No matter where you are in your journey as a mama or what path you’ve chosen for yourself and your family, mothering is exhausting.
Of course, it’s so many more things –good things – too. But, caring for the physical, mental and emotional well-being of another human being requires physical, mental and emotional energy.
If you tap out on any of these energy sources, you just can’t keep going.
Usually when this happens, we think the problem is lack of sleep. Granted, if you have a newborn at home or a babe that likes to party in the wee hours of the night, it’s likely you’re not getting enough sleep. But, for those of us who can get five, six or more hours of uninterrupted shut-eye, the answer may not always be to sleep more.
It may be time to replenish your energy in other ways.
It’s what the health and wellness community calls self-care. If you’re anything like me, self-care may make you cringe a tiny bit. Self-care has become another thing moms have to do in their day, another item on the list that goes unticked.
Amidst all the responsibilities at home, at work and elsewhere, the very last thing we want to be told is that we should take time out to get our nails done or our hair colored. If we feel we don’t have the time to do the basics, how could we take even more time out to spend several hours indulging ourselves at the spa?
At least that’s how I used to think.
Self-care to me was selfish, an extravagance I never felt I fully deserved, and ultimately, an activity that left me feeling stressed and anxious (I’ve sat in many a salon chair thinking about all the things I could or should be doing instead).
But self-care, I’m learning, doesn’t have to be extravagant or require a lot of time.
Instead, it can be simple things – many of which we already do – that can bring far better rewards to our day, giving us the fuel and perspective we need to keep going.
Here are five of them.
1. Pack a lunch/snack
We all need to eat, right? But, for many busy moms, eating healthy meals and snacks that fuel our bodies and minds is easier said than done.
I have gone through countless days when I haven’t eaten enough, let alone well enough. On those days, I usually end my day hungry and hangry – a mix that never bodes well for anyone. Plus, I end up eating easy and tasty treats that offer very little in the nutritional department and keep me feeling unsatisfied and depleted.
In an act of self-care, I now make an extra lunch for me when I’m packing lunches for my girls. I also try to keep a granola bar or a handful of nuts in my handbag at all times, so no matter where my day leads me I won’t go without food.
2. Move your body
There are countless studies showing the incredible health benefits of exercise, including boosting energy levels and improving your mood.
I’m so not the right person to convince you to start a new workout regime. But, we need to move our bodies every day. Even better if we get moving outdoors.
Sometimes it’s as simple finding ways to take extra steps in my day – a dear workmate of mine always used the bathroom a floor up from her office just so she would walk up and down the stairs. Or you could get into the habit of standing when talking on the phone or checking your social media feeds. Or, and this is a fav of mine, you can dance it out.
3. Connect with your people
We’re hardwired to connect with others, or so says researcher Brené Brown. Yet, so many moms – new moms who are confined to nap and feeding schedules as well as those who venture out into the world every day – struggle to make valid, real connections with others.
There’s no need to go out and meet new people, but your well-being depends on you fostering relationships with the people who are already in your life. This could be family and close friends, but it could those you don’t know very well or at all.
It’s great if you can do this in person, but it’s just as effective to chat over text message, engage in positive conversations on Facebook or to talk over the phone.
4. Take a moment
There are few things as infuriating as someone telling you to slow down when there is so much to do. And, I’m about to do that very thing.
Science shows that even brief breaks in the day can make you more focused, more productive and happier. Sure, taking time out of your day to do the things you love – like reading a book or enjoying a glass of wine by the fire – is great. But, I don’t always find time to do those things.
Instead, I focus on smaller, briefer moments. On work days, I take a moment when I start up my computer. It usually took a few moments, so take the opportunity to sit still and do nothing. How can you find ways to do nothing for a moment or two? And, stealing an extra minute or two in a locked bathroom is completely acceptable.
5. Appreciate the little things
Expressing gratitude is a common self-care practice – one we likely owe to Oprah. But, like getting a manicure, having a gratitude journal gets me all anxious. Another box that goes unticked.
That was until I realized my glass half-empty daughter, Elia, needed some help to refocus her attention away from the negative.
So, at bedtime, I now ask my girls to tell me about one good thing from their day. It doesn’t have to be spectacular or extraordinary in any way – just good. A friend shared crayons or they jumped in the puddles on the way home from school or they got to hug their doll after school.
I started to join them, and on evenings when I don’t tuck the girls in for the night, I say my little “gratefuls” aloud to myself as I settle into bed myself. Like Elia, I could pick on all the things that went wrong in my day or places where I could have done better. So, focusing on just one little thing from my day brings me peace of mind at the end of the day.
I challenge you to try one of these self-care practices and I’d love to hear how they’re working for you. If these aren’t for you, tell us in the comments below what other simple things you can do in your day to care for yourself so you can keep doing and being the amazing mama you need to be.