7 practical tips to harness the positive lessons learnt in lockdown

Award-winning Business and Life Coach, Mentor, Author and founder of women in business network Mpower – www.mpower.global Nicola Huelin, is a proud mum of four, who over the past few months has had to pivot her own businesses thanks to lockdown.

Nicola specialises in supporting mums in business, here she share her top tips for bouncing back from the challenges of lockdown…

Nicola said; “Being a parent can be challenging at the best of times, especially when we also work or run our own business. The pandemic and going through lockdown is a storm that has hit the entire world.” 

Talking to the thousands of women in her online community Nicola quickly realised it’s a case of ‘same storm, different boats’. However, her recent national Bounce Back survey highlighted where the majority of mums have been struggling.

Nicola shares her practical tips for overcoming the 7 key challenges faced by mums during lockdown.  Her hope is that understanding some of basic tools and developing the resiliency to face and overcome these challenges now will actually help us to not just bounce back after lockdown but bounce forward into 2021 in an even stronger positon to thrive as a woman, mother and business owner.

The Mpower survey revealed that 93% of working mums admitted that during lockdown they have had times when they felt overwhelmed

Being a parent is a full-time job and many mothers experience overwhelm with everything they need to juggle.  Lockdown has seen parents having to take on the additional role of home education and with schools closed there are more mouths at home 24/7 that require feeding and entertaining.  Conversations with many mums have also revealed that husbands and partners are often just as pressurised trying to hold down their career from the ‘spare room’ and much still falls to mothers to keep all the plates spinning.  And we still need to add in the working from home 8 hours a day for your boss or running your business.  It’s therefore, not surprising that so many mothers have felt overwhelmed during lockdown.

So what can we do to fight overwhelm?

Tip 1 – Boundaries and Breaking it down

Lockdown is teaching many of us that it’s time to hang up the superwoman cape.  No matter how much we love our family, trying to be all things to all people – and do everything for everyone – simply isn’t sustainable. 

It’s so easy to fall into the ‘capability trap’ – we can do it, so we do it.  And the ‘quicker trap’ – it’s just quicker if I do it myself.

One of the great lessons from lockdown has been the importance of setting boundaries – getting clear on the things we choose to say no to or delegate to others.

Once we’ve reassigned, delegated, outsourced we’ve probably still got a lot on our plate.  We so often start the day feeling like we have an impossible mountain to climb.  Now is the time to break things down.  Rather than focusing on the whole mountain, figure out your next few steps for the week or the day and focus on those.

Extra tip – so you’re not carrying that mountain around in your head all day, take time to write out your bigger plan, just a simple brain dump on a single page will do – just get the mountain down and you feel much lighter.

74% of working mums said that their mental health had suffered during lockdown

Our mental health is just as important as our physical health.  When something goes wrong with our bodies we need to find different ways to take care of it.

Our mental health is not like an on/off switch where it’s either there or it isn’t – it’s more of a sliding scale.   We are all bound to have good days and bad days, especially during unprecedented times like these. 

So what can we do when we feel our mental health is taking a hit?

During lockdown it’s easy to feel isolated or bottle things up because we don’t want to burden others.

One for the first things we can do is to reach out.

Tip 2 – Reach out – you are never alone

One of the great things about the Covid-19 outbreak was seeing how people, families and communities came together to support each other.  Even when we feel alone in our heads, it important to remember there are always people out there who are happy to help.

When our mental health begins to suffer, it’s important to talk about it, reach out to the people closest to us and share how we’re feeling.  If we don’t feel we have anyone to turn to, there are many supportive online communities of like-minded women (Mpower for mums in business is one example) as well as charities waiting at the end of the phoneline with a friendly voice and shoulder to lean on. 

And if we reach a point on the scale where talking alone is not helping, then it’s important to get in touch with one of the many professionals out there who are qualified to help.

79% of working mums said they felt more anxious during lockdown

Anxiety comes in all shapes and sizes, from butterflies in our stomach to full blow panic attacks.  If you’re experiencing the latter and your anxiety is regular and on-going then it’s always advisable to seek professional support. 

This said, during a time like lockdown, there are very many obvious causes of anxiety as we worry about our family, friends, what the future holds and the logistics of staying safe and making it all work in the meanwhile.

So what can we do to bring our anxiety levels down?

Tip 3 – Breathe

It sounds simple, and it is.  Turning our attention to deep and slow breathing is one of the simplest and most effective ways to take control of our thoughts, feelings and the impact they have on our bodies.

When focus our full attention on our breath and slow our breathing right down, we slow our heart rate down and take control over our brain again – stopping it from going into fight, flight, freeze or fawn (people pleasing) mode and flooding our bodies with stress and anxiety inducing chemicals.

In Mpower’s free Bounce Back online resources hub, guest expert Fabienne Vailes, an expert in mindfulness and mental and emotional well-being shares a ‘Meltdown to Mama Mindfulness’ video teaching a simple breathing method which takes literally 2 minutes to bring your stress and anxiety levels right down.

