Between cooking and cleaning, diapers and learning, it’s not a surprise a mother’s needs drop to the bottom of the list. The tiny (or tall) offspring have invaded your daily schedule and left you with no time and sometimes no money to cater to your very important (yes, I said important!) needs.
I am terrible at this but I’m working on it. Through that work, I’ve found different ways to care for myself that don’t break the bank or leave me more exhausted than I was before. Of course, if you’re well off then you can simply hire a nanny and escape to some beautiful spa for a day or weekend; that’s not realistic for many of us and we are suffering because of it.
Are you forgetting to feed yourself? Are you bathing everyone except yourself? Do you ever sleep? Those sort of things may happen once in a while but they can’t continue long term without severe consequences that affect not only you but your family as well. When I wasn’t sleeping and not eating enough I was grumpy, anxious and I was definitely not the positive, peaceful parent I aspire to be. This realization would overwhelm me more and perpetuate unnecessary mom guilt until I was told by others that no, I needed to care for myself first. I need my oxygen mask on first before I put on everyone else’s mask.
This is true even if you don’t have children. If work, family, friends are using you up and you’re leaving nothing for yourself then what is the point? You can’t help others or be your best self if you’re always burnt out. It will catch up one day.
This post contains affiliate links, please enjoy shopping and supporting my blog! Thank you. Here are some realistic ways I’ve found self-care:
1. Morning ritual – I have two small kids so I have to feed them (and the dogs and chickens) but after that, I have coffee and read my bible or devotional for ten minutes. This is my routine that brings me calm. I do this even if the kids are arguing and the kitchen is messy. You may have tea and read a novel or the newspaper, the point is to make it happen for yourself even if the house is a mess.
2. A hot bath – A nice soak in an Epsom salt bath helps me relax and check out of all my stresses for a brief time. I usually try for after dinner when dad and the kids can have some much-needed play time together and I can disappear for 15 min. This doesn’t happen every day but often enough for it to help significantly. This is my mini spa experience.
3. One-a-day activities – So I love trying to do one ‘thing’ a day that’s just for me. Right now it’s a drawing/doodle a day. Some of them are awesome and others not so much but I enjoy the process. Other ideas are; make one card a day, write one letter a day for a week or two, journal in that forgotten journal, or maybe you write a page a day of that book you said you always wanted to write. The idea is to not stress over it and let it be your time, maybe when the kids nap or are at an extracurricular activity.
4. Massage your muscles – Ideally, a massage is the perfect self-care and it works wonder on stress, but that isn’t going to happen for some of us. Whether it’s time or money, or maybe it’s a clingy teething baby, it isn’t happening anytime soon but there are alternatives to help ease muscle tension in the meantime. Using a foam roller can slowly work out the knots and kinks and requires only you and the foam roller. Other tools you can use are a tennis ball or any firm ball or item that rolls. Find a wall or use the ground and gently roll the muscle for 30 seconds.
5. Go for a walk – even if that doesn’t sound relaxing. Getting outdoors, with or without the family, is great for your physical and mental health. You can make it as easy or hard as you want; the idea is to make it enjoyable. Walk in your own neighborhood or go on a hike, with music or without, fast or slow, you decide! Even if you’re already a gym buff who can run a marathon, walking and relaxing is different than completing a run for time and endurance (which is also fantastic for your body and mind!). Take in your surroundings and recenter your thoughts and your goals. Take deep breaths.
6. Skin care can be soothing- Whip up a homemade face mask like one of these or use a store bought one and feel revitalized with minimal effort. Cut up some cucumbers and toss them in the freezer while you prep the mask and cool your sleepy eyes after you rinse the mask off. If this has to be done right before bed because the kids would never leave you alone, then make the time right before bed to do it! You’ll thank yourself when you feel refreshed. Our skin and appearance can still matter even though our go to is now a mom bun with yoga pants. We’ll be glowing in those yoga pants!
7. Join a group of some kind that has nothing to do with kids- this one can be as difficult or simple as you make it, depending on your situation. Ideas for different kinds of groups are things like book clubs, church groups, gardening groups, political clubs, crochet/knitting groups, or whatever your hobby is… a group of people who do the same! If you can’t find your group then make one. Having like minded adults around to talk to about similar interests is invaluable when you spend your days with children. You don’t even have to physically meet often if you can’t get childcare, you can chat online and share inspiration and thoughts/ideas until you are able to meet again.
8. Hug more often – Ok, I know this one seems odd at face value but hear me out. I’m not a hugger and never have been. The fact is that hugging is known to improve our overall health and wellness! For me, if I’m having a hard time and I feel like I’m stressed and saying “NO” or “STOP THAT” too many times, I stop and ask if they’d like a hug. It de-escalates the situation and my cortisol levels drop down. It also can bring a closeness to relationships that will leave us feeling more like a community and less like people nearby all trying to survive. Obviously, I don’t go around hugging strangers and I always ask but trust me, just try it… it’s free.
9. Stay hydrated – yes. Drink water all throughout the day, even if you hate water. As a breastfeeding mom, this is more than just important it is vital and necessary. You’ll avoid the evil 3 pm drag and make it through the afternoon without wanting to throw the kids out back. It will help your skin, mood, milk supply if nursing, appetite, the list is long and it’s definitely worth it. If you hate drinking water try decaf tea or fruit infused water. Or do what I do and just make it a rule that you’ll drink X amount and you do it as if it’s medicine for your body; necessary and routine.
10. Positive self-talk – My therapist told me one way to increase my self-esteem and self-worth was to accept all compliments with thank you. Try it! I also started mantras such as “I am strong” and “I am capable” because when you’re a mom and your somewhat isolated some of the time, you won’t hear it from others unless you reach out. We have to be our best fan and advocate even if we don’t believe it at first. It’s a fake it til you make it sort of a thing. Hang positive affirmations about yourself where you’ll see them daily and repeat them during really hard moments. Eventually, it will stick and your perception of yourself will change and with it, your life.