When I first considered leaving the NHS and working for myself from home I wasn’t sure whether I had the motivation and discipline to succeed in running a business on my own. I wondered if I could ever have the level of commitment needed, or whether I might be more likely to be distracted by other jobs I had to do, such as the housework!
I soon realised though that because I was passionate about my work, it was easy to prioritise it and actually I soon found the difficulty for me came from being disciplined enough to actually stop working. When I was employed and had a half hour drive to work it was easier to switch off and I often didn’t even think about work-related stuff until the next day I was at work. Living and working at home though can make switching off more difficult, so it is important to set your own boundaries and make sure you do take time out from work for family and self-care.
For mums in business there are the added pressures of juggling the responsibilities of being; a Mother, wife, housekeeper, cook and friend etc around all the responsibilities of running a business. At times you might feel resentful of work getting in the way of your family commitments, or the other way round. Typically as Mothers these days we tend to feel guilty because, while juggling all this, we never feel we are managing to do everything as perfectly as we feel we ‘ought to’. This in itself can result in a lot of inner turmoil and self-induced stress.
Although we often blame how we feel on the situation we are in, the actual stress you perceive is more about how you respond to it, than what’s actually happening. For example, if you are a perfectionist, self-critical and worry about what others think, then the ruminating this causes creates self-induced stress, often more than the issue itself warrants. Being very ambitious, conscientious, over-analysing and needing to be in control, can also add to the stress you are already facing.
What is not widely recognised is that pain and many other health conditions are caused by a stress-processing mechanism which involves the triggering of an automatic and unconscious response in the brain and nervous system. Often this is protecting us from showing our vulnerabilities and if we ignore how we are feeling, symptoms can actually end up forcing us to step back and take time out. This could be a cold, a headache or migraine, IBS, RSI, low back pain, sciatica or some other sort of pain, which can become debilitating if you don’t resolve the issue or take time out.
However, by becoming more resilient and learning to deal with stress better, we can actually improve not only how we feel, but our health and wellbeing. Below are a few suggestions which could help you cope better with the stress you perceive that results from trying to balance your work with being a Mother and all your other responsibilities.
- Provide some structure to your day – time for work, kids etc. Remember to be allowing of any unexpected eventualities though, which is just part of being a Mum!
- List and prioritise your responsibilities and consider which ones you need to keep up with, which you can drop or delegate. Look at practical changes you could make to make life a bit easier e.g. minimal ironing or get someone else to do it!
- Fit time in your week for self-care. This could be going for a coffee with a friend, having a massage, going out with your partner. Often we get so stuck into the ‘routine’ of life that everything becomes a drudge. Nurturing our relationships can make a huge difference to how we cope with everything, so no matter how busy you are, make time for a catch up with family and friends.
- Studies have shown that exercise, being outdoors in a natural environment, laughter, smiling and standing upright with an open posture all raise the levels of our endorphins, or happy hormones. How could you incorporate some of these regularly in our life?
- Last thing at night note down at least 5 things you feel grateful for and really FEEL how grateful you are. Studies have shown that this not only improves our mood, but our health and wellbeing.
- Don’t bottle things up and watch your thoughts! Vent how you feel onto paper to offload, but then aim to put things into perspective. Then make sure you ruminate and stir it all up again – distract yourself, use positive self-talk etc
- Make sure that even just for 10 minutes you switch off! Switch off the phone, TV etc and sit quietly. Meditate, be mindful rather than let your thoughts wander, or listen to a guided visualisation, but switch off – inside and out. This allows time for your brain to process everything and ‘defuse’.
Georgie Oldfield MCSP
Physiotherapist & Founder of SIRPA