"It wasn’t a step back, it was a step up"

with Anna Mathur, psychotherapist and author

Show notes:

If you are feeling challenged, by motherhood, by your business, this is the conversation for you.

Anna Mathur, psychotherapist, best selling author and mum of 3 shares some of her wisdom on how we can live more restfully, when let’s face it, as parents, sleep just isn’t an option.

Not only does Anna share some of her personal practices and insights into how we can all try to create that space for a breath between a moment of stress and our reaction, but it was also a real comfort just to hear her share and think ‘I’m not alone in this’. It is hard, but it will pass.

We spoke about social media: not only the stress it unconsciously puts our bodies under, but how Anna’s approach to it is changing and what that means for her business. And above all, if things are getting harder, it’s not you taking a step backwards, it’s you levelling up.

This is a really nice companion episode to Season 2, Episode 10 with Kim Hartwell, if you haven’t already listened to it, I would recommend it.Links:

Website
Instagram
LinkedIn

About Anna Mathur

Anna Mathur, a woman I feel I don’t REALLY need to introduce to my fellow mums listening to this podcast. The woman who makes us all relieved and feel actually ‘normal’ with how we feel day to day.

Anna is a Psychotherapist, mum of 3, speaker and Sunday Times Best Selling Author.

Passionate about taking therapy out of the therapy room Anna Mathur is widely celebrated for her accessible mental health advice and the light- bulb moments which she offers across her platforms.
Often told through her own experiences, Anna has a unique approach to mental health, whether it’s providing advice on anxiety, coping with overwhelm or encouraging self-worth.
Anna’s latest book ‘Raising a Happier Mother’ is out now and is a MUST read for every mum.

Anna Mathur’s Links:

Website
LinkedIn
Instagram

Transcript:

Intro

Hello. I’m Caroline Marshall, and welcome to Bump to Business Owner the podcast speaking to mums in business. You. I’ll be in conversation with some of the most inspiring women and mothers in enterprise about their journey, how they created their successful businesses alongside raising their children and what that looks like in work and family life.

Caroline (00:28):
Hello and welcome to today’s episode of Bump to Business owner. It was with great pleasure. I welcome Anna Mathur, a woman I feel I don’t really need to introduce to my fellow moms listening to this podcast, the woman who makes us all relieved and feel actually normal with how we feel day to day. Anna is a psychotherapist mom of three speaker and Sunday Times bestselling author, passionate about taking therapy out of the therapy room. Anna Mathur is widely celebrated for her accessible mental health advice and the light bulb moments which she offers across her platforms, often told through her own experiences. Anna has a unique approach to mental health, whether it’s providing advice on anxiety, coping with overwhelm, or encouraging. Anna’s latest book, Raising A Happier Mother is out now and is a must read for basically every mom in my opinion. Thank you so much, Anna, and welcome. It’s a pleasure to have you on today. How are you?

Anna (01:20):
I’m good. Thank you so much, Caroline. I like sitting here shuffling away as you read these things out. I always find it a little bit awkward. I didn’t write it myself actually. Otherwise that would make it doubly awkward, wouldn’t it? But I’m good. I’ve done the school run. I’ve done a really cold walk to kick the day off. Well done.

Caroline (01:38):
You’ve had a good day already. And I think it’s great to big each other up on these ones. I think some podcasts, it’s introduce yourself and we might be like, oh no, it’s just me. I’m
Caroline. And so I was like, no, we’re going to big Anna up. Put everything you do for us as a mom. I know, thank you. I think you must’ve been one of the first mom Instagrams. I wasn’t ready in my first pregnancy to really delve into that mom Instagram world. It was all a bit of a surprise. I think you’re one of the first. I was like, oh, this is normal. We all feel this. So yeah, thank you for that. And so Anna, you’re so welcome.

Caroline (02:13):
How I like to start is kind of at the beginning, so your career to date. So when did you decide to come a psychotherapist and did you think you’d always specialise in being one that mothers all look up to?

Anna (02:27):
Well, so I did psychology. I mean, we’re going back quite a long way here at college. So college, yeah, it was college and I really loved it. And it was one of those topics I think I did terribly in science. I thought I might want to be a doctor or something like that, but I basically just did so badly. There was absolutely no chance in hell I was going to get in anywhere. It was all about plants and I thought it’d be about the human body. So that just didn’t go well. But I loved psychology and I think going back even further, I’ve always grown up around my mom who is particularly compassionate towards people. She has always been one of these people that encouraged us as children. If someone was mean at school, both to validate the feelings that we had, but also to think a little bit more about what that child might be going through.

Anna (03:19):
If you’re a happy child, you’re not going to be mean to another kid. So we just always had this kind of drip fed insight into just looking a little bit beyond. We went through loss as a child. My earlier years were filled with hospital visits. My younger sister had a brain tumour and she died when I was 10. So again, I had my mom’s real insight into emotional validation and grief and just learnt about the different ways that people experience the same thing. So the way that my dad dealt with my sister’s loss, for example, was very different to way that my brother and I did and my mom. And it was just, yeah, I think just observing from a young age, the different ways that as humans, we experienced things. So this gave me this underlying interest in people and care for people. And I was the child that would dress up as a nurse and want to look after people and role play those caring roles.

