I know that we’re expected to be loving motherhood, sailing through each day with a smile on our faces. That’s the myth of the perfect mum.
In reality, we all have bad days and we don’t have to pretend that everything is wonderful when it’s not. Allowing ourselves to experience whatever we are feeling, is healthy.
A bad day doesn’t make you a bad mum. It doesn’t mean you are weak or failing. It’s not your fault that some days feel so damn hard in motherhood. Not only are you human, and living the normal ebs and flows of life that everyone experiences, but you are also in the midst of one of the biggest transitions of your life, matresence.
Matrescence is the complete transformation of a woman as she moves through motherhood. This transition touches every part of you and your life and continues through your life, as your children grow through each stage of life and you do too. It’s wide and deep, challenging and stretching, confusing and unravelling. It’s no wonder some days feel so hard.
Coping with bad days
We all have coping strategies for our bad days. We may not consciously choose them, but they are there. Do you know what yours are?
When left up to your subconscious, you might find yourself taking it out on the people around you, withdrawing completely, catastrophising, criticising and blaming yourself or indulging in things that aren’t nourishing for you.
These strategies can lead to guilt, regret and more self-criticism. They often involve pushing uncomfortable feelings away, which only leads to them coming back again later, often more intensely.
Instead, we can learn to intentionally choose more supportive strategies that help us navigate bad days, process our emotions and release them, so we can move on.
Hold yourself (not hold yourself together)
We weren’t taught how to nurture ourselves through bad days. Most of us are much more likely to have learned how to suck it up, pull ourselves together, solider on, keep our feelings to ourselves and blame ourselves.
It’s taken me a long time to learn what I’m about to share with you. It felt so uncomfortable at first but now it’s so much more natural. Instead of looking outside of myself for comfort, I know that I can always provide that comfort to myself. I can hold myself through the bad days.
Think of a time when your child or someone you love was having a rough time. Imagine it playing out. How did you feel towards them? How did you support them?
It can be so much easier for us to pour out our love, empathy, compassion and kindness on others, rather than ourselves. We listen, we accept them as they are in their struggles, we encourage and validate them, we reassure them, we hold them both physically and emotionally and we offer practical support.
What if you could do that for yourself too?
What if you could radiate the same love, empathy, kindness, compassion and support towards yourself?
What if you could hold and comfort yourself through your bad days?
Visualise yourself doing that. Imagine sitting next to the struggling version of you and putting a loving arm around her, offering a comforting hug, and speaking the compassionate and reassuring words she so desperately needs to hear. How does it feel to receive that?
We still need support from others
It’s important to know that learning to hold ourselves, doesn’t exclude us from getting support from others. We shouldn’t have to do it all ourselves and every mum deserves and needs support from others. Ideally, we would have support from others AND be able to be supportive of ourselves.
Consider this: You know yourself better than anyone. You know what you need. You can read the messages from your body and your emotions. You are always there. You can hold and comfort yourself through your bad days, just as you would hold and comfort a loved one through theirs AND if you need further support, please also pursue that.
5 ways to deal with a bad day
When you next experience a bad day, try holding yourself using some of the following strategies.
1. Accept things as they are
Eckhart Tolle said “Whatever you accept completely will take you to peace, including the acceptance that you cannot accept that you are in resistance.”
We might think that we will find peace when everything in our lives is the way we want it or without struggles, but peace can be found in the midst of challenges by accepting whatever comes in each moment. Allowing yourself to flow with the ups and downs of life. A bad day is ok and resisting or raging against it only makes it feel harder. Allow it to be, allow yourself to work through it, knowing that it will pass, and you will survive it.
2. Feel what you feel
All emotions are ok. Emotions are messengers drawing your attention to something. Allow them to just be, because when you do, you might find they don’t actually last as long as you thought they would and you can actually release them. You don’t have to rush to put a smile back on your face right away because if you don’t process how you are feeling those emotions will only keep coming back, with more intensity, until you pay attention.
So, what are you feeling? Give your emotions a name.
How do they feel in your body? Notice the sensations and subtle changes in your physical state.
What could they be trying to tell or teach you? Why are you feeling like this? What stories are you telling yourself about this situation? Are they really true? Get curious. (Hint: it’s going to be more about YOU, rather than what’s happening around you, or the other people involved).
How can you process and allow the emotions to flow through you? Movement, meditation, talking about it, crying or journaling are all good options.
3. Show yourself kindness and compassion
Making yourself feel worse when you’re already feeling bad is not helpful. Remember the image of you holding yourself as you would a loved one? Tune into that and identity how you can support yourself. This could include:
- Kind and compassionate words e.g. “I’m having a rough day. It’s ok. Everyone has bad days sometimes. I’m allowed to have a bad day. It won’t last forever and I can handle it.”
- Comforting touch such as giving yourself a hug, stroking your arm, or putting your hand on your heart.
- Refraining from judging yourself.
- Adjusting your day. Make things a little easier for yourself. Break your own rules if needed. A little extra TV, toast for dinner, skip the bath, leave the dishes in the sink. It’s not every day, but it’s giving ourselves grace.
- Forgiving yourself. Everyone makes mistakes. Holding onto them doesn’t make the situation better and makes you feel worse.
It can also be helpful to remember your value. I know this can be difficult because so many women doubt their worth. Here’s the truth: you are doing invaluable work, raising the next generation. Sometimes you don’t know how you will get through, but you do. You have an inner knowing and strength and you are working through what is one of most challenging times in your life. You’re not the perfect mum or supermum. You don’t need to be. You are a mum and you are you. That is enough. You don’t have to prove anything.
4. Find calm within you
So many mothers talk to me about wanting to feel calm. The beauty of this is that there is calm within you and you can learn how to access it. Once you do, you can return to this place any time you need to, no matter where you are.
A great way to start is to focus on your breath. Your breath is always with you. When you are calm, your breath is longer and deeper. Find a breathing technique that works for you, or simply start with long, slow breaths focusing on the air flowing in through your nose and filling your lungs, before flowing out again.
Visualisation can also be powerful. You might like to try imagining yourself paused, or with a bubble or boundary around you, or a gentle shimmering light inside you representing your place of calm. You could imagine roots going deep into the earth beneath you, grounding you and making you steady. Or imagine the air you inhale in a calming colour and the air you exhale in a colour that represents your stress, overwhelm, worry or anxiety.
5. Focus on now
All you have is the present moment, so try to keep your focus in the present, rather than replaying the past or worrying about the future.
What’s most important right now?
What are your real needs at this moment?
What’s one thing you can do?
What help or support do you need?
Who is a trusted (plus positive and encouraging) person you could talk to?
Once you feel ready, make space for something that will boost your mood. These can be really simple things. If you find it hard to know what you would enjoy in the moment, pre-prepare a list of things you enjoy and that are good for you. Consider things that make you smile and laugh, music that makes you feel happy, clothes or accessories that make you feel good, movement that boosts your energy or essential oils that balance your emotions. Unplugging from social media and screens is also helpful and writing down the things you are grateful for can balance out your perspective on your situation.
We all have bad days, lovely. There’s nothing wrong with you; it’s life and it’s matrescence. Learning to hold and nurture yourself through those inevitable bad days is a beautiful way to love yourself. We all deserve love, empathy, kindness, compassion and support in our lives, including from ourselves.
Loved this but need more?
If you loved these tips but know you need more personalised support in getting through your bad days, I can help you. Find out more about my coaching services or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.