Last week, it was half-term in our household as it was for so many of you. We day-tripped, picnicking amongst the daisies. We escaped London and watched geese from a boat ride along the most beautiful countryside stretch of the River Thames, the sunlight dappling across the water. My boys sat in the stern, all golden and sun-kissed and smelling sweet like the ice cream they'd just eaten, little adventurers mesmerised by the thrill of being on the water.
Another day, we rode a tractor, petted horses, made pizzas in the shape of guinea pigs. We watched the thunderstorms from under the skylight, covering our ears with the palms of our hands, wide-eyed as only a four, (nearly) three-year-old and little baby can be. We grazed one knee, bumped one elbow, spun a little too fast on the playground roundabout in the park. We played cricket, baked a chocolate cake, watched movies and read books repeatedly on consecutive rainy afternoons.
It sounds idyllic, and truly, we had such a carefree week. It is always such a delight to not have the pressure of time bearing down on us. But I was, and still am, exhausted. It's not just because of the school holidays (I genuinely love the freedom the holidays bring and having the boys home) but because I took on far too much. A story that will be so familiar to so many of us juggling motherhood with work, always so much to do.
I had set myself an intention at the start of the year to start saying yes more. To not talk myself out of ideas and opportunities, big or small, out of fear. To be open. To stop asking myself what the sensible thing to do would be. I wanted to feel full, of energy, of boundless opportunities bouncing through the universe to find me. I wanted to be bold, not scared and under-confident and rattled by self-doubt. I am trying. And I am grateful for the opportunities that have come my way and so glad that I've allowed myself to explore more of what's out there. I'm not going to stop feeling open.
But after experiencing a little burn-out recently, I am also going to be a little more mindful of what it is I'm trying to achieve.
WHEN ONE THING LEADS TO ANOTHER AND SUDDENLY IT'S ALL A LITTLE TOO MUCH
A few months ago I said yes to taking part in a big pop-up (The Shop Up by Babyccino, which takes place this weekend). Then I said yes to another. And then finally a third. This is all incredibly exciting and I can feel the momentum bouncing about like sunbeams.
But all of the pop-ups happen to fall in this month alone, so the timing has been challenging; naturally preparing for each of these has taken priority and energy. On top of all of that, I also said yes to myself and did something I've been wanting to do for so long - I signed up to my foundation course in yoga. Then I said yes to doing a talk at the boys' nursery later this week. I also said yes to my first (child free) evening out with friends in about three years. I have said yes to the boys every time they have asked, almost always just before dinner, if we can go to the park or go for a walk or ride bikes around the block (it is actually such a good feeling to be able to say yes more to my boys, they ask for so little, really, and I will be doing this more. Honestly, I"m a little tired of saying no to them just because the timing might not be right so I'm trying to go with them on this).
So I ended up saying yes an awful lot. And while it's not as if all of the above happened just in one week, it's all added up and, with the first of my three pop-ups taking place this weekend, I feel a little adrift because there's so much else going on too. Through Our Story Time, I talk about looking for the wonder in the everyday. But I'll admit I lost my balance just now and it's made my head and heart spin a little faster than I'd like.
So, as we see in a new month, I've set myself new intention which is to stay grounded. And also, call it a sub-heading on that intention, to greet new opportunities with grace, perspective and at my own pace.
Giving myself grace means I can still say no and not beat myself up about it. I know this, I'm sure you do too - but it's so important to check back in on yourself and remind yourself of what is true to you.
Giving myself perspective means I'm entitled to take a step back and weigh up whether something works for me or my family first. If an event, be it work or social, doesn't suit me or my family and we simply just don't feel like doing it, then we won't. No matter how pushy the other party, it's okay to put me, or us, first. Again, I know this - I just need some reminding.
Giving myself permission to go at my own pace is yet another reminder because I'd lost sight of this. I know it is okay to go slow, to grow slow - it's a little mantra to myself whenever I get frustrated. I run Our Story Time around my three very young children and so I know my journey to where I want to be might take longer because I don't have uninterrupted time to work anymore. Over the last two months, I'd lost sight of this and got caught up in a wave of energy. I committed to my blog, conjured up new (exciting) ideas with my business coach, started my monthly Thoughtful Words subscriber letter, vowed to be more present on Instagram, all the while planning for my pop-ups and handling customer orders, all at the same time. My to-do list sped way past the pace at which I'd have been able to work through it in a considered way. So I'm stepping back and slowing it all right back down like one big long deep breath.
As for staying grounded - well, that's the most important step of all. Staying grounded for me means staying calm and rooted, finding my footing in the world, and being present (with myself, with my husband and with my children). It means staying strong in a quiet yet powerful way, so that I don't falter, or if I do, I know how to steady myself again. It's so incredibly important to me to carry this feeling within me, I can't quite believe I lost sight of it. But then again, I'm only human.
