The last 5 days have been all about how to change your mindset from the small picture (being consumed by your child, your relationship or a challenging situation) and deliberately expanding your thinking to be in alignment with reality (the big picture).
The only way to make these changes is with awareness. Being conscious of those thoughts that you are having in your mind (step one of the TRACK process– thoughts) and remembering that this thinking is not who you are, but a product of your experiences. Not everything you think is actually true and has been taught to you by the minds of others that didn’t know any different themselves.
Objectively detaching yourself from the situation by recognising that these thoughts are simply your memes, the way you’ve habitually looked at life and then challenging those thoughts by forcing yourself to look at different aspects of that situation, is the way to stop stress and depression.
It’s important to remember our Reality thinking model below:
Whenever you are thinking stressful or depressive thoughts you are consumed by the small picture and believing that this event is everything that you and your life stands for. Just by recognising that it is your thoughts, not that event causing this, can help you begin to detach from it. Then what you want to do is align yourself with the reality of the situation. ‘This is the way that it is. What I am experiencing is the reality of what is actually happening and it is happening due to all of the events that have already occurred leading up to this event. I cannot change the past.’
Now we won’t always like this reality and this reality step is not about telling yourself ‘This is it for me. This is my reality- deal with it’, because that couldn’t be further from the truth. As this process continues, in step three, once you have accepted your current reality and have changed the way you view this current reality, you go on to begin setting some goals and making changes to your current situation. So don’t think that my point is that you just have to ‘put up and shut up’ when it comes to your problems. However, we must learn to accept what is currently happening in our lives, in order to move forward and make those changes. You do this by reminding yourself ‘this is what is happening right now’.
Once you accept the reality of the situation, you are now starting to expand on what you are thinking about this reality. It is what you are thinking that is causing your stress in the first place, so it needs to change in order to feel better about it. You do this by starting to look at the reality of being a parent.
Just like with anything else in life, we experience ups and downs in parenting. This is the reality of being a parent.
As parents, we will experience challenging behaviour. We will have to transition from an old life where it was easy to be self-indulgent, to a life where we have to make some sacrifices for our children. Our relationships will change and grow as a result of being a parent. However we are also experiencing some fun times too. There are good things about our child’s behaviour too – things that make us laugh, things that make us love in a way we never have before and things that teach us about innocence and simplicity that we have forgotten about with our adult minds. There are positives to this new life that we have now that we are parents and it is all about seeking out what those are and reminding yourself that parenting is full of highs and lows. This will keep the challenging situation in perspective.
As you continue to expand your mind, you start to align with the reality of life.
Look at the current situation in the context of your whole life experience. Within our journeys through life, we are also experiencing those highs and lows. What you want to do is put your attention on what’s going well in your life. Getting bogged down in what is wrong and bad about your life is only looking at the small picture.
To expand to the big picture you need to consider the law of polarity. What goes up, must come down. Where there’s an in, there is also an out. Where there is a winner, there is also a loser. Where there is bad, there is always good.
Think back to our story of the enlightened farmer. What seemed bad actually turned out good. Sometimes what seemed good flowed on to be bad. Nothing is permanent! Nothing. Everything rises and passes away, so this moment that is consuming you? “This too shall pass”.
The trick is to seek out the value in it by finding the hidden good in the bad. What is valuable about what I’m experiencing? What can I be grateful for?
For example, how do we know what ‘good’ behaviour is? Because we have experienced ‘naughty’ behaviour. How do your children learn how to do things? By experiencing how not to do things. How do we know that our house is messy and that we should clean it? Because we have experienced a clean house that is comfortable?
Look again at our examples of September 11 and Daniel Morcombe’s abduction, where there was bad, there was also good that came out of that event.
If your child is going through a challenging stage, whether it is rebellion, back chat, tantrums or an non-sleeping baby, this is your child learning and growing. If you are experiencing life not going to plan, then this is just part of your life and there will be (as there has been in the past as well) times where you have had things go to plan.
It all comes down to how you choose to look at the situation.
So now you know how to expand your mindset through from the small picture to the bigger picture, we only have one more way to further increase this expansion. That is to align yourself with the reality of self-worth. I know that you may have had years where you have been told that you are not good enough or similar beliefs drummed into you. That is why we have left Self-worth as the outer layer of expanding your mindset.
Feeling worth-less is at the core of ALL stress, so we are going to spend a whole week exploring it and teaching you why you are always 100% worthy. Before we do that however, I want to help you to apply what you’ve learnt on the new reality thinking model so far to two common situations pertaining to parenting and postnatal depression:
Example 1 – “I am a single mum and I have two children only 13 months apart. I am just so tired all of the time. I’m either up to one or the other of my children every night. I never get any time to myself. I have no partner to help me because he left me during my second pregnancy. I just can’t cope. I actually regret ever having children, and of course I feel so guilty about that. I hate that I spend my whole days washing, cooking, cleaning, playing with the kids and I just don’t want to do it anymore. I miss my job. I was never going to be the person I am today. I was supposed to get married, have kids and enjoy my life, but instead I resent it, and it’s starting to have an effect on the kids.”