Anna (04:25):
And having loved psychology. I went and did that university, spent most of my time partying to be honest, but I ticked all the boxes as I should. I definitely, I did a lot of that, but I ticked all the boxes and I really, really enjoyed just learning a little bit more about the way that we work and the way that we tick. And then I went into advertising, which sounds like a bit of, sounds like a bit of a curve ball, but I think psychology at that point, it felt like such a massive thing to go into. You’d have to go back to university again, do another kind of three plus years. And I just wanted to go to London and have an experience of living just a working and normal more working life. So I went and did that for a while. I kind of liked it, kind of didn’t.

Anna (05:12):
I was actually quite depressed at the time. Again, just really learning a lot about myself was a real people pleaser, a real perfectionist, very scared of getting things wrong, which actually made me really good at my job because I was a perfectionist. I just wanted to get everything and make everyone happy. So it made me really good in the admin roles that I had in advertising. And I remember a real turning point, actually, it was an appraisal, and I sat and I would cry over Waterloo Bridge every morning on the phone to my mom, just really unhappy. I’d cry in the toilets and then I’d put my lipstick on and go and sit at my desk and no one would know. So I was kind of living this real jaw life. And I remember sitting in this appraisal and they said, you know what, Anna, if you just push it a little bit harder, you could get a promotion this time at the end of the year or next year.

Anna (06:07):
And I just remember feeling this sense of panic, this sense of, I don’t want to go deeper into this job. It’s not right for me. No one seems to understand quite how hard it is and how hard I have to work. I didn’t realise at that point that I had ADHD, but that’s another story. So having to be really kind of stringent and just knowing that I was living in opposition to the way that my brain worked. So that took me down a Google hunt. I looked at midwifery. Oh, really? Yeah, I looked at midwifery, I looked at psychology. I looked at different kind of colleges that do counselling, psychotherapy, and then I trained as a psychotherapist and absolutely loved it. And my drive was very much to help people. But what was incredibly humbling very early on in my training was that I realised I was the one that needed help. And they often say that when you train to be a therapist, you get the therapy that you need. And yeah, I learned that my way of feeling valid, I deserved my place in the world, was to help people. And it was also a very, very clever way of overlooking my own need for people myself. So it was almost like training as a therapist meant that I’d never have to have therapy. I could just therapize myself. I’ll sort myself out. Don’t worry about me. I’m fine. Let’s talk about you. Let’s help you. And in truth,

Caroline (07:41):
Yeah.

Anna (07:43):
Yeah, that was really humbling for me, really hard.

Caroline (07:46):
Thank you so much for sharing. I can imagine. I mean, it makes perfect sense. You can’t help others truly, unless you’ve really done that work on yourself. And having gone through a year of doing loads of work, I’ve done EMDR and stuff, it’s really hard, isn’t it? And I think that’s something that’s really good to make clear that doing this work if you need to do the work is really hard.

Anna (08:09):
Yeah, absolutely. You are your biggest case study at the beginning of your training, and you are not necessarily seeing clients right at the beginning, but you are asking yourself all of these questions, why am I thinking that? Why do I respond like that? What happened to me when that person said that? And I just felt all this rage rise up or this panic rise up and yeah, you become your own subject in a way. And it was incredibly humbling. I realised quite how broken I was underneath all this perfectionistic exterior that I felt protected me from my own messiness. And I think I’ve had to bring this real compassionate acknowledgement of my own vulnerability into motherhood. And that’s what you see in my work really is that mixture of this therapeutic knowledge that I have, but also this real awareness that I get this privilege to see behind people’s closed doors and behind the scenes. So I know therefore both clinically and professionally, that I am not alone in intrusive thoughts and rage in motherhood and conflicting feelings and anxieties. And it gives me the confidence to speak out because I understand why I feel this way sometimes. I understand that I’m not the only one. So for me, it’s not a taboo. So that’s the real privilege of it all and that’s why you’ll read so much about some of my experiences. I can share them without the shame that other people might have.

Caroline (09:53):
Yeah, I wonder if it’s doing that work, like you said, it just makes you just a bit less filtered. And I think that can make some people feel really uncomfortable, but then you’re like, no, I’ve done the work. And it’s like, I just don’t find that uncomfortable anymore. And thank you so much for sharing your twenties as a girl living in London in their twenties and friends as well. I think we can all really relate to that period. Do you not think it’s, so discovering yourself and finding what works for you. So you went to study psychotherapy, so then what were you doing when you became a mum for the first time? What was your job? As in, were you working psychotherapist? Did you have a specialty?

Anna (10:34):
Yeah, I was just in general practise, so I was working in GP surgeries in London. I was renting rooms in kind of therapeutic clinics. I was working for a clinic and helping run a clinic on Wipo Street in London. So it was that kind of, I was working from different places as lots of therapists do. And I moved to Surrey from London, which was going slightly back more to my comfort zone of leafy green. I grew up in a very slightly remote village where it didn’t have a shop. It was like 15 miles to school, and we just made dens in. So moving down to felt like a great step for me. But I was still kind of going in and out of London a little bit. Had my first baby when I think it must’ve been like 28, 2014. And he was great. He was kind of fairly predictable. I really struggled with the lack of control,

Caroline (11:42):
Even though That’s so interesting because you’ve done the work. Did that then bring up a whole host of other things? Oh

Anna (11:49):
Gosh. It’s just these different seasons of life. And I think this is what I’ve realised, different seasons of life where we’re pushed and we’re more as called averse and where we’re challenged just reveal often a whole nother layer. And I think this is so important to remember. Often we can feel like we’ve taken a massive step back. Often we feel like we’ve just totally been undone. Everything that we’ve been building of ourselves and we’ve been working on is just completely undone. And I think what I started to realise was that I wasn’t taking a step back. I was taking a step up and it was just, it’s like when you start lifting new weights in the gym, the heavier weights and you can feel really weak. You can think, oh my gosh, I can’t lift this when actually it’s just you’re asking more of yourself.

