bolder, brighter and of greater resonance and impact for myself and others. I’ve also had new ideas for things that weren’t working and I now know exactly what direction to take.
Many people have written and reflected on the importance of slowing down. Carl Honore wrote the book ‘In Praise of Slow,’ challenging the ‘cult of speed’. He calls slowness a ‘superpower’.
The State University of New York touches here on the process of incubation, which I studied during a Masters in Creative Thinking, It’s key for the creative process and both divergent and convergent thinking. In this, rushing full steam ahead often doesn’t elicit the best ideas but those which have stewed in the subconscious and been played with for a while, can be much more fruitful.
During my period of slowing down, I also thought about how we, as a nation, are enmeshed with speed. When someone asks us how we are, we often reply with an answer incorporating busy…
‘Great but busy!’
‘So busy at the moment.’
‘Busy doing that and that.’
Busy-ness seems to be a culturally good thing but is it really? Is it good for our physical and mental health, our relationships with others, our sense of compassion or for our productivity?
For me, busy is sometimes necessary but often it isn’t, so (from now on), I’m going to blitz the fear and unleash my superpower slow!
I’ll be slowing down to do much, much more…
Here are my top tips on how to slow down, with kids, and as we come out of lockdown (please let me know if you have others that work for you):-
Tackle 1 big task a day (but not necessarily complete!) and start with it first but with a set time frame. Don’t do it for hours and hours and don’t start with other menial activities that fill your spare time that’s then suddenly gone.
Go outside for an hour(+) every day – doesn’t matter when or for what – just get out there for a sizeable chunk of time. The natural world has been shown by countless studies to have a positive effect on stress and anxiety.
Meditate for 15 minutes+ every day. The art of being still, present and connected works!
Write, journal, draw or scribble on a napkin, each day, for 5 minutes+. You’ll be amazed at what comes out.
Do daily activities a little bit slower – like cooking, washing, brushing teeth, getting dressed. Give yourself more time and make a commitment to give these things slightly longer to do. A slower pace will start to become a good habit.
In January at Live Life Better, I introduced the concept of being Healthily Happy which incorporated the wellbeing 3L’s of Learning, Loving and Laughing. For May and during this challenging time for the world, I want to focus on this more and bring ‘Learning, Loving and Laughing’ together in one word – FUN!
Right now, there’s not as much family fun around as there once was. Parents are dealing with loss, change and difficulty whilst holding everything together at home. There’s play but there’s also tears. There’s joy and there’s stress. One thing that’s certain is a rollercoaster of emotions so, if ‘time flies whilst you’re having fun’, I’ve decided to do more of it now to pass this time positively. Would you like to join me in bringing more fun into your days too?
A self-care commitment
I’ve made a commitment to do something fun, every day, for 100 days. I already do lots of fun stuff with and for my son, and he is very good at having fun (I learn a lot from his lead), so this current pledge is about personal, parental self-care. As I say often, ‘you can’t pour from an empty cup’ so I’m going to boost my wellbeing through fun and, in a roundabout way, I’m sure my son will benefit too. Fun breeds fun and a mum having fun is fun in itself (lol)!
Fun is serious business in serious times
A brief Google search on the value of fun lists its importance for productivity at work, for children’s development and even in the aid of recovery. Psychology Today has a compelling article on the importance of play for everyone. They maintain ‘play is serious business,’ calling it a ‘banquet for the brain’ so we shouldn’t view fun as frivolous. HelpGuide talks persuasively on the mental health and relationship benefits of play for adults saying it can ‘add joy, relieve stress, supercharge learning and connect you to others and the world around’. They argue play improves brain function and stimulates creativity.
In 2018, Steve Taylor from Leeds Beckett University, wrote about ‘awakenings’ in the British Psychological Society’s magazine. He described these as “a temporary expansion and intensification of awareness that brings significant perceptual, affective and conceptual changes,” which could be related to experiences of flow; and flow can be thought of as (Csikszentmihalyi and Csikszentmihalyi, 1988: 36) “the holistic sensation that people feel when they act with total involvement.” Hopefully some of these awakening or flow experiences will arise from the fun times to come over the upcoming 100 days!
The Oxford English Dictionary defines fun as “light-hearted pleasure, enjoyment, or amusement; boisterous joviality or merrymaking; entertainment”. How would you define fun for yourself? Is it doing things that are creative, silly or witty? Perhaps it’s about novelty or activities you know you enjoy? What about joy, where does this fit for you? My 100 days of fun will be about things I know I enjoy (but don’t do enough) as well as trying out novel and creative activities. It’ll be about both ‘creativity’ and ‘enjoyment’. Those will be my key words.
Fun ideas for isolation?
I’ve jotted down a few ideas of things I’ll do. Please have a look at my Youtube video on Bringing Joy, for a fun coaching exercise in generating plans for your household. I already love writing and supporting people so those will continue but perhaps I’ll now try recipes, cocktails or foods I’ve not had before? Perhaps I’ll collage, journal or do new daft puppet shows with my son? Painting, dressing-up, cycling and running barefoot on the beach will all happen as will, no doubt, lots of music and dance. I’ll be sure to explore and surround myself with playful people online. I was thinking virtual charades, if anyone’s up for it!?!
Whatever it looks like to you though, we can likely all agree that we know when someone’s having fun. That sense of joy and pleasure is universally understood, regardless of culture, gender, age or any other thing which might differentiate us. Fun is unifying and that’s something we can all do with in current circumstances. I’m looking forward to what these 100 days of fun will bring. Please see daily updates on my Instagram page at oliviaroellb