Mum, Wife, Business owner, Breadwinner, Partner - these are just a few of the many hats we as mums wear each day. It can be difficult juggling these conflicting demands, and feeling that we’re not performing all of our roles to the best of our ability can lead to negative thought patterns and the feeling of ‘failing’. So how do we tackle this? Accredited CBT Therapist and Founder of Cotswold EMDR, Laura Bethel, gives us her expertise on how changing our ‘thinking styles’ can help us banish these negative thought processes.
There is a saying – you cannot pour from an empty cup. It’s common, as busy mums for our own needs to be lost in the To-do list. As a psychotherapist and a mum of two young boys who also tries to run a business, I know what it’s like to have a seemingly endless number of competing demands on my time and attention. When life gets hectic we can all get overwhelmed by our thoughts. Negative Automatic Thoughts (or NAT’s) are a bit like sand running through your fingers - moving quickly and difficult to catch - but the way we interpret situations impacts directly on our response.
Becoming more aware of our thoughts is one of the most important changes we can try to make. Unhelpful thoughts can come in lots of forms. Common negative thinking styles - mind reading what others ‘must’ be thinking; catastrophising about the future; comparing ourselves or focusing on what ‘should’ happen - only serves to make us feel bad. Often we accept these thoughts without question which impacts on our mood.
Imagine for a moment that you bought a very beautiful, very clever talking parrot. Yet when you got it home you realised all it did was provide a critical commentary of your decisions and actions, putting you down and doubting your capabilities. It probably wouldn’t be long before you opened the window and let it fly away. Yet when this parrot is an internal voice, we buy into the criticism and respond as if it were true. Becoming more practiced at catching thoughts can allow us to get an alternative perspective. One strategy is try writing down what you are doing, how you are feeling and what is running through your mind when you notice a shift in mood. This can help us notice the connections between thoughts and feelings.
Having a thought on paper in black and white also makes it easier to step back and be objective. A powerful question to ask yourself is - Would you say that to a friend? What would you say instead? Trying to ‘catch’ and challenge at least one thought each day can help tune out the parrot. There is a lot of research out there about key elements we all need to maintain our well-being and mental health. It can feel difficult to make changes when we already feel incredibly busy, but taking small steps can really help us feel able to look after ourselves and keep that cup from becoming empty.