I recently had the pleasure of attending an inspirational talk in Madrid by Arianna Huffington, founder of The Huffington Post and author of the wonderful book 'Thrive'.
The subject of her talk was one very close to my heart: Balance & Mindfulness.
When she asked if anyone had any questions, my hand shot up. Before I knew what was happening, a microphone was thrust into my hand and I was told to stand up and introduce myself.
I'm a huge admirer of Arianna, so my face burned and heart raced, but I believe it went something like:
Hi Arianna, I'm Kelly Pietrangeli of Project Me for Busy Mothers and I help women find a happier balance between the kids - and everything else. (Whew! All of those months of memorising my 'cocktail line' paid off!)
My busy mother readers and clients all say the same thing:
'My to-do list is never ending! There are never enough hours in the day to get it all done.'
They go to bed feeling exhausted and guilty for everything they haven't managed to get done.
Arianna, what would you say to the mother with the never-ending to-do list?
There's always going to be your to-do list. But you also need a gratitude list. Every single day, write at least three things you're feeling grateful for.
The more gratitude you have for all of the people and things you have in your life, the more grace you'll extend yourself for not 'getting it all done'. Focus on what you achieved each night before bed, not on what you didn't manage to do.
Of course, this made my heart sing, and if you've been following Project Me for any length of time you'll know that I'm always banging on about gratitude as a daily practice.
There's even a place to write gratitude at the top of my Design My Day action sheet. Never leave that box blank to just focus on your to-dos.
Arianna beautifully reminds us:
"Life is a dance between making it happen and letting it happen."
We feel guilty as women because we find it hard to balance our needs with everyone else's, but we need to educate this inner voice. It's never going to be perfect. It's about learning to dance with it, moving from struggle to grace.
Don't judge yourself if you're not doing what you're supposed to do. Take small steps toward your goals. Model a baby who is learning to walk. If babies reacted like adults when they fail, they would give up and never walk.
We are all burst out laughing when she said:
When mothers give birth, the baby comes out, and the guilt goes in!
We need to honour what we want, not what others or culture expect from us.
Arianna shared a powerful story of when she literally crashed and burned-out eight years ago and encouraged us to learn from her mistakes.
She pointed out that we all know how much battery power we have left on our phones. When we fall to around 20% we start to get twitchy and look for a way to charge it back up again.
But how many of us pay the same attention to our own energy levels? Do we notice when we're running on low? Do we stop and do something to recharge ourselves?
Many of us are running on dangerously low levels and don't realise that there's not an infinite supply. We will burn out if we're not careful.
Sleep is the number one way to recharge your battery.
We all need varying amounts of sleep to wake up feeling 100% and that ranges between 7-9 hours of sleep. There is a rare 1% of people who can honestly get by with less than that.
It's important to pay attention to what your ideal number of hours of sleep are per night. For Arianna, it's eight and a half hours. For me, it's eight.
If I get to sleep eight hours before I need to get up, I wake up naturally and feel my 100% physical and mental best.
If I get seven hours, I'm operating slightly substandard and I can feel it.
Six hours, I'm fuzzy-headed, unfocused, lethargic and irritable.
When I get less than six hours, the voice in my head goes negative towards myself and others. I completely lack motivation. I feel down and I take it out on those I love the most.
If you've got a child who still wakes in the night, you have my sympathy.
Sleep deprivation is an evil thing. It clouds your thinking, affects your mood and makes you behave irrationally.
It wasn't until I began getting full nights of uninterrupted sleep that I began to feel human again.
But what about self-inflicted sleep deprivation? Staying up too late even though you know you have to be up early.
Many of the women in my on-line programmes are past the baby and toddler stage, yet they're getting to bed too late out of habit. They're depriving themselves of the deep benefits that come from getting enough sleep.
Arianna's now so devoted to good sleep that her next book is dedicated to it.
Arianna Huffington's tips for getting the right amount of sleep to keep you feeling your very best:
- Experiment with sleep times until you know how many hours of sleep you need.
- Determine what time you will need to turn the lights out based on what time you need to be up the next morning.
- Thirty minutes before lights-out, set an alarm as your 'shutting down time'. No computers, phones or TV allowed.
- Create a before-bed routine to wind down. Have a bath, climb into bed with a good book.
So busy women, take a lesson from Arianna and take care of yourself. Put your own oxygen mask on first. It's not selfish, it's essential if you're going to continue to give your best energy to your family.
It's the key to being the best version of you.
Are you up for a challenge? How about setting an evening alarm every weeknight for when you'll shut down all electronics and get ready for bed? In the comments below, tell me if you'll give it a try. Or share how many hours of sleep YOU need to feel 100% the next day.
Kelly Pietrangeli helps mothers set goals and take charge of their own happiness. Her free Project Me Life Wheel Tool has helped thousands of women to find a happier balance between the kids - and everything else. Click here to give the Life Wheel Tool a spin for yourself.