Updated: Oct 3, 2019
One of my favourite quotes is “You cannot pour from an empty cup”. As mums, we tend to do everything for everyone and have ourselves on the bottom of the list. However, we cannot run on an empty tank and most mums get to a point where they are exhausted, burned out and run down. One of the challenges we face as mums is knowing where our energy level is. Unfortunately, we don’t have a battery symbol on our wrist that tells us how we are doing physically, emotionally and mentally. What do you do when your phone battery drops down to 10 or 20% - do you keep using the phone until it shuts down? Most people, including me, would make sure to bring a phone charger so I can plug my phone anywhere and never run out of battery. Unfortunately, as mums we are so busy taking care of other people and juggling the myriad number of responsibilities that we are not even aware of our “tank” level. We ignore all the signs that point out to the imminent and unavoidable crash, and we run ourselves to the ground. As a mum, I often feel like I need to do more things, and do them faster so the whole house doesn’t collapse and my whole family doesn’t go hungry. Of course, this is an extreme and unrealistic thinking in my part, but fuels my “go, go, go” mentality.
Just like how you check your battery level on your phone and devices, it’s important to regularly check on your own “tank” level. Only when you are aware that your tank is getting low that you are going to take some actions to replenish yourself. This is where a daily mini mindfulness practice can be helpful to “check-in” to see how you are doing. Taking a minute to breathe and pay attention to your body, you may start to notice that you have a lot of tensions on your shoulders or that you have a tight knot around your stomach. You may even realize that, hey, I need to eat something, or that I need to drink something. Or maybe I need to go to the bathroom?
Check in with what your body needs, and what you are currently feeling. Are you feeling “tired but wired”? Often, as mums we fuel up in the morning with caffeine (I am guilty of this) until we feel jittery and question why we feel anxious and wired in the afternoon. Unfortunately, fueling up on caffeine may make it more difficult for you to relax in the evening. I recently learned that caffeine has a half-life of 12 hours. This means that the effect of your 10 AM cup of coffee in the morning won’t disappear until 10 PM at night. When I learned this I started to ensure that I don’t have any caffeine past 11 AM in the morning. There is nothing more frustrating than not being able to sleep when everyone (including your babies) is sleeping peacefully and not disturbing you. Unfortunately, a lot of mums are trapped in a vicious caffeine cycle which makes it difficult to have a restorative and restful sleep, and further drive the need for more caffeine in the morning!
Here are some quick tips on how to check and fill your “tank” everyday:
· Choose certain activities that you do everyday as times to check in with yourself. For example, while you are brushing your teeth in the morning, at night, or having your morning coffee or tea.
· During these times, notice your in-breath and out-breath, and ask yourself these questions:
o How is my body doing?
o What does my body need right now?
o What am I feeling?
o What is one thing I can do right now to be kind to myself?
· Remember to cover the basics of getting enough sleep, drinking enough water (not too much caffeine or alcohol), eating nutritious food, moving your body, getting some outdoor time, and spending time with people. Sounds simple but definitely hard to do as a mum right? Don’t worry, we’ll talk about this more in future articles.
· The effect of caffeine lasts for 12 hours so try to drink it only in the morning so you can have a restful sleep at night.
Want to learn more about being more aware of your "tank" and how you can fill it up? Come to an Empowermums workshop! Find out more: