mental health

What do you really need ... and how to get it

Image courtesy of: Catie Atkinson, Spiritysol

Image courtesy of: Catie Atkinson, Spiritysol

Writing this from my breakfast table on the terrace outside the lovely holiday house we rented in Tenerife, its a funny thing to be thinking about “needs”.  This particularly phase of life is pretty near perfect - husband around for a whole 8 days, plenty of sunshine, kids happily playing safely and we have miraculously found somewhere with 2 other children the same age as ours for them to be entertained by.  However, the reality is this escapist week is the tonic to our full tilt lives, with my husband commuting for nearly 4 hours each day, me teaching 16 classes a week plus all the extra admin and life stuff, and our kids doing after school activities on all but 1 weekday.  I have had a few new clients recently coming in talking about how they’d like to be doing more to help themselves get stronger, but they just can’t find the time, or my client who hasn’t had a full nights sleep in 4 1/2 years whilst her husband has not helped out.  One of the most powerful tools I learnt that helped me break through the cycle of needing - feeling unfulfilled - feeling resentful - expressing anger - was the realisation that I could ask for what I needed and those who were able to support wanted to help.  Most of the issue as a Mum who has her finger on the pulse of everything in the household is that we don’t let go easily.  Think of the last time you went out for a bit and left your partner in charge - did you micro-manage the entire time so they had food, things to do, washing already done and clothes already laid out?  Or did you just leave the house?  For those with little kids I suspect the answer is the former, I know I wasn’t alone!

Asking for support with what we need is a fundamental change of tack for a previously independent woman who didn’t really need someone else’s help just so she could go to do some food shopping alone, or buy a nice top for a party so she felt good about herself.  I believe learning how to express what we need and want can change our own lives and of those around us.

I learnt through the One Of Many coaching system that writing a “needs creed” is the first step, so here I am passing that tool on to you. 

Write out a list of all the things you need/want/desire  - anything and everything from water, fresh air, daily movement, a massage, an evening out with girlfriends, a good book, 8 hours sleep, going for a walk by yourself, regular sex, an evening spent talking with your partner, individual time with your kids, going to see a therapist because you need some extra help, getting a cleaner etc etc.  You can write as much as you can possibly think about and in no particular order to begin with.  Then divide your list into “essential needs”, “wants” and “desires” - your essentials are those things that you would not feel complete and fulfilled without, for example, it might be essential to you that you are able to take one evening a month to chat to or connect with your best friends in some way and without that you’d feel adrift, or moving in your most nourishing, chosen way at least 3 times a week otherwise you’ll feel sluggish and foggy.  You shouldn’t feel that anything is a luxury and not really a need or that you feel selfish writing these down - if you feel that is what makes you, you and you wouldn’t feel your whole self without it then it’s a need.  Your “wants” are things that are slightly down on that list, for example, a new top to help you feel better about your breastfeeding boobs, or a massage once a month, these are things you can get by without but you may spend your time feeling resentful if you are not able to make room in your life for them.  Your desires might be things that are visions for the future, or wants that you have for the way you will be living.  Not “once I lose 5kgs I will ...” but things like “I need 8 hours sleep, our baby hasn’t slept through yet, I don’t think it’ll happen tomorrow, it might take a while, how do we get there?” Aim towards the positive desires rather than negative outcomes - I want to feel healthier, not I want to be slimmer - then your goal orientation will always be positive rather than negative.

Once you have your list, the fun begins, this is where you get to involve others.  Write next to each need/want/desire what that looks like to you - eg. Water - 6 pints every day (especially if you’re breastfeeding), sleep - in bed by 9:30, lights out at 10pm every night, movement - that yoga class you love every Saturday morning, or that online workout programme you’ve been considering that’ll cost £20 a month.  Then work out who can help you with this and ASK them.  Sleep is the most fundamental, important and potentially contentious one here, if you are up in the night with babies, up at the crack of dawn with them as well and then have to entertain them during the day and your partner comes home at 8pm preferring you to eat together when he/she is back, and then he/she will watch TV and chat with you until at least 10/11pm and so you don’t get into bed until 11:30/12pm, this is a pattern that is not serving you.  You and your partner have different needs, and whilst I sympathise with wanting to connect together at the end of the day, there are other ways to do this other than eating late together and going to bed late together.  Talk to your partner about what you need “I need to get more sleep, I’m so tired, and feeling depleted” then show them what they can do to help “I would love it if you could help me by encouraging me to go to bed at 9:30pm, it would help me feel so good and happy” and how this could work “I would like to eat dinner with the kids so that I’m not eating late, then I’d love to sit and chat about our days when you eat later on” then check in if that could work for them “what do you think, how would that work for you?”

No-one would refuse you this, the people around you want to help, would love to facilitate an easier life for you, and need the specifics - no more assuming they will “just know” or wondering why they can’t just tell what you need!  Do you need time to go to a class each week? Who can help - a Mum friend, a neighbour, a relative, your partner - you never know until you ask, try it out, adapt as you go along, you are not alone.  It does take a village to raise a child, sometimes it’s not obvious what that village looks like, or who is in your particular village, and sometimes you need to build it, but it’s there.