I used to be a really bad sleeper but since having a kid I’ve gotten pretty good at just getting into bed and drifting off within minutes. However, tonight, for some reason I just cannot sleep. Having laid in bed for a few hours, I had just finally fallen asleep and the little guy woke and screamed. I went in to find him bolt-upright and wide awake. He needed help to lie back down and settle. Perhaps that’s what I need? Now, after being woken up, lying in bed simply willing myself to sleep, but with my mind just whirring round far too much, I have decided to get up and have a go at processing the thoughts keeping me awake.
I haven’t written a post for a few weeks. It’s been a bit hectic in the lead up to Christmas and I’ve found that in the evenings (when I’d normally write) I’ve either been working or have sat on the sofa at 7pm as soon as the little guy has been in bed, and just not managed to do much more than stare blankly at the TV!
I started a post on processing emotions a few weeks ago and I think I’ve gotten so into thinking about the subject that I’ve become a little overwhelmed. I’ve had so many conversations about mental health over the last couple of weeks and processing emotion links so much into our mental well-being that it feels like such a huge topic to attempt to tackle.
So, firstly I pose this question, are you good at processing your emotions? It was a question asked amongst a group of my friends that got me thinking about the subject. Can anyone really say that they are? I reckon most of us think we’re pretty good at processing our emotions but if we actually stop and ask ourselves, “are we really good at it? Do we really handle our emotions well enough that we are emotionally healthy people?” If we take time to answer honestly. What do we answer?
I don’t think I really learnt how to do this until I was an adult and even then I know it was only because I’ve been in the incredibly fortunate position of training as a social worker and then as a coach. Through this training I’ve had a lot of opportunity to practice effective communication and coaching others and I’ve then been able to allow myself to be coached into processing better and improving my self awareness around my emotions. I’ve also been through (and watched others go through) some fairly stressful situations over the last 10 years or so, and I’ve have had some pretty emotionally incredible friends from whom I’ve learnt a lot in the process.
As a parent I feel that part of my responsibility is to raise an emotionally healthy kid but let’s be honest considering how emotionally unhealthy most adults are that’s going to be a pretty tough job and I think we’ve got to start with our own mental and emotional health. It’s not ok to not talk about stuff, to bury it and let it erupt later, to pretend we’re ok when we’re really not, if we want our kids to learn to process differently. If we’re going to lead by example and help our kids to become adults who can totally handle the world and all throws at them then we have to be willing to become adults who do the same.
And by ‘handle the world and all it throws at them’ I don’t mean just ‘coping’ with everything. I mean being angry and knowing what to do with that anger, being devastated about a situation and knowing how to grieve and process that, being hurt and knowing how to talk to a person about the situation, knowing that it’s ok just to cry sometimes because we’re overwhelmed and hurting but knowing how to process it and take action.
When I first moved to London to work as a coach I was totally afraid to show my emotions. I didn’t realise it at the time. I thought I was really self-aware, good at talking about my feelings and able to do conflict. I really wasn’t. For me, fear of being seen as vulnerable or weak were so linked in to this. I’d built up this view that I needed to be seen as being strong all the time. You know that moment when we know if we start to be honest we might cry? I would always stop. And, I remember so clearly a time where I was being coached on a training course and I reached this moment. I was asked why I was so afraid to cry and I could hardly explain why apart from fear of being seen as weak. And, the person coaching me asked me to think about times when I’d seen others cry and how I felt about them and I could not name one person who I’d seen cry and thought was weak. One such example was our CEO who was, and still is, a man I greatly admire. He once cried in a staff meeting, just totally overwhelmed with the emotion of a story he was sharing and all it did was increase my admiration for him, and my gratitude that he was willing to be so vulnerable with us as a team. This realisation was followed by a lot of ugly crying and a whole lot of emotion but it was so good, and so healthy.
Motherhood is a massive one for helping us get emotional because we just cry. All the time (stupid hormones) But, I say, let’s embrace it. Let’s not apologise for crying. Let’s be unashamed to be vulnerable, and open, and willing to share our feelings. Let’s ask each other how we are and expect honesty and be willing to give the same honest answers. Let’s do it for our kids.
(The little guy has just woken up again and is WIDE AWAKE. He refuses to lie down and instead wants to sit and chat. Perhaps insomnia is catching in our house. So, off I go to lie in bed and listen to babbling and bunny rattling (his soft toy, not some new baby lingo). Night all.)