Anna (12:40):
You’re being asked more of. So I think I found that so useful to reflect on in different seasons of parenthood and work is that sometimes it feels like things are being undone when actually you’re just having to step up and it just feels hard for a bit. And we grow into it and we need to have grace and patience for ourselves to find ourselves in that growing space. Again, I think we find ourselves there a lot more in motherhood, in the juggle. And I think if we don’t recognise that we can do what I did for a long time, which was just beat myself up, what is wrong with me? I’ve done this stuff. I’ve learned this stuff about myself, or I felt like I was good at my work in this way and why have I just taken so many steps back? But I think if we can see it through that lens of you are being asked more of or you’re asking more of yourself and yeah, we’re stretching and that it’s not comfortable and it can look like taking a step back, but in truth it’s not.

Caroline (13:47):
I love that. That’s so great. On the whole taking a step up, I’ve never thought of that, that you are very good at reframing. I had a little bit of a tricky period last September, October, a lot of my friends had second babies and I knew it was going to be quite triggering, and I was like, I’ve done all the work and I had a real tricky month. And then I realised, I was like, no, I’m just going through a new growth period. And I told my husband, I was like, I’ll be better on the other side. I just need this time to step back. I’ve done the work to know I need this and this is what’s happening and I’ll get that. And it’s so true because it’s like, and they all happen again with something else.

Anna (14:21):
It will. It will. And that is just, there are so many periods in life after having my second child and going into this space in my work where, yeah, you just think, oh, I thought I’d done this. But actually it’s just stretching you in a different direction and you’re going to grow more because of it. You’re going to form new, if we think about muscles because they love being a metaphor, you’re going to form new fibres that weren’t there before and new strength that wasn’t there before. I just think that’s a great way of seeing it because it inspires compassion and patience instead of criticism and frustration

Caroline (15:01):
And just being hard on yourself, then you are not going to be great for everyone around you if you are beating yourself up constantly about just going through something that everyone, a season as you put it.

Caroline (15:14):
So just going back to, so then you had your children and at what point did you start really feeling comfortable? I can start sharing. This has been everything I’ve been going through. I think it was back when you started, I’d say 2014, you became a mom. It was still fairly new this, I mean, I wasn’t a mom at this point, so I wasn’t really on the online mom world of Instagram and stuff, but when did you think I can share this?

Anna (15:37):
Yeah, so it wasn’t really that planned. I thought out, I downloaded it Instagram properly in 2016. I just had my second baby and he had silent reflux. So for those moms of children that had silent reflux, it is a very different experience of early months of parenting. So I went into my second pregnancy really thinking that I’d done a great job and I felt quite confident. I was really quite sick, actually. I had hyperemesis, that was really, really rough.

Caroline (16:13):
Did you take medication for it?

Anna (16:14):
I did, yeah. Which makes you very tired, so you’re like, would I rather be half asleep with a toddler or would I rather be vomiting 10 times a day? It was a difficult one. Yeah,

Caroline (16:24):
A hard choice that yes.

Anna (16:26):
But I was that perfectionist mother who just didn’t want anyone to worry about me. And I would literally just, people didn’t really know the extent that I felt unwell and that I was unwell and I just cover it up and I just wasn’t like overtly honest about that experience. And that’s what I went into my second, yeah, my second child just totally, again, I was just, everything I understood about myself was just challenged because I thought I was good. I thought I was a good therapist, I thought I was a good mother, and I had this baby that screamed the whole time. And my response was not that there was something going on for him, that there was something wrong with me, that it was me, that I wasn’t feeding right or I wasn’t eating right or I wasn’t doing the routine or I wasn’t comforting him correctly or it was all of that questioning and blame of why things were so difficult.

Anna (17:32):
It was all to do with me because everyone around me was telling me that my baby was fine, but he wasn’t sleeping. But then I think he would be in a carrier and I’d be at the GP and he’d be upright and he’d be sleep. So it’d be hard to say Stop. And they’re like, okay, yep, he looks fine. And because he had silent reflux, he wasn’t losing any weight. So I was feeding him relentlessly and I was absolutely, I was besides myself feeling low depressed, hopeless, helpless. I turfed my husband out of the bedroom. He would sleep in the attic, basically this attic room we had that didn’t have a door on, we were in this tiny little terraced house so he could still hear everything and he was still awake. But I didn’t want him to see how hard I found it because I was taking everything.

Anna (18:26):
So as such a statement of how good a job I was doing. So even for him to see me broken and struggling in the middle of the night felt like an acutely vulnerable thing that I didn’t want him to see. So I felt, yeah, who am I to be a therapist or I can’t even sort myself out. I’m broken. And I was still very much at this point kind of plastering on the mascara after crying it all off and going out into the sunshine with my suns on and hiding much of this until lipstick on. Everything’s okay, yeah, don’t worry about me. I’m quite don’t relate to at all. I was broken, broken in so many pieces. And could your friends tell as well? Yeah, they started noticing I was literally fraying around the edges. I think there were points that I was getting 40 minutes a night’s sleep and I could barely string a sentence together.

