Self-Care for Busy Moms
You probably read the title of this post and laughed a little. "Self-care? Who's got the time for self-care when there's seven loads of laundry to be done, three loads of dishes, homework to help with, dinner to make... and if you've got another job on top of all that? Forget it!" Trust me, I hear you. But I promise, it really can (and should) be done! This list of simple self-care tips and ideas will help you come up with ways to take care of yourself so you can better take care of everything else.
You might be thinking "self-care" is just another buzzword, but not so fast! Sure, it's become super popular recently, but it's for good reason! Have you ever heard the phrase "you can't pour from an empty cup"? Basically what that means is, you can't take care of anyone else well if you're not taking care of yourself first. If there's no water in your cup, there's no water to pour into anyone else's cup.
Think about it like this. When they give the in-flight presentation about what to do in case of an emergency, and the flight attendant tells you that you have to put your own oxygen mask on before you try to help anyone else put on their oxygen mask? That's because you can't help someone else if you're not getting oxygen yourself. Self-care is like putting on your own oxygen mask first - only you shouldn't wait until your metaphorical plane is crashing to do it.
What Constitutes Self-Care?
Anything. No, really! We're not saying self-care has to be extravagant vacations or mani-pedis and spa days. I mean, self-care CAN be those things sometimes (if you've got them, use those vacation days!) but it doesn't have to be. I'm talking about doing little things just for yourself, and they don't have to be expensive, or really even cost anything at all. Self-care is just anything you intentionally do for yourself that makes you really, truly feel good. We'll leave the specific activities up to you, but below are general areas you can focus on to help nurture yourself from the inside out.
Remember: the key to self-care, and sometimes the downside to it, is that you have to be incredibly intentional about your self-care. You have to set aside this time for yourself and your self-care activity, and then actually do it. Treat this like a doctor appointment that you just can't miss. It's so easy to just push it off when other things come up, but that kind of behavior leads to burn-out. The goal is to prevent that.
This might be the hardest self-care of all, which is why we're listing it first. Mental self-care is all about taking care of yourself psychologically - and how you treat yourself psychologically has a big impact on the rest of you.
There are so many ways to practice mental self-care, but you should probably start by just going easy on yourself. Give yourself permission to make mistakes, tell yourself how beautiful you are and how strong your body is, start the day by listing 3 things you love about yourself. If you're on a weight-loss journey that's taking a toll on you mentally, maybe your self-care means ditching the scale. If a brush of mascara is an instant mood-boost, throw a little on in the morning and start your day on a high. If you're a people-pleaser who tends to overextend themselves (yeah, I see you) then work on getting comfortable saying "no" to things you can't or don't want to do. It won't be easy, but it will be so good for you.
Beyond that, figure out an activity that you absolutely adore, that also stimulates your mind. Maybe you love to read, so every day you carve out time to read one chapter in a book. Maybe puzzles or Sudoku are your thing, or maybe it's movies or video games. Maybe you meditate, or garden, or knit, or paint, or journal. Even getting silly and playing make-believe with the kids could do it. Whatever it is that you love the most, that helps you relax a little and have a moment of zen, schedule a block of time (even if just 15-30 minutes) where that thing is all you do. No phones, no email, no laundry, no cooking. Just you and a little quality relaxation time.
Other Simple Suggestions for Mental Self-Care
- Make your bed as soon as you get up in the morning. It may seem like a chore, but a lot of times having a room straightened can give you a sense of calm. Plus you'll start the day by checking off a box on your to-do list - an instant win!
- Open the windows, or just step outside, and take a deep breath of fresh air. Nature has been shown to have a positive effect on mental health, and actually getting up and stepping outside will give you a minute or two away from work or chaos.
- Sneak in a moment of meditation. You don't have to pull out the yoga mat. Instead, just let your mind wander for 60 seconds. Focus on slowly taking a deep breath, holding it for 5 seconds, then slowly releasing it, and repeat that sequence for a full minute.
