Birthday Lessons

So last week it was my birthday and I’m not going to lie, there’s something about turning 29 that felt a bit yucky. Maybe it’s because I can no longer kid myself I’m in my mid-twenties, maybe it’s because I’d be celebrating it during a pandemic, or even that my plans to see my family had gone out the window (again, thank you Covid!).

Whatever the trigger, the cause was still there and needed to be addressed. I’m a very introspective person and love journaling, expressing my thoughts and working through any ‘sticky’ areas in my life or mind, so of course the natural thing for me was to grab my A3 note pad, colourful pens and start brain dumping everything I had floating through my mind. I used some of my favourite journal prompts to help me get going (some of these I’ve shared on my latest podcast and over on Instagram) but really, the questions I kept asking myself were:

What do I want to know?

What do I want answered?

I really just wanted to document everything I wanted to accomplish in my 29thyear and find out what I needed to learn from. The more I wrote down, the clearer (and sometimes foggier) things became. One thing was for sure – I am still learning to take the pressure off myself!

One of the journal prompts I used was:

What lessons have a learnt from this year?

I wanted to take a moment to reflect back on my 28thyear and celebrate all the lessons I had learned – the lessons that were unique to the past 365 days, not only because I feel it’s important to celebrate our growth but because I wanted to acknowledge an opportunity to really make a change and LEARN from last year. In all honesty I was surprised at just how many things I managed to write down (usually I struggle to think of just 1 thing!) so I thought I’d share my top 10 lessons with you in the hope that maybe one of them might resonate or help you in some way.

(*I should also mention that Koa was born just before my birthday last year so a lot of these lessons that I’ve learnt have been a result of also being a new mother. Things just seemed to perfectly align themselves that way!)

MAXIMISING TIME IS IMPORTANT

I have no clue how I managed to live my life before I had Koa and it almost feels like a completely different one. I now look back on it as though I’m watching a movie, it just feels that different and far removed from my reality now. One of the biggest things I’ve learned this year is I can’t do everything at my own pace anymore – Koa needs me, my attention, my time (he even still needs my body to feed!) – which means I only have a few small pockets of time to get things done.

I didn’t really have a maternity leave and went back to work at 7 weeks post-partum but before Covid I had the support of family, friends and even the crèche to help me organise my time so I was able to work, clean the house and just take a moment to be by myself and fill my cup. Of course as of March that went out the window and I was left to my own devices to juggle being a mummy, owning a business and making sure I stayed sane.

Now I cherish every single moment and second of the day. I refuse to work when Koa is awake and around me (for reasons I’ll get into in a moment), which means that I have to cram my work into short bursts whenever he’s sleeping. I have never been so productive with my time and only wonder how much more I could have got done before I had Koa if I managed my time just as effectively back then!

HOW TO PRIORITISE

I always say that I have ‘tabs’ open in my mind. When I think of something new, a new tab is opened and I can’t close it until I’ve completed that task, found a solution to the problem or worked through it. Again, pre-Koa, I had hundreds of these tabs open all the time and as a result my mind felt foggy and looking back, I wonder if I was living in a constant state of low grade chronic stress (something I always work on rectifying with my own clients!). With all the extra stresses, worries and thoughts that come with being a new mum there was no way that I would still be able to have all the other tabs open as well, so I’ve really had to learn how to prioritise.

I had to prioritise not only my thoughts but my time, relationships, work – every element that made up my life needed to be sorted and I needed to work out what was my priority in each area so that I could give the best version of myself and my full attention to what needed addressing. As much as it went against every cell in my body at the start, I had to let some things go and as hard as that was, it was probably the best decision I made. It almost felt like I was streamlining my life and living a life that was important to me rather than sweating the small stuff and doing things just because I feel I ‘should’.

THE VALUE OF BEING IN THE MOMENT

Oh my goodness – this is one that I have definitely learnt as a result of becoming a mother. Koa reminds me every single day to stop and just be in the moment. When you look at a baby, they’re only concern is what’s happening at that moment in time – they’re not worried about the future or panicking over the past and although those things are necessary for human survival in small, healthy doses, it’s not how I want to live my life. I realised that I’d become so accustomed to ‘time-watching’ that I no longer could function if I didn’t know what time of day it was. Everything seemed to run on schedule at a particular time and you know what…I just need to escape that sometimes.

I want to get lost in time like I did when I was a child. I want to escape from the minutes and hours of the day and just be in the moment with my son – not constantly thinking that things need to be done by a certain time or at a particular point in the day. So now, when we have nothing planned I put my phone to one side, take my watch off and just play with Koa. I do things at his own pace and allow him to choose what we spend our time doing. It’s actually the most therapeutic and relaxing part of my day.

I’ve found that practicing being in the moment with him has actually helped it to seep into other areas of my life too like cooking, showering, reading, spending time with friends and family (even if it is over skype) and even work. It’s just incredible how your life is transformed when you no longer feel the need to monitor every second of your day.

LIKES DON’T MEAN ANYTHING

Ahhh this one is huge for me. I’ve spent my whole life searching for ‘likes’ – even before social media was a thing. I just wanted approval, for someone to say ‘well done’ and even to improve my social status. Maybe being bullied as a child and feeling isolated as a teenager has something to do with that but whatever the cause, it’s been a driving factor for many of my decisions in my adult life.

There’s something about having a baby that changes everything – even the way you see yourself and view your life. It was like an internal switch just went off in my head and I no longer cared about the ‘likes’ in the same way. I just wake up every morning to this little guy who looks at me as though I’m the most incredible human on the planet and I realise that I’ve created my own little bestie. I’ve brought a human into the world who is totally dependent on me and will rely on me to be his rock for the rest of his life. There is something so humbling and warming about that, that I no longer feel the need to obsess over how many people have liked a social media post, how many followers I have or constantly trying to people please. I just live my life for me, my son and my little family and that feels pretty darn good – freeing in a way! It’s given me the confidence to just let it go.