Anna (19:19):
So there was a point where they said, look, can we take the baby? Can you go and speak to the doctor please, because we really don’t think that you’re okay and you’re clearly not going to tell us about it. And again, it was one of these that’s good friends, the good mates, good mates. It was one of these times where I just felt kind of broke open all over again and just realised quite how much I needed people and realised quite how much I needed to be cared for and needed to let people support me. And I couldn’t just be the one that was doing all the supporting and the caring and the listening and that I needed that too. And that was, again, really uncomfortable for me, but has totally changed my life. And so I downloaded Instagram just as something to do in the middle of the night when I was awake and I was moving house to a new build house, like a white box kind of house.

Anna (20:10):
And I wanted to find out what colour to paint my walls and what cushions to buy. I wanted some inspirations. So I very much started Instagram as an interior design account. It was all honestly nothing about motherhood. It was all basically screenshots of stuff. I think my friends are a bit sick of me sending them screenshots of lamp. So I put it all into this Instagram account. Anna’s not sleeping again, here’s another lamp. Yeah, here’s another lamp, another flipping lamp, another flipping curtain sample. So that’s what my Instagram started now as an interior design account for inspiration. And who knew there’s a whole community of people on Instagram who are moving into new build houses and sharing their journey. So that’s what I found, and that’s a little pocket of the community that I first stepped into. And it

Caroline (21:02):
Helped you, I guess at that point it wasn’t about motherhood. Maybe that was really helpful for you.

Anna (21:06):
Yeah, and I found Mumsy mom and I found Clemmy Telford and I found some of the oldies on there. Look, they’re not old, but you know what I mean. The first original moms that were on there, the OGs sharing a bit more about motherhood in a way that resonate the messier side of motherhood, the more honest, less shiny part of motherhood, which I think just really appealed to me at that point. And then I moved house and I wasn’t interested in lamps anymore because I’d got my lamps and from home sense and I paint my walls and that was that. So I flipping up a bit of home sense. My husband absolutely despises it because we always come out with stuff that we never intended to get. Anyway, so I’d moved house and I started sharing a little bit on Instagram lives when they just begun. And I remember doing a live moved in and I was showing these followers, I can’t remember how many, I had a few thousand then this is my house I’ve moved into. Thanks for all your help. And they were like, what do you actually do? Because surely you don’t just see around all day screenshotting paint. I said, I was like therapist. And they started asking me questions, have you’ve got any tips for anxiety? Have you’ve got any thoughts on guilt? And I started sharing some of my knowledge. I

Caroline (22:16):
Know that. So community led, isn’t it?

Anna (22:18):
So it was just very much, very much started sharing and answering questions really. And I remember the very first post that I put wrote about anxiety and sharing that because it wasn’t about kitchen worktops and stuff anymore. And I thought, my gosh, this feels like a venturing into a different, everyone’s going to run away now I’m not talking about paint, but some people, some people stayed and more people came and I just started sharing bits and tips and thoughts and doing mental health lives, I’d call them. And I discovered that there is something when you read something and it stays with you and it resonates. And I read this term psychoeducation, I was like, oh my gosh, I think that’s what I do. And it’s just sharing psychology in a way that is educative that people can take on. So it’s taking therapy out the therapy room, and I was just overjoyed that it was actually a thing that I was doing and it really just kind of grew from there.

Caroline (23:16):
I love that. And so many things to touch on, especially that your first post was on anxiety. And I think something that was really key to talk about, I dunno how you felt about this as a psychotherapist, but from someone completely not in that world and then thrown into motherhood. It was all about postnatal depression. That was all anyone worried about. I did suffer a bit with my mental health and loneliness during my first pregnancy, but it was like all people cared about was postnatal depression, which has never been something I really get. If anything, I get anxiety, I’m a doer, I’m that sort of person. And then I had PTSD with my second, and I feel like a lot of your content, and now there’s so much more out there that rage is a thing, things like that. And there’s a lot of red flags for mothers to pay attention to or other people to pay attention to. And mothers, before we even get to a point of postnatal depression or it’s never going to get to that point, it’s just something else that could be supported and help. I think platforms like yours have really helped that. I just wanted your take on that.

Anna (24:22):
To be honest, I was just feeling feelings and because when I started, I had a newborn and a toddler, and then I went and had my third in 2019. So I’ve been for however many years I’ve been a mom this year of 10 years. But in those kind of early years for quite a long, yeah, I know. Mad, unbelievable decade. I can’t, yeah, I ever need a present. Forget my son, I want a present. So I was just, I think recognising emotions in myself and applying understanding to them and then talking about ’em, because I knew that if I was, and it was a pandemic, I think brought so much to light, especially when it came to kind of rage in moms. And I just thought, what is wrong with me? I am so rageful, I fly off the handle or I’m having to do everything I can to stop flying off the handle and I don’t see myself as an angry person, so what is going on?
Anna (25:22):
And I would contemplate that and think about it and think, wait a minute, I’m overwhelmed. I haven’t been able to do the things that give me that release, whether ranting to a friend, we couldn’t go anywhere just against someone’s washing machine at a play date when you’re just kind of talking these things, these little things that are just such releases for us mums. And I just thought, man, if I’m feeling more ragey, I’m not going to be alone. So I started talking a little bit about it, gathering some data, some other experiences, and just really sharing this insight that often rage is it’s that peak of unmet need and unvalidated feeling. And I think for me, seeing it through that lens enabled again this compassion of I’m burned out, I’m done in, I am not okay, what do I need? What do I need to ask for to make space for?