This one's high on the self-care priority list, too. Physical self-care refers to the way you treat your body. If you're taking care of your body, the rest of you will feel better, too. Again, you know your body and what you enjoy, so we're not making any specific "one-self-care-fits-all" recommendations here. If you're starting any new, strenuous physical routines, be sure to consult with your medical professional first. As a matter of fact, seeing a medical professional can absolutely be part of practicing physical self-care, because it involves you taking care of yourself physically.
Other ways to engage in physical self-care could be as simple as incorporating more whole foods into your diet, or making sure you're getting enough sleep at night. Trust me, I know that sleep one is easier said than done, especially with kids. Sleep makes a huge difference in how you function, though - adequate sleep can improve your mood and mental acuity, it can boost your immune system, and it can help regulate your blood sugar, which will prevent those nasty mid-day energy crashes.
Another element of physical self-care would be to get your body moving, and I'm not just talking about chasing the kids around until you're worn out. No, it's important that your activity is intentional. Go for a jog, or practice a little yoga. Swim a few laps, or hit the bike. Before you jump out of bed and hit the ground running, take 5 minutes to stretch and prepare your body for the day. It doesn't matter what you're doing, as long as what you're doing makes you feel good.
Other Simple Suggestions for Physical Self-Care
- Dance it out. Channel your inner Meredith Grey, crank up a song that makes you feel good, and just dance. It doesn't matter how good your dancing skills are, just the movement can help!
- Take a shower. Hygiene is a basic element of physical self-care, too, so don't skip those showers (or relaxing bubble baths). A little lavender or peppermint aromatherapy in the shower could boost your mood, too - hello, mental self-care!
- Drink more water. Odds are you're probably not getting enough water, especially if you're running around putting out fires all day. If you're pregnant or breastfeeding, the amount of water you consume has an effect on baby, too! Make sure you're getting enough to hydrate yourself properly, and remember, if you're noticeably thirsty, you're already dehydrated.
You've probably heard that you shouldn't keep your emotions bottled up inside, and that's so true. Repressing how you feel is harmful, but so is the other end of the spectrum. It's important to find a balance and to process your emotions in a healthy, beneficial way - that's emotional self-care. There's no doubt that everything you deal with on the day-to-day can leave you stressed out, exhausted, and maybe a little anxious or even depressed.
Like with mental self-care, you might find that journalling helps you process what you're dealing with and pinpoint the emotions you're feeling. Or, maybe you can find a close friend or even a therapist who can help you identify healthy coping mechanisms. You've got a lot on your plate, but you don't have to carry it all alone!
Other Simple Suggestions for Emotional Self-Care
- Let yourself cry. Don't ever feel shame about crying. Plain and simple, crying is cathartic. It's a natural stress reliever. That shower we mentioned before? Sometimes a good, solid cry under running water can instantly improve your mood.
- Phone a friend. Sometimes you just need company, and there's nothing wrong with that! Humans are social creatures. If you've got a friend or partner you can go to who will listen to you vent or whose presence will just help you feel better in general, don't be afraid to reach out to them.
- Sleep. Yes, this was a form of both physical and mental self-care, too. That's how important sleep is! Sleep allows your body and your brain to rest, and it gives you time to process your emotions. If you're unable to sleep, or if you find yourself sleeping considerably too much, please reach out to a medical professional.
Create a Self-Care Routine
Now that you've got an idea of areas in your life that could use a little TLC, it's time to decide what you're going to do about it!
Don't feel like you need to overhaul everything all at once. You don't. Little changes add up fast and make a big impact overall. Start with getting an extra hour of sleep every night, or pick up some vegetables next time you're at the grocery store. Maybe you can't fit in a morning jog, but you can fit in a cup of coffee in 15 minutes of quiet before the hectic morning kicks in. If you know you can't commit to 30 minutes of yoga every day at 6:00pm, don't structure it that way! Aim for just a general 30 minutes of yoga every day, or twice a week. Figure out a routine that sets you up for success, because beating yourself up over not sticking to a plan isn't good mental self-care, either.
Make self-care your priority, even when it seems impossible. You'll be glad you did.