March 12, 2015
Top Ten wellbeing Tips on Silencing your Inner Critic
One of the hardest things i’ve found since becoming a mum is how hard I am on myself, how I constantly feel I’m not living up to the ridiculously high standards I set myself and hence constantly feeling let down by yes, you guessed it me. As mums we need to be our own biggest fans. We need to celebrate our achievements and focus on all the ways in which we are doing a good job. Not a “good enough” job but a BLOODY GOOD JOB! I must admit I sometimes find it impossible to silence my inner critic and to resuscitate the cheerleader and after talking to lots of fellow mums I have realised it’s something we all suffer with. Therefore, we have the awesome and talented Patricia Allen-Garrett, fellow No Bullshit Mum and Psychotherapist on hand to help us to silence our inner critic and tell it to kindly “Do One!”
Over to you Patricia……
Tell us a bit about your awesome self
My name is Patricia Allen-Garrett, I’m an identical twin, married since 1999 and in 2013, after 5 IVF attempts we welcomed our twins, Daniel and Alannah into our family. I work as a psychotherapist and also as a lecturer in psychotherapy and as a group facilitator working with people who are either suicidal or who have contemplated suicide. I also have done a lot of research and run workshops on Happiness and how to increase it! My hope in terms of helping other mums would be a mixture of the personal and professional – personal in terms of lived life experience of being a mum and professional in terms of wellness strategies which might help when things are both good and difficult. If we can build up a toolbox of things that help before things reach crisis point then we stand a much better chance of actually being able to use them and heading things off quicker.
How did you hear about The Baby Bible? and how long have you been a No Bullshit Mum?
I heard about The Baby Bible when I was going through a particularly difficult time with Post Natal Depression and joined the group in May of 2014.
What has been the best thing about being part of The Baby Bible and the No Bullshit Mum Revolution?
Without doubt the two things I have found most helpful are when other mums can talk about their own experience of issues I might be encountering with the babies and the humour and irreverence! It has been a breath of fresh air in the political correctness that has found its unwelcome way into motherhood.
So top ten tips or wellness strategies (other than sleep – my personal favourite!), most of these come from my work in happiness and building resilience. There are lots of other ones which I think people are more aware of so I wanted to bring something that’s maybe less well-known but really good for your psychological wellbeing as a mum or at any time. Particularly as mums we have a tendency to try to do things perfectly, be all things to all people and do everything. To try and counteract that I hope these are useful:
1. Start looking at how you view things – pessimistically or optimistically. Being a pessimist isn’t wrong, but pessimists have a fairly psychologically-harmful way of looking at things – things are permanent, personal and pervasive – so stuff like – “Its going to go on forever”, “its all my fault” and “its ruined” and when things go right – pessimists think it’s a fluke! So it’s a lose-lose situation. One of the key strengths of the optimists on the other hand (not the Polyanna fluffy thinkers!) is that they can interpret their setbacks as surmountable, specific to a single problem or cause and resulting from temporary circumstances or other people. They are up to 8 times less likely to become depressed, they do better at school, sports and most jobs, they have better health and better interpersonal relationships.
2. Start developing ‘Learned Optimism:
This is not about ‘looking on the up side’ (that’s positive thinking), it’s about questioning your belief, seeing how much of it is accurate. It’s about always asking yourself – what’s the evidence for my belief?
3. Finding alternatives to your worst belief:
Most events have more than one cause, look for them rather than latching on to the most insidious one – ask yourself is there a less destructive way to look at things?
Sometimes of course there isn’t a way around things – the facts won’t always be on your side and reality may be against you and your negative belief about yourself might be correct. If this is the case you need to de-catastrophise. Think out the implications and be more gentle with yourself so you can think more creatively.
5. Break the Grip of Rumination:
Rumination is when thoughts go round and round in our head that we cannot shake, it could be anything from “they will never sleep again” (mine) to “they will never eat again (also mine) and everything in between. We often think we are ‘thinking things through’ but really we aren’t – we are circling and in a holding pattern. What scientists have found is that when we are experiencing negative emotions these emotions selectively call to mind negative thoughts and that’s why things go around in a circle. Negative thinking shuts down our creativity and we don’t see the opportunities we do when we are thinking more positively – so we stay stuck. Typically we start by feeling a little bit worried – if you add rumination to the mix it can become full blown anxiety. Same with sadness – add rumination and you have the perfect recipe for the symptoms of depression. So to help with this – we need healthy distractions. This is an activity that totally absorbs you. What you are looking to do is lift your mood – if that results in you doing something you find fascinating great but it can be neutral too – all you are trying to do is break the grip of rumination and stop the downward spiral.
6. Develop three lists
Look at what brings you pleasure, then happiness then contentment. Write yourself three lists. When you need a lift then indulge a pleasure (e.g. chocolate, wine, sex), when you need something deeper look at your happiness list (e.g. calling a friend, walking in nature, using music, counting your blessings, walking your dog). And when you want to bring things to a deeper level of contentment use that list (e.g. really connect with someone in your life, do something spiritual, do some mindfulness, etc).
7. Bring gratitude into your life
Gratitude underpins joy and we need to practice gratitude as a way to feel joy. So keep a gratitude journal where you list 3-5 things you are grateful for at the end of each day, I promise you you will sleep differently. Maybe say daily gratitude statements and acknowledge when we are grateful. Its not saying things like “I’m grateful today isn’t as bad as yesterday”! Recognising what we are grateful for really helps change our mood and brings a brighter sense to our day.
Yep, play! Do something that is fun and crazy and silly, dance, sing, yodel, trampoline, etc. Do something that’s only purpose is to play.
9. Accept other peoples’ kindness
This is a really hard one to do! We are probably all very good, particularly as mothers, at being kind to others – but if you want to feel a sense of wellbeing then allow other people to be kind to you (plus it gives you something for your gratitude diary/journal!).
10. Be gentle and compassionate to yourself
As mothers we are our harshest critics – everyone else has it together, doesn’t get as affected by broken or lack of sleep, can keep the house perfectly, cook and have happy, polite kids, but not me, I’m a terrible mother, a terrible wife/partner, and the list goes on and on. Seriously – if we had someone saying that out loud to us we would at least question it (if not hit the roof!). But we say these sorts of things to ourselves all the time and that way depression and low self-esteem lie. Let yourself off the hook, gag that awful critic and allow yourself see yourself for who you are – and that is good enough. I promise you your wellbeing will lift hugely if you can do this.
Are you a no Bullshit Mum with some expert advice you would like to share with fellow mums? Drop me a mail firstname.lastname@example.org.