Anna (26:26):
What feelings do I need to speak out? And that is so different to, oh my gosh, what is wrong with me? Why am I so angry? My kids deserve better. This kind of self-critical, almost bullying response. And so when it came to rage, for example, I just would start sharing about that because I thought if I’m being mean to myself because I’m not understanding why I’m feeling so angry. And it’s so helpful to reframe it like this because it enables me to think, what can I do off the back of this? What can I learn? How can I support myself instead of criticising myself, then other people will need this too. And it was the same with intrusive thoughts and just being understanding about intrusive thoughts, know what they were clinically. But when you have one about throwing a baby down the stairs, suddenly you’re jarred in a whole new way thinking, what the hell is wrong with me?

Anna (27:24):
I can’t talk this out. What will someone say? They’ll take my baby away. And all of this fear when actually applying my knowledge to it and having that ability to reflect on thinking this is my fight or flight. I’ve got this system in my body that says, get away from a stressor. Stop the stressor. The stressor stresses me out a lot. There’s a part of me that wants it to stop and there’s this other maternal part of me that loves my baby and knows that I’m to keep him safe. And sometimes these things biologically, psychologically, are going to be at war with one another. And that’s when we find ourselves having these thoughts that feel really conflicting with who we know we are and the values that we have and the love that we have. And again, just understanding it like that took the shame away enough for me to talk about it, but also explain it more widely for other people that maybe didn’t know that intrusive thoughts are mind playing with risk and responsibility and power and possibility. And when we’re tired, they can get distorted. And when we’re traumatised, they can be quite fueled. And this insight for me, this recognition was just so, so helpful and alleviated a lot of self-criticism and shame. So yeah, I then just wanted to share that with other people so that hopefully it might do that for them.

Caroline (28:52):
It’s very empowering, isn’t it, because it’s a bit of a cliche thinking, sound awful. Think for people like angry moms. Oh, they’re just being an angry mom, an angry wife. And it’s actually empowering for us to find, well, why are we like that and what can we do about it? And normalise it is the first thing. And then find what we need to because none of us are angry.

Anna (29:14):
Yeah, we’re scared actually. And if we really think about it, often anger is a response to feeling threatened. So there’s a part of you a little you inside going, I’m terrified, I’m scared I’m going to fight because I dunno what else to do. I might feel alone or misunderstood. I’m depleted, I’ve got nothing left. I can’t regulate my emotional response to this stress. And again, when we start seeing it like that, instead of I’m just angry, what’s my problem or what’s her problem? We start seeing some of that vulnerability and it gives us a more compassionate response that we’re likely to actually tend to ourselves and mother ourselves instead of get mad

Caroline (29:59):
Hugely. I’m wondering as well, do you think, I’m only in the early years, so I have no reference point yet. And obviously most people I know are in the early years, but thinking because of my own experience with PTSD, but also there’s a lot of women that suffered birth trauma. And so if I went into flight or fight zone when we almost lost our child, so obviously anger was a symptom, which I can now be a lot kinder about during that periods and how angry anger represented and things. But do you think in the early years it’s a lot more apparent for mothers that anger because of things that can happen to them during that stage?

Anna (30:36):
Absolutely. So that trauma, that feeling of emotional invalidation either by ourselves or by other people, that feeling of being misunderstood, but also when we’re already, our body is already stressed. So when we’re tired, we’re hormonal. Those things are already just navigating a whole new period of life and often pressuring ourselves to know what we’re doing when it’s totally understandable that we’ve got to feel our way through and grow as we go. It is understandable then that we find it hard to regulate and anchor some of these feelings that takes energy. It takes energy to calm ourselves. It takes energy to rationalise anxious thoughts. It takes energy to feel that raise, rise, rage rise up and think, what do I actually need in this moment? I’m not okay. That takes energy and it takes a beat, it requires a beat and a breath. And often when we’re stressed and we’re overwhelmed, we don’t have that, that opportunity. We are just reacting left, right, and centre because we we’re hanging by thread. So yeah, definitely it’s a lot more,

Caroline (31:40):
And I think hormones is such a valuable thing to bring up there. Now we know more because in the past it’s been like oh PMT, and now it’s starting to be like, actually let’s honour my cycle and praise that and realise I am more angry just before my period. And then things like breastfeeding as well where your cycle’s all over the place, you might not have one. And it’s of course, so that’s even more reason you can’t take a breath because your hormones just aren’t in that place.

Anna (32:08):
And if our attitude towards rest, and this is something else that I’m so passionate about talking about because this has totally been changing my life and it’s been a very conscious thing where I’ve had a couple of really messy burnouts, which is a whole nother topic, especially for business owners and mums.

