Have you ever been in a good mood and come home to someone else in a bad mood and instantly felt you happy mood fade? Emotions are infectious. You can be affected by other peoples emotions, cue my story. I have three children and prior to covid 19 lockdown my expereince in parenthood was 2 under 2 whilst my partner akaThe Beard worked 9-5 as a community nurse, I was home educating my teen (by choice) and working twilight shifts from 4pm to midnight in a crisis cafe for adults in a mental health service.
The Beard regularly came home to me over stretched, overwhelmed and absolutley shattered. I will be honest lockdown was helpful for our family life and my own mental health. The beard regularly arrived home to have the happiness sucked out of him as a I struggled to balance a number of spinning plates. Boobing a baby, cooking dinner and entertaining a toddler whilst trying to cook a nourshing meal. I could see the negativity weighing on his shoulders when he entered the kitchen as he tried to ease some the pressure and offer an upbeat conversation about his day. I will openly admit there was times I had a pang of jealously he got to be away from the house for 8 hours and have adult conversations, whilst I had already done a 10 hour day with the kids before I started my 8 hour twilight shift. I am pretty sure I leaked that emotion out too.
So fast forward to now what's changed? I grew an awareness during covid of how much support I needed to ask for and I witnessed a change in my parctice as a mental health nurse as we were forced to slow down and people had less access to services. Holding the space in a world where so much was out of our control became a really important aspect of helping us process our shared expereince of the pandemic. There were no solutions or explainations that could fix. The same applied to my parenting I had to be more aware of my emotions without trying to find a solution.
We reverted back to simplicity. Nature, nurturing our families, connecting with each other in a meaningful way, daily walks and crafting. Rhythmic routines that gave us comfort.This was the foundation for birthing my business Piplings Nature Babies, a place to focus on the wellbeing of parents in nature, be mindful and still, connect with other parents and understand your expereinces as a parent. We naturally gravitate to what we needed in times of distress and darkness.
When parents feel loved and supported they are able to provide a safe and nurturing environment to love their babies and make an impact on the world by raising children with secure attachments that can share that love as they grow. I am passionate about creating a community to offer parents support to understand their experiences and have an emotional container throughout their journey into parenthood.
The 1001 critical day manifesto from conception to age 2 suggests that this is the critical period in which foundations of relationships as adults are formed. This is why I am so passionate about supporting the mental and physical health of parents to enable them to create a safe nurturing relationships for their babies to form healthy mental and physical health as their baseline. You can read the manifesto by clicking
Stress, loneliness and anxiety can create a disconnect from our world where we learn to distract and zone out from our emotions and eventually our world, babies aren’t exempt from this and if their needs aren’t met they can learn not to cry for help. If we are disconnected we may not feel confident and be responsive to tuning into our babies cues and needs. I believe providing a safe space to understand and reflect on our experiences without judgement, solutions to fix or unhelpful advice enables parents to follow and connect to their own intuitive parenting.
There is a simple diagram that can be used to help us understand how we react to situations that tip us into a state of disconnect called the window of tolerance. I use this concept in teaching of trauma in mental health and it is applicable to all of us as we have all experienced trauma with a big T and a little t. Watch my video about this by clicking the button below.
I believe as we transition into parenthood when are reminded on a subconscious level of our own experiences as a young baby that we have no conscious awareness of and this may affect our window of tolerance. You can read a fantastic book called The book you wish your parents had read by Philippa Perry for a fantastic understanding of your subconscious affecting your behaviours in parenthood.
So what is the window of tolerance?
We all have a window of tolerance this is the state when we are calm, rationale, playful, able to reason and adapt to changes. We feel connected, safe and secure and good about ourselves. Some people have larger windows than others and spend a lot of time here, others have smaller windows for example those who have experienced complex trauma may have a smaller window as the world for them has typically felt unsafe.
