After a long time away, my writing voice came calling this week, sparked by a conversation with my friend Hannah about the overwhelm and triggers that fall out of house moves and big life changes. While messaging with her, I wrote that I find moving SUPER unsettling. On top of that, I’m really excited about lots of it… but the trouble with that? Too much excitement is SUUUPER unsettling for me as well. Double whammy.
It’s always interesting when the truth spills out of you on to the page or screen. I had a moment of clarity. Ah ok so that’s how I’m feeling.
Add to that a fair few layers of loss and impending loss (my dear Nanna is only just hanging on with us right now, we’ll soon be leaving family and friends when we move and our beloved school is closing) and the picture builds. It seems that overwhelm, uprootedness and daily rounds of ALL the emotions are here to stay awhile and this is what I’m noticing…
Small things like clothes left on the bathroom floor are really bothering me. As is noise, which is inescapable in my house. Not my usual way, but I’m needing acres of quiet, order and alone time to process and unpack all the feelings. Sometimes I’m not making the most loving choices for myself which puts my inner voice on a trajectory that’s not helpful or kind. It can feel like floating and spinning and losing contact with the ground. It shows up as low patience, self-doubt, over-sensitivity and zero headspace for small talk. Man, I must be a joy to live with right now.
Moving house, loss and endings tend to trigger us all in some way or another. They are big life events and even if some of them come about by choice, it’s so very normal to be unsettled and overwhelmed by them. There’s probably no avoiding the stuff that gets thrown up. It becomes about how we weather it, how we support ourselves and what we make the stuff mean.
The irony of writing this is that a few days ago I could not have voiced what I was doing to support myself – it was so unconscious. I might’ve assumed I was doing nothing at all. Having a conversation with somebody in a similar headspace helped me see what I was doing and, crucially, what I’ve been missing.
So, I’m sharing here my ways of seeing myself through this period of change. Maybe they’re strategies, but that word feels a bit heady and clinical. I’m choosing instead to call them rituals. Rituals that are supportive and loving and, in some respects, sacred – repeated for as long as they’re needed. They might serve as a pick and mix for others in unsettling times. And if you have any to add I’d love to hear them.
Keeping on top of the small stuff
I can cope with my head being a mess if I can look around and see order. My house hasn’t reached virgo levels of tidiness in at least a decade. My little and big housemates don’t share that impulse with me. But right now, keeping floors and surfaces relatively clear, being on top of the washing, having the fridge well-stocked, ticking off the jobs – it all helps me to feel there’s some order in the chaos.
Parking anything it’s not time for
Like the packing. Who wants to spend Christmas surrounded by boxes? Unless you have to, of course, but we don’t. Our move will likely go through late January so we can afford to just live in our house during December and enjoy our last Christmas here before the boxes roll in.
My friend tells me to investigate a packing service. When she made a long distance move, the cost of the packing service didn’t really add much to the removal cost. I don’t know if that will be the case with our move but… imagine!
Hibernating as needed (but knowing when it’s enough)
Quiet alone time at home is like oxygen right now. Time and space to potter, plan, think and feel does a lot for my mental state. Too much though and the inner dialogue can go awry. I don’t get much child-free time anyway but when I do I’m trying to be discerning about what I need. Hibernate at home or roam outside? I could really do with a short-term loan of someone’s dog. The last time I had this much change and loss in one go I literally walked my way through it; pounding streets, paths and beaches with my dog.
Doing what I know comforts me
Big pots of warming, comforting food. Lighting the fire. Piling on woolie jumpers. Reading and listening to words that touch my soul. Going to bed super early. Sometimes taking the laptop to escape into Poldark or The Crown. Pinning ideas for our new home. Snuggling up for storytime with my boys. Knitting a jumper for my littlest love.
Oh I had big plans for Autumn/Winter/Advent/Christmas crafting and creating, at home and within my work. But. It took me a while, but I did eventually learn that when you have enough on your plate, you take things off rather than pile more on.
My lovely friend Sara and I, when our babies were little, used to talk a lot about low expectation days. We’d gift them to ourselves when we were in massive overwhelm, which was quite often with two babes who hardly slept. Well, right now, I’m gifting myself a season of low expectation days. We’ll do some of the stuff I dreamt up, but not all and that will be just fine.
Increasingly my home feels like an apothecary (and I couldn’t be happier about it!). What I’m reaching for at the moment are: warming, spicy, gingery teas to chase off the cold I’ve had, green smoothies and plenty of beetroot and other roots for chi-boosting, blood-building qualities. I know of old the ways in which stress depletes my body. I’m about to top up on herbs from my dear herbalist friend Jodie. Her herbal tincture mixes for nervous system support have seen me through many times of stress or change. Rose (for grief), Avena (for soothing) and Borage (for courage) often feature strongly in my personal mixes. I’m also trying to make sure I’m getting my b vits because a battered nervous system will need them. I prefer to get what I need through my diet but since I eat largely plant-based a supplement is sometimes helpful. At the mo, popcorn with Himalayan salt and nutritional yeast (source of b vits) is a big favourite in our house.
When I come up against big emotional stuff I head to my homeopath. And daily I’m getting huge benefits from diffusing and applying essential oils. I signed up with dōTERRA* a few months back and I’m finding it truly awe-inspiring to have blends that uplift, calm, ground and support me in my arsenal. They’re doing wonders for the whole household. And then there’s my mainstay… Epsom salt baths for the win.
(*Not an ad but this page links to my account, meaning I get a commission for orders placed through it)
Could do more of…
For all I’m doing, it’s mostly in snatched moments in and around the busyness of life with two children, alongside moving house paperwork and hospital visiting. I could do with doing a little more of all of it. It’s one thing picking up the herbs but I need to consistently take them. I’ve been feast and famine with yoga and doing zero meditiation. One day I will nail these as daily practices, I will, I will.
Whenever I’ve stood in the middle of a life storm I’ve known that I have a choice. To get whipped up and carried away by the stuff and busyness and the emotion of it. Or to be in it while holding onto the knowledge that there’s an end point somewhere. It will all settle down again. It will look very different when it does, but it will look how it’s supposed to. And I’ll walk around in the new normal and be grateful for both what came before and the shift to what is now.
I’ve been imagining a time in the early Spring when the storm has blown itself out, when the Winter is slipping away and I walk out of my new house with many of the goodbyes I’m right now anticipating (dreading?) behind me and I see shoots of green poking through the soil in my new garden. And I breathe out. I breathe into the newness and begin to feel settled again. As a visualisation it’s really working for me. I really look forward to returning to a place of feeling settled, though for now I’ll root into today as much as I can. For all it’s unsettledness and times when I want to hide in a cupboard, it’s still all pretty awesome, this journey of mine.
I’m just thinking that writing should join the list somewhere. It’s been a really help to write all this down. Hurrah for the writing impulse returning! Thought I’d scared it off for good this time.
I’d love for you to share any tips or rituals you have for helping yourself get through in the comments below, if you’d like to. And if you’re going through all the changes at the moment, give a wave – we could form a virtual circle of support xo