How to expand your thinking using the reality thinking model
The reality of the situation: The reality is that you have expectations of what a family ‘should’ look like and you are currently not living to that expectation. It doesn’t make your life wrong, it just makes it different. Because of how life has unfolded up to now, you are now a mother with two children raising them without a husband. People do this all the time. It’s not easy, but it is your current experience and any opinions that are in conflict with that reality are only going to cause stress. You are currently a stay at home mum with two kids, 13 months apart and they are young and at demanding ages right now, meaning that you are probably going to have a very busy life for now.
Now that you align with the reality of the situation, move into changing how you look at that reality.
The reality of being a parent: Regardless of whether you are in a relationship or on your own, you will always come across challenges with your children. Having a partner will not change this. It is how you look at those challenges that makes a difference to how you feel and chances are, if you are thinking like this habitually, then it is likely that you would think like this with or without a partner. Although you have this stereo-typical picture in your mind of children having two parents, the reality is that there is only one in this picture. Neither picture is right or wrong, just different. Your children are not missing out on what they need for their development as they are always getting experiences that help them to learn and the reality is that they aren’t getting an experience of a dad, so that IS the experience that they are getting and learning from in their life. As far as regret for having the children goes, you made the choice to have children back when the situation met your expectations (that is, you were with a partner and living your ‘ideal’ scenario for having children). Now the situation has changed. The only reason why you regret having children is because you are thinking that you ‘should’ be experiencing it another way (that is with a husband) and because you are resenting all the work that you have to do now that you are doing it on your own. The reality is that he left and you do have children and you are the sole provider for them. There is value in that which we will look at as we expand further.
The reality of life: Sometimes we can’t control the way our lives unfold, but we are always gaining something from that situation. Your children are gaining a mum who is looking after them and learning how to be strong and organised. They are going to learn about relationships from you because of the experiences that you have had that you will share and pass down to them. You are learning how to be organised, co-ordinate what you need to meet their needs. You are providing everything your children need. Without you they would not have what they do, and they would not be cared for the way that they are. Here’s where you need to look at what you are grateful for and the value in this current situation.
You could appreciate that you are able to have the experience of having children. You could appreciate the smiles, the gurgles, those quiet cuddles you get when they are asleep. You could appreciate it when they do sleep a little longer than you expected and you got just ½ an hour more sleep. That is a step forward. Perhaps it is part of them learning to sleep better. You could appreciate that you have a roof over your heads and that they have warm beds to sleep in, clothes to wear and a healthy parent to look after them. You could appreciate the time you get to watch them grow and that you are able to be around them when all those milestones are met. You could appreciate that this is an opportunity to meet new people or other mums who are in a similar position. You can go out to the shops and get a coffee whenever you want and don’t have to answer to a boss demanding that you do this, that or the other. You can go for morning walks with the kids on a beautiful day.
The personal benefits for you are huge too. You are empowering yourself to soldier on and do things on your own. This builds strength, resilience and a personal belief in your abilities. You are learning to be independent and not have to rely on anyone to do things for you. You have learnt from your experience of having this relationship, so the next time you enter into a relationship you might do things differently. You wouldn’t have this information without ever experiencing the relationship that you did.
Being on your own without a partner has benefits too. You get to watch your TV shows, cook what you want for dinner, make your own decisions and not have to consult anyone when making a big decision about your life. There is no fighting or conflict in the house. Once the kids are in bed, you can have some alone time to do the things that you like to do (read, watch a movie, meditate, get on the internet).
You can see in this example, it is all about changing that ‘story’ that you have going on in your mind by looking at different aspects of the situation. Don’t necessarily believe the first opinions that enter your mind about a situation that hasn’t met your expectations. Remember the law of polarity and try to find those hidden benefits that this situation brings with it too. Where there is bad, there is always good. Focus on the value and it will change how you feel.
Let’s have a look at another example:
Example 2 – “My children hate me. My husband thinks I’m weak for having this mental illness. My mother-in-law thinks I need to just get over it and stop being so emotional. I feel like I am fighting with everyone. I’m home all day with the kids and they are doing my head in. My husband comes home late at night and then is too tired to help, then whinges at me that the house isn’t clean. I feel like I’m doing everything wrong and I’m a complete failure. This is the not the way I thought motherhood would be.”
The reality of the situation: You are feeling this way because of the way you perceive life. The way you perceive life comes from how you have been conditioned to perceive life. It has been learnt from all the experiences you have had in your life right up to this point. The way you treat people, the way they treat you, has all been set up because of yours and that persons beliefs and the dynamic that has been set up between the two of you. The reality of other people’s judgements of you is that they are neither wrong nor right. They are seeing you through the lenses of their beliefs which have been formed through their experience of life, just like you are seeing them through your lens of beliefs.