We have two states either side of our windows, above we have hyperarousal you may have heard of it referred to as fight or flight mode. When we have a response to threat real or perceived that causes us to be to be on high alert for danger. Our brains are wired so we can’t tell the difference from a real threat or one we remember so our response is the same. At it’s highest we are prepared for survival and are ready to run or fight for our lives, on a lower level we feel angry, impulsive, overwhelmed and anxious. You may experience physical sensations such as butterflies in your stomach, heart racing or a hot flush. You are ready to respond and feel on high alert.
Below our windows we have a hypoarousal state, this when we act on autopilot and we disconnect from being present. This is known as the freeze or flop of the survival instinct ie play dead. This is often referred to as dissociation, a protective state, you may feel numb, forgetful and lack emotional responses. Another element to this state is referred to as fawn, when you go into people pleasing mode to prevent any threats from happening.
We all naturally fluctuate between these states, you will often drive a familiar route and forget how you got there cue dissociation and hypoarousal. Our brain needs this sometimes this is why we binge watch Netflix! I have described the extreme states, however some may find they seem to miss the window of tolerance completely and dip in and out of hyper and hypo arousal without much awareness.
I believe parenthood makes even the most self-aware with large windows more vulnerable to feeling the extremes of these states. Having a difficult pregnancy, birth, unsettled baby and transitioning into our new identities combined with a lack of sleep, physical recovery, navigating feeding, changing nappies and any potential subconscious emotional flooding we have no awareness of means those windows become pretty small at times.
Growing an awareness of our windows can be started by literally stepping back from a response and taking a breath, taking a helicopter view and starting to unpack what is going on for us in that moment, is it warranted response? Or am I over reacting or disconnecting if it feels too uncomfortable. Cue the buzz word MINDFULNESS! Being present really can help. If you feel a little stuck with this you can download an app like headspace and start with just a minute a day to notice how you feel.
The NHS conducted some research in metal health that concluded there are 5 steps to mental wellbeing.
1. Connect with other people. Good relationships are important for your mental wellbeing.
They can: help you to build a sense of belonging and self-worth, give you an opportunity to share positive experiences, provide emotional support and allow you to support others.
2.Be physically active Being active is not only great for your physical health and fitness. Evidence also shows it can also improve your mental wellbeing by: raising your self-esteem and causing chemical changes in your brain which can help to positively change your mood
3. Learn new skills. Research shows that learning new skills can also improve your mental wellbeing by: boosting self-confidence and raising self-esteem, helping you to build a sense of purpose, helping you to connect with others.
4. Give to others. Research suggests that acts of giving and kindness can help improve your mental wellbeing by: creating positive feelings and a sense of reward
5. Pay attention to the present moment (mindfulness).Paying more attention to the present moment can improve your mental wellbeing. This includes your thoughts and feelings, your body and the world around you.
Journaling is a fantastic way to help you to articulate your thoughts and reflect and understand you experiences. Self-care including boring self-care can help you stay in your window and stop the feelings of overwhelm when your to do list becomes your daily routine such as cleaning your teeth and eating a balanced meal. Although I apperciate these do become difficult when you have new baby, I spent two hours trying to get myself dressed when first left alone with my frst born. Keep a check on what tasks are difficult because you have a new baby or because you are not motivated and feel low in mood. Ask for help if you are struggling, who doesn't love to hug a newborn whilst you have 15 minutes to shower and get dressed.
If you struggle to manage to find time to dedicate to self-care, connecting, getting out to move, learning something new, give back and be mindful. We have it all covered in our weekly tree babies class. 90 minutes a week to learn mindfulness and grounding practices, connect to nature and others in a calm and relaxed environment, gentle movement in the woods, give your baby love and be present. You can rest, replenish and restore in a safe space to give your experiences a narrative to help process them. With an opportunity for creative art and some downtime from our busy to do lists. If you are not in Dorset pop me an email email@example.com and I will find a class in your area!
You can book one of our classes via the services tab on our website.