I first wrote this blog to describe the ways our brain plays tricks on us to make our sleep struggles EVEN harder than they already are. But the truth is, these are the same tricks our brains play on us all the time, about everything and nothing. In CBT they’re known as ‘thinking errors’…I prefer to think of them as unhelpful thinking patterns. Old habits and patterns that don’t help us, that don’t serve us, that keep us stuck.
And right now, in these unstable, uncertain, strange, new and frightening times, I’m seeing those brains up to their old tricks a lot.
And it’s hard. I KNOW how hard it is. I do. Unspeakably hard. I’m in it with you right now too.
And I know we would all do anything to make it easier, to go away, anything. The very idea that YOU are making it even worse than it already is…ridiculous.
Ridiculous, but true.
See, I’ve been there before…wherever ‘there’ is for you right now. I personally have encountered every possible sleep scenario and a myriad other struggles throughout my life until this point of global pandemic (admittedly, never seen one of those before…who has!?).
And I also know how much harder I made it for myself in the process.
Looking back now, with hindsight I can see so clearly all the ways I made all those sleepless nights, all those struggles even more stressful. So much more frustrating, overwhelming.
How I made myself even more desperate…and I’m willing to bet you’re making these same 7 mistakes right now.
Now before we go into them let me say that none of this is in intended to make you feel worse…I know you feel bad enough already. This is coming from a place of love…TOUGH love, yes. Some of it you won’t want to hear and it may sting. But you need to hear it. Awareness is everything.
1. The words & stories you’re using
Take a minute to listen to the language right now…
“We’re STUCK at home”
“We HAVE to do your school work”
“I CANT do/see/buy xyz”
“I can’t escape the kids”
Words are everything. Language is powerful. And language like this is defeatist, undermining, disempowering, depressing and stressful. It creates a powerful story about your experience with absolutely NO wriggle room.
We believe the words we use, the stories we tell…and if we really believe we’re STUCK at home, that everything is impossible…then what’s the point?
Language like this is going to keep you stuck. Stuck in struggle. Stuck in stress.
And it’s never going to get any better unless you change the story FIRST
2. Straying out of your own lane:
Time and time again I see already desperate mamas making themselves feel even worse by comparing their little ones to everyone else’s…and now we’re comparing our self isolation to everyone else’s as well.
And we’re allowing other people’s views, ideas and comments to cloud not only our own self worth as a mother, but also our own world views and beliefs about the current situation.
Undermining and distrusting our own gut instincts in the face of other people’s advice and experiences.
Comparison. Is. The. Thief. Of Joy. End of.
No good is going to come from rubbing your own nose in the ‘everyone else is managing so well, doing all the things, cooking all the food, home schooling like a pro and keeping their house clean’ dirt.
Or endlessly watching the news and the messages of devastation and desperation everywhere…that’s the media, that’s their job. You don’t have to let it in.
All this giving your power away is leaving you literally powerless…to thrive through challenge, to navigate, to change anything.
It’s confusing, overwhelming, and it’s making you feel so much worse about YOUR own situation.
You just do you, take care of your own and stop taking any notice of anyone else. Sounds harsh, but right now, going inside like this is so much better for all of us right now.
3. Struggle Seepage
What I mean by that is that you’re currently allowing the situation to seep out all over the whole of the rest of your life. And ruin it.
Usually I’m talking about sleep here…your whole entire happiness is riding on what’s going on with sleep.
Bad sleep day? Bad day full stop.
But it counts WHATEVER the struggle. Trotting along merrily in your own bubble of self isolation then see an awful news report…suddenly EVERYTHING you had previously been so grateful of, is also tainted.
So we end up not looking after ourselves properly, not doing anything for our own self care, leave our houses to get into a total mess, stop eating properly, or drinking enough water. Because we’re letting what’s going on outside, seep into everything else. And it’s robbing us of all the joy from the rest of our motherhood experience right now. And mamas please, believe me, I KNOW how awful this thing is. It’s absolutely awful. AND we still have all the things in our lives we had just before this happened, we just looked away from them.
So, if you REALLY wanted to look after yourself right now, you would. If you REALLY wanted some time with your partner, you’d get creative and find a way. There’s always a way.
Take responsibility, take ownership…it feels SO much better than perpetuating the victim story.
4. Mood leaking
Emotions are contagious. And our little ones are total mood sponges. If you’re feeling stressed and anxious right now…so are they. And they simply can’t regulate, do their school work or go to sleep in that state.
If everything feels like a ‘fight’ a ‘battle’ in your mind, it’s going to be one in real life. And it’s going to keep on being one…stress breeds stress breeds stress.
The key is to shift the way you FEEL about it…about sleep/behaviour/self isolation, to get into a more positive state, for everyone’s sake.
You can’t DO better, if you feel worse.
5. You’re asking the wrong questions
‘why WONT he sleep?’
‘why is the government responding like this!?’
‘when will this end?’
‘how on earth will I xyz!?’
The problem with these questions is the implication that this is all being done TO you. To YOU. You can’t possibly ever find the answers to these….aaaand we’re back in the martyr victim role again.
These are totally frustrating and dead end questions that are only going to make everyone feel even worse.
This is not happening TO YOU. It isn’t about you (neither’s the sleep by the way). This is way out of any of our control (as is the sleep by the way). And the only thing we get to ask, the ONLY questions that makes any sense right now are…
‘what CAN I do?’
‘what can I choose to think / feel right now?
‘how can I choose to respond?’
So get curious, rather than angry. The answers to that question are so much more interesting, empowering and enlightening.
They’re too high. All of them.
There is a massive gap between your expectations and your reality right now.
Your expectations of family life, your expectations of what having a little one was going to go like, your expectations of sleep…and your expectations of how you would cope. Your expectations of how your little ones would adapt to not being in school. Your expectations of how YOU would adapt to them not being in school, to managing their learning at home, to working from home, to navigating and coping with change and a constant barrage of media and noise.
Your expectations of yourself are especially high and all you’re doing is setting yourself up to fail.
And it’s ok. Just lower the bar a little for now, lower your expectations, let some stuff go.
In short, this thing is taking over your whole life.
It’s all you think about, it’s all you talk about. You’re scrolling scrolling, watching, listening, reading obsessing…you’re becoming so myopic you’re missing the bigger picture, you’re missing out on all the other wonderful moments going on in your life. You’re missing those everyday moments of simple motherhood joy because you’re too busy worrying, and stressing and fighting something that just isn’t yours to fight right now.
So stop it. The rest of your life is waiting. Albeit in an entirely different way to that which you’re used to, and in a much smaller space. But it’s still there, mama. And so is your family.
Can’t wait to see you there mama, and in the meantime, you’ve got this x