If you are at home with the kids for long periods of time all day, it is because that was what was decided between you and your husband as the way that you wanted it to be. Somewhere along the line before now it was agreed that you would be the sole carer for the children while he worked, opting not to work yourself and put them in childcare. You are now experiencing the result of those past decisions. They are neither wrong or right, just results of what was set up in the past. This is the reality of the situation.
The reality of being a parent: Children go through cycles of wanting lots to do with their parents and not wanting to be around their parents. They are going through their own ups and downs, and particularly when the kids are young, there can be periods of time where they are confused about their emotions and taking them out on you, pushing boundaries and trying out new behaviour. If they are gravitating towards your partner, it’s not necessarily about you, it may be because your husband is the excitement to their day because mum’s always there. It could be because Dad gets home in a calm and happy mood having been at work all day, whereas you are feeling stressed, having been at home all day. We all know how we like to be around people who feel good. If they feel good, we often feel good. If they are warming towards the other parent, you will find that it’s not about you and all about them and what they get out of it.
In relationships, as new parents, it can be difficult for a partner to understand how the other one is feeling, because they are not experiencing the same thing that you are. Husbands work all day and come home to cranky wives, chaotic houses and cranky, tired children. Moms have to deal with those cranky children, very little sleep and the chaotic house, constantly attempting to pull it all together, meet everyone’s needs and organise the chaos. It is easy for each partner to become consumed with their own experience of what is going on and forget that the other person may need help too. We are all looking at events through our own lens and when we judge another person, it is because we don’t understand what’s going on, because through our lens they shouldn’t be that way.
The final reality of being a parent is once again, the aspect of the highs and lows of being a parent in general. You will never get it right. You are not a failure when things go wrong sometimes, because the reality is that sometimes things go wrong. Kids don’t sleep, they put paint on the wall, the house gets messy, partners get cranky, you get cranky, some days you aren’t organised. However the other end of reality is that kids do sleep, they learn not to put paint on the wall, the house gets clean again and you and your partner get along sometimes too. This isn’t right either, it is just the reality of how life unfolds – its full of ups and downs.
The reality of life: Your life has changed from what it was like before children. You are learning new skills, working a new job and it is a time consuming and challenging job you are doing. With any new job, you are going to have good days and bad. There will be times where you feel on top of things and times where everything’s a complete mess. Every moment is just one moment in your life. The kids will grow up, get older, be more mature and better behaved. You will find other ways to get organised, find more time to spend on yourself and this phase of your life will rise and pass away. It does not define your entire existence.
In life you will have many different relationships – friendships, marital relationship/s and family relationships. With them will come good times and bad. Throughout your relationships and your journey through life you are constantly receiving new information and lessons that will change who you are as a person and give you more skills and tools for living your life. This period of your life is offering you information to learn from and change right now.
You can do this by finding the value in these moments and what you are grateful for, rather than staying stuck in what is not happening for you, how bad you are at everything and what everyone thinks of you.
You are learning the skill of being a parent and learning about your kids. Appreciate that they are at this learning stage and that this stage will pass. Know that with every instruction you give to them you are adding to the change and maturing of that behaviour. You are enabling that stage to pass quicker every time you repeat yourself. Appreciate your husband for the support he offers your family, for the help he does give you and for what you love about him. Even though your mother-in-law has opinions that are different to yours, what do you appreciate about her? You will find that when you can learn to appreciate what you do like about someone instead of focusing on what you don’t like, you will treat them differently and hence, they will probably treat you differently.
Finally (but this is by no means the extent of how you could change the ‘story’ about this situation to be in alignment with reality) your postnatal depression could be a huge blessing in disguise. Here you are on this program learning how to stop it. While you are doing that, you are learning some priceless information that could affect your happiness for the rest of your life. Not only does it affect your happiness though, but it affects what beliefs you pass down to your children. Sometimes difficult times like this where you feel at your lowest, can be the very times that we need to experience in order to propel us to another level of living our life. Would you ever get this kind of learning if you hadn’t been feeling the way that you have? Would you ever take the time to learn about how to think and be happy if you had not been desperate to stop your unhappiness?
Again this is the polarity effect at work again. Where there is a down, there is also an up.
This reality step is all about changing those thoughts that you became aware of in step one (thoughts) and aligning them with the reality of how life unfolds. Expanding your mind in a different direction and changing the ‘story’ you tell yourself about how your life unfolds makes every bit of difference to how you feel and your overall happiness.
Deliberately and consciously aligning to the ups and downs of life, finding the value in events and being grateful wherever you can will change those neural connections in the brain that have been formed in the past. The more you do this (understanding that at first you will have plenty of times where you revert back to old ways of thinking) you will be creating new habits of thinking. That’s why keeping an exercise book of your wins can be very empowering.
As we continue with next week’s lessons, we will be learning the final and most important part of the reality step and that is – knowing your worth.