Caroline (32:23):
We’ll do another podcast actually. Yeah,

Anna (32:24):
We need another one on that. We need another one on that. But it’s our attitude towards rest. Rest. Because so often people have guilt around rests and we’re not seeing it as something that doesn’t necessarily us to have a nap or just to lay us around on the sofa, but it’s where are you rushing where you don’t need to be? Where are you setting your standards where they just are not attainable and you’re going to be criticising yourself? Where are you multitasking because you think you’re being productive, but actually it’s a really stressful way of and unproductive way of doing things. Where can you alleviate some of that pressure? Because yeah, we can’t get a lot of rest to get that opportunity to think about how we’re reacting. So how can we build it into our lives? How can we live slightly more rest fully, even if we can’t get more sleep? How are we spending our time? Because when we’re on social media and we’re scrolling our bodies, our nervous systems are stressed, we dunno what we’re going to get

Caroline (33:26):
Next. They’re still being activated. Yes,

Anna (33:28):
You could get a cute picture of a cute copy or you could get a traumatic birth story that resonates with your own and it sends you on this spiral. Suddenly you’re there. True. You dunno what you are going to, your nervous system is holding its breath when you’re on social media. And if you look at the difference in heart rate, heart rate variability between going on social media and reading a book on a Kindle, totally different. One is restful, one is stressful. You could be lying on the sofa thinking you’re resting when actually doing one over the other puts you in a totally different state.

Caroline (34:04):
And how do you personally for you, how do you proactively put in your rest? I meditate, but I know that’s so hard to tell people to start to meditate. You can’t. That’s a proactive choice you have to make yourself, but how do you do it?

Anna (34:19):
So meditation. So I do at the minute we get up early, my husband and I get up early, he goes downstairs, I stay upstairs and I sit on my yoga mat and I light candle. And this is normally like six o’clock in the morning. My kids are at an age now where they don’t barrel into our room until seven. So

Caroline (34:35):
That’s a new season that I’m looking

Anna (34:37):
For. Its a new

Caroline (34:37):
At some point.

Anna (34:38):
Absolutely. I mean it’s often quite fraught. I normally have someone in with me, I’m normally in and out telling them to get into their rooms. So it is not as idyllic as it sounds. But I do engage in spiritual practise. I like read devotionals. I do some meditation, I do a little bit of yoga and I might have got this totally smug cold plunged thing outside the back door, right? Yeah. So it’s been three degrees. I’m jealous and I love it because you have to be so disciplined and then you can transfer that to other parts of your life. And it is just this reminder to breathe. I breathe my way through that two minutes when everything in me is telling me to get out. And my middle son who’s seven, he’s autistic, so he has a lot of meltdowns. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever Hard for you.

Anna (35:28):
Yeah, it’s so hard. So I then use that technique of just breathing and thinking this is hard, but it will pass. It is hard. So I find that really transferable. So at the moment that is what we’re doing and I’m finding that really, really helpful. But other things just slowing down around the house. I’m like, why am I running from room to room? Anna, what are you doing? I’m telling my body that I’m a threat. My nervous system thinks I’m being chased and massively putting boundaries around my phone usage, my emails and my social media and thinking, do I really want to step into the office right now? Do I really want to open my dms? Do I really want to open my email and be thinking about work? So I have arrow words, many favourites. So I have crosswords and arrow words to hand because if I do that, I

Caroline (36:13):
Don’t know arrow words.

Anna (36:15):
Oh my gosh. Oh Caroline, you need to get involved. They’re like crosswords, but the questions are in the little boxes in the grid thing, so you don’t have to keep looking over the other page. Love it.

Caroline (36:25):
Okay. Oh, look into

Anna (36:26):
It. But if I’m sat on the sofa with my kids and I’m on my phone, my head’s in that zone. If they talk to me, I have this stress in my body because my head’s in that zone, they’re pulling me out to a different zone and it’s like this tug of four. Whereas if I’m reading a book or doing an hour wide, you’re so much more interruptible.

Caroline (36:48):
Yeah, I’ve noticed that actually. I started reading a bit during downtime and I’m like, this is a lot less antisocial than because yes, I don’t want to watch another Julia Donaldson for half an hour, but if I read during it, I’m still more present

Anna (37:03):
And your body is calmer. And another thing that I’ve stopped, so again, these aren’t all sitting down on the sofa kind of things, but I’ve stopped drinking for six months to see what that does to me. And again, it’s one of these things that for years I thought this is my rest. This is my cutoff, this is my treat when actually understanding what it does to my body, understanding what it’s doing to my heart rate, to my heart rate variability, which is your body’s ability to respond to and adapt to stress. It’s not restful at all. I’m actually trashing all of this lovely meditation that I’m doing, this deep breaths that I’m doing. I’m thinking I’m relaxing on the sofa when actually my body body is stressed and my sleep is trashed. So again, oh,

Caroline (37:48):
It’s terrible for sleep. Terrible. I would’ve to go through a process of learning that as well.

Anna (37:52):
Yes, yes, absolutely. So whilst sometimes inside I feel like I am a toddler saying I want a glass of wine, I know that it is actually the biggest gift I’ve ever given myself and my children because it makes me a little bit more patient.

Caroline (38:09):
Have you stopped drinking now then?