Six ways to feel grounded when your world feels like it's spinning too fast
STOP AND TAKE STOCK of the overwhelm
If you've lost track of where you are or want to be, whether it's a practical to-do list or big goals to get you to your dream job, prioritise a moment to stop, take stock and break it all down. Make lists. Plan and prioritise. Tackle the easy, quick things first if it still all feels too scary. Don't underestimate how much easier a thought is to confront or process once it's written down.
For a while now, my to-do list kept popping up in my head whenever I was not working. I try my utmost to keep Our Story Time work separate from when I'm with the boys; it's not fair on them or me when I can't be available to them. But because I was thinking of all the things I had to do, I was most definitely not present or in the moment where I needed or wanted to be. For a couple of weeks, I had failed to check in, really check in, with my diary and my planning lists, and so rather than have everything consolidated in one place and written down, all these never-ending things to do were floating around my head, drifting in and out but clumping together into insubstantial, candy-floss-like mess. The moment I sat down to break down what I needed to do in the various compartments of my daily life, everything suddenly shifted into manageable goals which I've since started to work through, one by one.
CONNECT WITH A LITTLE CREATIVITY to keep calm
Find whatever calms you down creatively and takes you away from feeling under pressure - it might be crafting or or painting or cooking, even - and try to make time to do it little but often to keep anxiety levels of world-spinning in check. It's so good for your soul.
Life is always that much more fraught without creativity. I find that when I don't connect with creativity, whether it's styling for my shop, taking photos or writing for my blog or book, I lose sight of things. As an author, writing has always been my way of connecting with my creative voice first and foremost; writing brings me calm and quiet no matter whether it's a blog post or a short story or a product description. Words help me make sense of the world. When I get a chance to quietly observe a moment, and write it down with beauty and writerly craft, it also calms my mind.
Sometimes creativity can feel so competitive - like if you've not turned it into your very own business, you're lagging behind, and let's not get started on Instagram. But truly, just doing something creative for the sake of creativity and in its purest form, just for you and nobody else, is incredibly therapeutic.
take some time for you
The world will always spin a little faster when you're wiped out. Everything just seems that much more difficult when you simply don't have the energy to deal with it. Look after yourself first. Put your phone down. Stop scrolling. Walk away from the noise.
For me, this means yoga, everyday, going to bed early, not staying up late working and putting my phone away long before I go to sleep. At the end of my whirlwind week, I made sure I got the kids to bed early so that I could too. In fact, if you follow my Stories on Instagram, you'll know I"ve committed to a week of early nights and not having my phone with me in the evenings and I'm already feeling the peace and comfort from that (with less Instagram comes less insecurities too). I spent some time alone, treated myself to a skincare ritual with my favourite Aster & Bay products - a full on cleanse, exfoliate and mask - something I hadn't made time for a very long while. It was such a luxury to take just half an hour for nothing and nobody else but me and I feel so much calmer and refreshed for it.
don't fight it
Sometimes you've just got to let yourself feel overwhelmed so that you can work through it in the first place. Process the negativity that clouds over in moments of panic because it means the next time it happens (for there will always be a next time), you'll be that little bit better equipped at working through it.
When I get overtired and overworked, I lose faith in myself and my inner critic jumps straight in to tell me how rubbish I am at pretty much everything from motherhood to making a cup of tea. The more I allow myself to feel this negativity, rather than bottle it up or pretend it doesn't exist, the easier it gets to deal with it.
Spot the triggers
Do you know the warning signs that you need to slow down and reconnect with yourself? Learn from a negative overstressed moment. Recognise the bad habits you slip into that allow those moments to happen and try your very best to make time for the better habits instead so you don't slip too far.
I know my signs. For me, it happens when I think I'm too busy for morning yoga. Or when I am too tired to check and plan my diary for the next day (I tend to look over my planning lists every night so I feel prepared for the next morning). When I ignore these rituals, then it's a sure sign that things are going to get out of hand unless I stop and take stock. One day of not checking in with my diary turns into three which turns into a fortnight and before you know it, I'm right back spinning again with a hundred things to do. I know what my triggers to being overwhelmed are - I kick myself for not dealing with them sooner and I'm trying hard to catch them before they spiral.
Be open to change
I repeat this a lot, and you'll find it in so many of my long reads. But ultimately it always comes down to this. Go with the flow. Accept that life will change, and when it does, so too will you. You don't have to set rules on yourself. It is so liberating when you come to terms with this.
PIN FOR LATER
Now that I am feeling more grounded, connected and ready to take on the world, I will be taking Our Story Time and all its treasures to The Babyccino Shop Up. It takes place on June 9th-10th at The Yard in Shoreditch. You can find more details here - it's a free event though you can register here, there'll be plenty on for children and some beautiful brands to discover. Can you come? I hope so. Do stop and find me and say hello. I can't wait to meet you!