81% of working mums during lockdown said they felt their energy levels had been lower than normal

We all understand the value of money.  As a busy mum, there is another resource which is even more precious – our energy.  When we don’t have enough energy our ability to earn money, be there for others and enjoy life goes completely out the window.

When we have more energy we feel healthier, often happier and we are more resourceful and resilient when it comes to overcoming challenges and handling day to day life.

Have you ever met one of those people that just seems to have endless supplies of energy?  What’s their secret and what can you do to boost your energy levels?

Tip 4 – Selfcare is not selfish

One of the greatest energy drainers for busy mums is putting ourselves last.  There’s so much to be done, our children depend on us and the to-do list seems never ending.

Being overloaded, feeling overwhelmed, not having enough time to eat well or exercise, lack of sleep or simply not being able to stop and rest – all these things deplete our energy and can leave us feeling fragile and lethargic.

But this is exactly what happens when we keep putting our own needs last on the list.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of believing that in order to be a great mum, we need to always take care of everyone else first.

As mums we’re so good at feeling guilty if we’re not focusing on our children, or selfish if we focus on what we want and need.

I like to replace the word selfish with ‘self-full’.  After all, nobody can give from an empty cup and we’ve all heard the oxygen mask analogy.  If we don’t put our mask on first or fill our cup – we have little to give and can’t be the best version of ourselves for others.

It’s important to decide what we want to role-model for our children.  They watch and experience how we parent them and will undoubtedly replicate that when they have families.  Would we want our children to consider their needs in a balanced way when they become parents?

71% of working mums missing routine during lockdown with only 18% being able to maintain their normal working hours.

Whether furloughed, forced to down business tools, or simply having home life turned upside down – lockdown has seen many mums’ routines go to pot.  And one of the first things to be impacted is often our working hours.

Many mums have felt frustrated by their lack of routine and unable to spend time on their work – impacting both finances and personal fulfilment,

Tip 5 –  Be agile and kind to yourself

Sometimes things can be improved by putting a new plan or structure in place.  Many of us have had to pivot our business, which can include the way in which we work.

And with lockdown and a family at home, the situation can change daily, so strict plans and timetables often don’t work and can lead to an even greater sense of frustration.

Agility is key.  It’s important to set an intention or a goal, but during challenging, unpredictable times it’s also important to remain open-minded and flexible about how and when things get done.

I know from personal experience that as mums we are good at being tough on ourselves.  One of the most important lessons we can learn from this time in lockdown is how to cut ourselves a bit more slack, that it’s ok to lower the high expectations we hold of ourselves and to remember that we are already more than ‘good enough’.

91% of working mums missing friends during lockdown and being able to chat with fellow mums at the school gates, café, coffee morning, play gym…

Lockdown has left many mums feeling isolated, lonely and missing the company and support of family and friends.

Tip 6 –  Embrace technology

Whilst you can’t replace the feeling of an in-person hug we are fortunate to have the power of technology at our fingertips to connect with anyone around the world for free.

Whether it’s a face-time with family, a zoom call with peers or sharing messages with online groups or connecting on social media – there are many ways for us to stay in touch with loved ones, catch up with old friends and make new ones. 

There are lots of different online Facebook communities for womem, particularly mums.  Could it be an ideal time to find your tribe?

74% of working mums promise themselves that they will spend more times with their kids post-lockdown.

We live in a society that seems to idolize ‘bigger, better, faster’.  What if lockdown holds lessons for us all about the benefits of slowing down, simplifying life and focusing on what’s most important to us right now.

For many mums, lockdown has forced us to make changes in how we spend our time.

Although the majority of us are busier than ever in the home taking care of our families, there has also been an opportunity to experience life at a slower pace purely by focusing on more on having time with our children.

Tip 7 –  Know what’s most important to you, right now

For those who want to continue having more of this ‘together-time’ the challenge will be to find ways to avoid what’s called ‘Rubber Band Change’. Where things change in one direction for a time but then snap back to where they were before once the pressure is off.

When we’re all fully back into the swing of life, school, work, business there will be all the same things competing for our time and attention.  And as smart, capable, passionate women there is so much we want to do.

We are all different.  There is no right or wrong when it comes to figuring out what our priorities are.

The trick is to get clear about what is most important us, without being influenced by the expectations of others.

It’s a cliché, but they really do grow up so quickly.  Speaking from the experience of having a beautiful ‘fusion family’ with my partner Graham and our four children who are now 26, 23, 23 and a 17 year old who is 6’2”! 

There comes a time when our children make their own homes and if we are craving more time with our children after lockdown it’s something we are going to have to consciously carve out and cherish while they still need and want to hang out with us ‘old folk’.

As we slowly move out of lockdown some of us may be in a great place already, others may be feeling through the worst of it, some may be struggling and wondering how they will ever bounce back. What’s for sure is that we are all in this together and it’s time to support each other so we can all bounce back stronger and start 2021 in the best position possible to thrive again.

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