Anna (38:11):
Is it Yeah, so I’ve stopped drinking. So I haven’t drank now for about three months and I’ve got another three months of my, I’m not drinking for six months and then I’m going to reassess and I think I probably will just stop because I just can’t see all the benefits. I don’t want to let go of the benefits. I’d love to be maybe have a glass of wine once a month, something, but I don’t know. I need to see if I’m the kind of person that can do that or whether I’d be leaning towards that a little bit too much. So I’ll reassess that and…
Caroline (38:43):
That’s really good. You’ve done it in that way of six months, not forever kind of thing. I think then that’s another thing to be hard on yourself about. Absolutely. You change your mind kind of thing, which I think is always really important to have that choice of I’m going to try this and if it doesn’t work out

Anna (39:01):
Well, it so works. It is literally my husband’s doing it with me. Oh, is he very, yeah, he is actually. So it’s really great actually that he’s doing it with me. Otherwise, I think I would be a little at some points, but just actually really understanding the nervous system, really understanding how doing what you can to look after yourself really, really does enable you to have that breath between the kids doing something or a tough night and how you respond. And I always say I was like caveat, want to caveat everything that I say with more of the time, not all of the time. And I think it’s helping more of the time, not all of the time I still shout and lose my call at points and behave and respond in a way that I am sad about, but I see that as a little flag that pops up and says, you need something here, Anna, or you’re Al and you just need to go a little bit easier on yourself and cut some corners or whatever that may be. But yeah, I think the biggest gift that we can give ourselves is to really understand how our bodies work, how our nerve systems work and what some of those tweaks, changes, swaps are that we can actually give ourselves the best chance at feeling calm.

Caroline (40:18):
Yeah, I love that. I started, I realised I was drinking the same sort of coffee levels I was when I was a real sleep deprived mom. And so I now have one in the morning and that’s it. And my friend was like, why would you do that? And I was like, it’s just another thing I’ve learned isn’t good for me.

Anna (40:37):
Yeah, yeah. Because actually coffee and caffeine, what it does to your body, it is the same. It gives you the same symptoms as anxiety. It’s kind of revved up.

Caroline (40:47):
I’m an anxious person clearly, so why would I do that?

Anna (40:50):
Well, exactly. Well, I know I feel very much that I need to, my coffee intakes just gone up because I just flipping
Caroline (40:56):
Love it. Well, you’ve done alcohol, you’ve got to, this is another important highlight. Pick your battles. I haven’t done alcohol. I’ve cut back a lot, but not completely,

Anna (41:05):
No gentle. And also I think when you’re juggling work and kids and it’s allow yourself to learn first. So when we want to make a change, it can feel really hard because we’re kind of battling against art desire to engage in those things. They serve us in some way. Alcohol for me was an off switch, at least I thought it was. But the more so I started learning before I changed anything, I started listening to podcasts, learning and understanding. And then as a result, your desire changes. So sometimes it’s the kindest way to do it is think right? I want to make a change, but I feel like I’m fighting against myself. So where can I learn? Where can I really understand how is this going to benefit me so that actually I want the benefits more than I want the fight. And it makes that fight a lot easier.

Caroline (41:56):
That’s so valuable. And that’s a good point. You touched on working motherhood. This podcast is a lot. There’ll be a lot of people who are trying really struggling to get that balance between, and there isn’t a balance. Integration establish when to work, not to work, and like I said, checking your emails when you’re around your kids and what that does to your nervous system. I’ve learned a lot again to say about that, which is more reinforcement for me on how I need to manage my day. How do you manage yours? Do you work during school hours? Do you have particular times? What’s been your learning from doing what you do?

Anna (42:29):
We speak at a time where I’ve had this massive, over Christmas, I deleted Instagram and I was a different person, Caroline, I was a different person because these things creep in and they creep up. And our boundaries, they creep often. It’s like that frog in a boiling pan of water and the temperature just slowly gets turned up so it doesn’t jump out. Whereas if you would suddenly find yourself with the boundaries where they are now, you’d think, what the heck am I doing? This isn’t okay. But it’s a slow creeping, I think because our whole culture is, and a social media and the internet and the online world and our phones, they’re designed to keep us there more and more. So unless we’re so vigilant, we just going to, we’re not failing, we’re being manipulated. And it’s incredibly powerful, far more powerful than we are.

Anna (43:19):
So over Christmas, I think it was just a case of totally switching off and then having to redownload Instagram. And I delayed it three times because physically I would feel panicked at the thought of going back on it because I didn’t know where my boundaries, how I would hold these boundaries. And I think sometimes, especially when you’re working for yourself as well, there can be a real fear that if you pull back in one area, then everything else will fall apart or you won’t get work or, so there’s a lot of trust going on right now as I’ve pulled back and I’ve just realised now my kids are older. I think the younger years felt quite generic in the thoughts that I was having, the feelings that I was having and the experiences that I was putting out there. Whereas now my kids are older and I feel like the challenges that we have are a lot more nuanced.

