P.A.I.N.

I saw a brilliant phrase recently;

Pay

Attention

Inwards

Now

It really stood out to me.

On one level, because it was a new way of viewing the word ‘pain’, turning it from something negative to something potentially positive. And on another level, because when I hit that mental low, my body starts to scream at me for attention. My back begins to spasm as a result of being incredibly tense. My mouth fills up with painful ulcers. I wake with headaches that I firefight all day with painkillers. I become nervy and anxious about the little things, like a messy house or the endless washing.

I then turn all of this into a handy stick to beat myself with. I should be feeding the girls better foods, I should spend more one on one time with each of them, I should be making more time for my husband, I should be able to do it all and be amazing. I’m such a failure as a mother, as a wife, as a human being!

It is an inward, downward spiral.

In the last few months, I had been trying to cram in so much that I was doing everything at 50%. I was only half present in all the roles I had taken on – mother, wife, student, employee –  nobody was getting the best of me, and I was getting a shitty version of myself, feeling increasingly exhausted and frustrated. I knew my girls needed me, but they didn’t need this version of me.

I was starting to take on issues of those around me. Everywhere I turned the sadness was palpable; in the news, with friends, acquaintances. I couldn’t surface to catch my breathe. It all finally came to a head with a rotten dose of gastro-flu, my body’s way of shouting at me to stop.

Unfortunately, a lot of the time it takes a big jolt from life to make us stop and reevaluate where we’re at.

So I put on my big girl pants and made some big girl decisions. I reluctantly let go of the things that were causing me stress. I stepped back from those that needed me and helped myself first. As a race, we Irish find this idea unsettling. The very thought of putting yourself ahead of others is unthinkable! The idea of saying ‘no’ to something you don’t particularly want to do is a foreign concept. Selfish! Self absorbed! Me Feiner!

But it’s not selfish – why should it be? Where is it written that you must put others ahead of your own happiness? Who says you don’t deserve to be happy and content? What gives you the right to be so mean to yourself?!

Whatever label you want to put on it; mental health awareness; mindfulness; happy headology (I’ve just coined that one there); it’s about being aware of your breaking point and having the ability to recognise the signs along the way. It’s listening to you.

It’s being kind to yourself and allowing yourself to make the changes you need to make to be a happier person.

At the ripe old age of 37, I can recognise by now when I’m going down. I know what parachutes I need to deploy! It may just be chocolate and a hot water bottle. It may be coffee or a night out with good friends that make you laugh til your face aches. It may be a weekend off duty or it may be I need to make some tough choices.

But if there is one thing I have learned, it’s that surrounding yourself with good people is absolutely key. Friends that recognise and accept your strengths as much as your weaknesses. There is nothing ugly about struggling. Life isn’t some Instagram filtered moment. The pressures we put ourselves under to be happy, fulfilled, content – it’s paradoxical!

So why not just stop for a minute? Why not start with a gentle ‘no’? Take back the power from Life, and put yourself first. Some may not get it, they may not even like it! But those that matter will.

Pay Attention Inwards Now…

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