How often do you think of your own self-care Mama?
If you’re like most moms, you might be saying, “What self-care?”
Us moms tend to take care of everyone else, but often forget our own self-care. We put ourselves last and say that we’ll get to it when we have the time. Yet, self-care never happens because we end up not making the time. I’m not sure why that is, except that maybe we feel guilty for focusing on our own needs and desires instead of our family’s. We feel like we’re being selfish for
wanting needing a break.
However, believe me when I say that the guilt over taking care of yourself has got to stop (as discussed here). Know that the most important thing you can do for your children is to keep yourself healthy, in all manners. If Mom’s fuel tank is empty, NO ONE wins.
What’s in here?
What is self-care?
Simply put, self-care is anything that improves your physical, mental and emotional health. Those three pillars of health are all vital for you to function and thrive in this world. They’re all equally important and if one of the pillars is off, you’re going to feel off. Let’s investigate each of these pillars a bit further, so that you clearly understand them.
Physical Health: Pertaining to the health of your body and its parts.
- How well does your body fight off infections?
- How well does your body heal itself?
- Can your body move in many different ways without becoming injured?
- Is your body relatively pain-free most of the time?
- Do you have any unmanaged chronic diseases?
Mental Health: Pertaining to how your brain processes information.
- What are your thoughts and actions?
- How do you deal with stressful situations?
- How do you react to others?
- Do you worry excessively?
- How well do you function during times of stress?
- Can you recover quickly after a stressful event?
Emotional Health: Pertaining to your emotions (unconscious) and feelings (conscious).
- How aware are you of your emotions?
- How do you express your feelings?
- How do your past experiences affect your feelings and emotions?
- How do you feel about yourself and others around you?
- How well do you manage negative thoughts?
NOTE: Meeting your basic needs is NOT self-care. That included bathing, brushing your teeth, sleeping, feeding yourself and grocery shopping. I know we all try to tell ourselves that tending to our basic needs is enough, but it’s NOT. Basic needs don’t recharge us. They just keep us going at a fundamental level. Got it? If not, here’s an article talking more about this trend.
With that said, sometimes we go through stages of life, such as caring for a newborn or a sick family member, where we feel like we’re barely holding our heads above water (been there in both cases). In that case, focusing on self-care is still important, but not always feasible every day. That’s the time to just give yourself grace, do what you need to do to survive and then circle back to your self-care needs when you’re able to, without guilt or shame.
Why do we need self-care?
This should be an obvious answer, but I don’t think we’re quite there yet. I see moms killing themselves to get their children to soccer, dance, taekwondo, art class, drama class, beer class (Okay, I made that one up. Just seeing if you were paying attention😜). But at what cost?
I have talked to so many moms who say how busy they are, how glad they will be when this activity or that extracurricular is over. They don’t have time to eat dinner as a family. They don’t spend quality time with their partner, except to discuss who will take what child where. They are constantly running somewhere, but not really getting anywhere. Consequently, where does that leave us as moms?
If you have ever flown on a commercial flight, you have heard the safety spiel before takeoff. Maybe you have been programmed to tune it out, as you mediate an argument between children or make sure they each have a snack. However, the most important point in the safety talk is about placing your oxygen mask on first and then your child’s mask. