Anna Mathur embodies all the best bits of social media. While it goes without saying that she’s SO much more than her online presence, there’s something about the space she’s cultivated online that is safe, welcoming and lets parents know they’re held, seen and supported. The mum of three and psychotherapist is on a mission to reframe how we see self-care and to close the gap between Mary Poppins and becoming The Hulk! Hard relate.
Widely respected for her honesty and kindness, Anna originally worked in GP surgeries and private practices but in 2017, she downloaded Instagram searching for interiors inspo. Dealing with depression and anxiety after navigating sleepless nights and the trauma that comes with undiagnosed silent reflux, she took to Instagram Live. When she mentioned she was a psychotherapist, people began to ask questions about their mental health, requesting tips and ideas for things that might help them gain clarity for themselves. Thus began her weekly Instagram lives focussed on maternal mental health. These sessions, combined with her work, opened up her eyes to other people’s experiences of parenthood.
I know I’m not alone
She told Gi: “The immense privilege that I have as a therapist is that I know I’m not alone as someone who has been privy to to the background, the bits under the rug, the bits kind of shoved in cupboards, the emotional mess, the the chaos behind the closed doors. I’ve been privy to that with fellow mums for so many years now I can talk about rage. I can talk about guilt I can talk about those moments where I want to throw the pasta at the wall or run out the door and I know with certainty that I am not alone. I know the stories so it takes a shame away”.
The gap between us as Mary Poppins and The Hulk is paper thin
For Anna, one of the biggest things she’s noticed in these conversations is how often we minimise the things we need to do to take care of ourselves, especially once we become mothers. As a result, she’s begun a campaign to transform how mums approach that. She explains:
“I ask people ‘what do you do for self-care?’ and people are like ‘I have a shower’ or they tell me they drank a glass of water and I’m like ‘oh my gosh!’. My husband would not step out of the shower and be like ‘my self care – OK I’ve ticked that box’ or drink a glass of water and think he’s done it. I’m like ‘what’s going on here?’ There’s no wonder the gap between us as Mary Poppins and The Hulk is paper thin because these are acts of respect – that’s not self-care”.
We all have limits. We have to start respecting them.
So how do we make sure we’re moving from self-respect to self care? It’s about giving ourselves what we need to give others. Anna says: “If I want to give patience, gentleness and kindness, you can’t give (or it’s very costly to give) what you haven’t got. So therefore I need that and if I want to meet my kids needs I have to start meeting my own.”
But for many of us, meeting our own needs can feel like a failure. Anna explains: “We can’t give what we haven’t got so after that moment you know where all this guilt and the shame pours in of like I’m not patient enough, I’m not strong enough, I can’t do this and actually – we’re not failing, we’ve just met our limits. But we all have limits. We have to start respecting them.”
Vulnerability deepens relationships
Anna also spoke to Gi about how her own mental health was impacted by motherhood. She said: “I think one of the most harmful things about it all was my kind of perfectionism and my desire just to kind of keep calm and carry on and not accept support. I was just turning to myself and thinking I was doing something wrong, I wasn’t feeding right or I needed to try and get him to sleep like this and it just took me to the absolute end of myself.”
But it was vulnerability that led to her finding her strength – reaching out and asking for help led to a solution. We all remember the Queen of the Castle saying there’s strength in vulnerability, but it’s a sentiment Anna echoed on the pod: “vulnerability deepens relationships. It’s can be very hard when you take that step to be vulnerable and someone doesn’t necessarily understand or or respond in a way that you hope but often what it does is it deepens that relationship.”
Watch all of Gi’s chat with Anna Mathur for more incredible insights into looking after your mental health in the video below, or listen to the episode wherever you usually get your podcasts.