Anna (44:09):
I feel like I want to really honour my children in not sharing some of the specifics of the struggles that we have, especially as a mom of an autistic child. So I decided I didn’t really want to share as much of the detail of my day anymore, what I was up to and how my kids were. And whilst I’ve never shared them on social media, I have spoken about them. So I’ve come back and yeah, I’m not doing that anymore and I’m going to be sharing a lot more just quotes. And I’ve got help, a lovely colleague helping me pull some of those quotes from my books and my blogs and all of these things I’ve written. So I’ve really reassessed it and it’s going to look quite different. And that feels quite scary. But I think sometimes just having these reassessments of where are our boundaries? Are they in line with the values that we have? I want to be present for my kids, yet I’m on the sofa doing emails and I’m cooking their dinner whilst we are applying to dms, is that often we override that little voice inside of us or that feeling in our gut that just feels a bit, ugh,

Anna (45:20):
We get to the end of the day, we want to throw our phone out the window. And that’s saying something. And I think it’s just what we call in psychology is this cognitive dissonance, is this awareness that what you’re doing isn’t really in line with what you want to be doing. So for me, bringing a lot of intentionality, asking myself, do I want to be going, Anna, do you really want to check your email right now? Do you really want to go on Instagram right now? And having boundaries that I don’t go on either before 9:00 AM and after a set time in the evening. And it’s hard because we’re wired to do the same thing, so my thumbs will find its way there and I’ll catch myself. So it is, is just starting to ask us stuff, is this what you really want? Is this what I really want to be doing right now? And knowing that when we lump these things together, when I lump my dms together and I lump my emails together, actually, it’s so much more efficient.

Caroline (46:16):
And I love that. I feel like you’re in a new, speaking of seasons, a new season, Anna, that you’ve entered into that will and you can share this sorts of stuff. And the journey you’ve gone on with that. And I know many will relate, and I was going to ask you what’s next? But I feel like this is what’s next for you. It is just this new season,

Anna (46:37):
Seeing what goes. And I think sometimes there can be fear if I change this, how will it impact that? But I think yes,

Caroline (46:44):
Hugely.

Anna (46:45):
I’ve got to keep my eye on the bottom line of finances, make sure I’m ticking the bottom line boxes, and then just actually protect those boundaries. Because what is more important isn’t necessarily earning that little bit extra. And that’s a real privilege for me where my bottom line can be is actually I don’t know what will happen tomorrow in life. I lost a sibling. Who knows what will happen tomorrow. But I want to be able to, my mom says to me, I look back and I have no regrets on how I parented how present I was. And I think, man, I don’t think I can say that. I

Caroline (47:23):
Don’t think I can say that already. Yeah.

Anna (47:26):
So I’ve got that in my mind, that conversation I had with her. And I dunno what will happen tomorrow. And I don’t say that to live in fear, I just say that to bring perspective of how is what you’re doing now and the decisions that you make, those are the momentary decisions. How in line with your real heart, passion, vision, desires for your life and your family? How in line are they? Because it’s these little decisions that we make that often find us in that place of feeling uncomfortable because we know we’re not being true to ourselves and authentic to our values. So yeah, I have that in ringing in my ears what my mom says, that she has no regrets. And I want to be able to say that. And I can’t say that looking back. And I want to be able to say that from this stage in my life that I made some changes and I built my business to this point, but it came at a cost and now I want to step out almost in faith of changing the boundaries and seeing what happens. And if it all goes to pot, I can start seeing clients again in my living room and it’ll be okay.

Caroline (48:35):
I love that. It’s such a great, thank you for sharing. It’s kind of like it came at a cost to build it to a certain place, I think. But also, I’ve always had this with my business as well. If it all goes to pot, I can be a VA again and start seeing clients and there will be people that have me and it’ll just look different. And I think that’s always, always actually served me well when starting business because I failed before. And if you fail, and I think I was going to ask you to share something, but I think we’ve already got to this point of that you are going through a new season, something might change, you won’t fail Anna, but if it did, that’s okay. And that’s a real level of confidence you’ve got to. So thank you for sharing.

Anna (49:20):
Oh, thank you. It’s definitely, I think confidence is often quite a wave, but we just have to really hold on to the things that we know to be true is that to this point in life, it is worked out maybe sometimes not in the way that we expect or the way that we hope, but we’re okay. And when it comes at a cost of feeling present with your kids or feeling lacking, ease in yourself and feeling like you’re not being authentic, then that’s a real high cost. That’s a real high cost. So what little decisions can you make in the moment that feel more aligned with that and who knows where you’ll end up, but at the end of the day, there will be a job somewhere doing something that enables you to take those boxes. So yeah, just hold things loosely and just keep checking in with yourself

Caroline (50:10):
And you speak so highly of your mom, so I have no doubts that your kids will do the same one day. So you say

Anna (50:16):
The same. I’m trying, we’re just doing our best, don’t we?

Caroline (50:21):
That is the dream. And Anna, honestly, thank you so much for sharing mean, I learned a lot, reaffirmed a lot with me as well about my path and I hope I know there will be for others. Where can people find you? Where would you like to send people to if they want to learn more or they’re interested in more about discovering their journey and path?

Anna (50:43):
Yeah, so Anna Mathur on Instagram and there’s a little thing in the bio and it takes you to the podcast, which are all like 10, 20 minute episodes and books. Of course it is all there.
Caroline (50:56):
Get your moments of rest by listening to the podcast and reading your books. See that’s much better than scrolling. Yes,

Anna (51:03):
Absolutely. Go out for a walk and listen to some nurturing words and

Caroline (51:08):
Do

Anna (51:08):
Better for, right. Thanks for having me.

Caroline (51:10):
No, thank you so much. And yeah, thank you. And good luck with your next season.

Anna (51:15):
Thank you.

Outro

Thank you so much for listening to Bump to Business Owner. I hope you enjoyed the conversation. Please do rate, review, follow or subscribe wherever you’re listening. It really helps us to connect with more mums and business owners. You can DM me at Bump to Business Owner on Instagram and I’ll be back next week.

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