MULTI-TASKING DOESN’T ALWAYS MEAN EFFICIENCY

Becoming a mother last year meant that I had to become an expert at multi-tasking – I needed to learn how to take care of another human who was dependent on me, take care of myself, the house, look after my relationship with my husband and work! The thing is, the more I tried to juggle the less attention I was able to give to things. I’ve always been proud of the fact that I give 100% to everything I set myself; no matter how much was on my plate, I always did my best (I guess that’s the perfectionist trait in me coming out). The thing was that for the first time in my life, my lack of sleep, the incredible overwhelm that comes with bringing a baby into the world and especially the uncertainty of the world we’re living in, meant that I just wasn’t able to ‘multi-task’ and do everything to the standard that I set myself.

In the end I decided that efficiency and accuracy were way more important than trying to get everything done all at once. This is where learning what to prioritise came into play even more and although I’m not doing ‘as much’ all at one go, I seem to be way more productive and things are done to my usual standard.

LOOKING AFTER RELATIONSHIPS IS ESSENTIAL

I knew that having a baby would take its toll on my intimate relationship with my husband and after a year we have finally found our groove both in the relationship we have together and the one that we have with Koa. It’s taken work – a lot of work. I just assumed that having a baby would naturally bring us closer together and although it did create a bond for life, the ‘coming closer together’ was a result of working through the tough times and figuring out our new relationship with each other and adapting as parents and as partners. I never realised how much work would be needed to nurture an intimate relationship after having a baby, so that was a real eye opener for me and hopefully the two of us will be better prepared and equipped for next time!

EXERCISING IS MORE FOR MY SANITY

I used to exercise to reach a physical goal – it might be a set time on my run, how much weight I wanted to be able to lift or even trying to achieve a certain physical look. From coaching my clients and seeing first hand in my practice how beneficial exercise can be to health in general, the physical aspects of it and how it made me feel are what really drove me to work out on an almost daily basis. I felt euphoric after, energised, ready to take on the day and it really helped shift my mind-set so I felt happier, more content and excited for life. Although they all still apply, after having a baby and especially during Covid, exercising for me is now more about maintaining my sanity than anything else!

I no longer spend hours in the gym, lifting weights or going to gym classes. Instead I spend my days walking, getting out of the house, doing pilates and going for a run in the morning. All of which are not about achieving a physical goal or about ticking things off my ‘to-do’ list, I simply need to move my body because it keeps me sane! Going for my daily ‘sanity walks’ are probably the best thing I have every done for my body both physically and mentally.

FRIENDSHIPS HAVE SEASONS

This has been a tough lesson to learn. I have gained so many wonderful friendships over the past year since becoming a mummy and I’m so lucky that I have now developed such a wonderful support system. Honestly, the gorgeous women in my life have helped me so much during this pandemic when I’ve not been able to go home and see my family.

However, there have also been a couple of friendships that have suffered. There’s no blame to be shared and it wasn’t anyone’s fault, it’s just that having a baby changes you as a person and your priorities change, the way you can communicate changes and your daily life gets flipped completely so it’s really hard to articulate that with friends who are not ready for that stage of life yet (maybe they never will be). Having a baby is a very personal choice and it’s not for everyone but I have realised that as well as putting pressure on intimate relationships, it can also put pressure on friendships. You’re not the same person you were before you had your baby (I’ve certainly changed) and some friendships will easily adapt and others won’t. Although I’ve tried my hardest to maintain all my friendships, at the same time I’ve had to accept that the season may have ended and perhaps it will come back round again one day but maybe not. I’ve had to learn that it will be ok regardless and to cherish the friendship for what it is and what it was.

STOP GETTING STUCK IN THE ‘WHAT IFS’

‘What ifs’ seem to have played round and round in my mind this year.

  • What if Koa hurts himself?
  • What if he doesn’t put on enough weight?
  • What if he doesn’t like vegetables?
  • What if I never see my parents again?
  • What if Koa, Ben, my family get sick?
  • What if I get sick?
  • What if I can’t earn enough money to support us?
  • What if I can’t cuddle my mum or dad again?

Whether it’s Covid related or mum life related, I’ve been thinking about the ‘what ifs’ of life way too much! The thing about ‘what ifs’ is that they’re pretty much pointless. Yes, we have to think about the future to some extent and plan for what we can, but there’s no point getting caught up in the negative thoughts we may have about our future as they might never come into fruition. Rather than being anxious and constantly considering ‘what if’ this or that, I’ve decided to acknowledge the fear, understand where it’s coming from, try and work through it and then change my internal dialogue to one that is more supportive and conducive to the life I want to lead.

PLAN TO BE ADAPTABLE

I love planning.

I plan months, even years ahead and always have set goals I’m aiming for. I’ve realised over the last half a year that I really value being able to plan and the fact that this pandemic has hit all of us has meant that my ability to plan has been thrown out of the window too.

It hit me really hard at first and I struggled not knowing what the future would bring so rather than getting caught up in the not knowing, I decided to take back control. Instead of planning my future out meticulously (if Covid has taught me anything it’s to never assume or take anything for granted), I’m now planning to be adaptable; to make plans but also know that I’ll be ok if they don’t go the way I expected them to and to also make alternative plans to help me cope if I find events trigger me. Since doing this I’ve felt a whole lot calmer and more at ease with life in general. This is something I wish I learnt years ago if I’m honest. It would have taken a lot of stress off my plate a lot sooner and allowed me to live in the moment more and be more accepting of life in general. It’s a great way to start practicing gratitude.


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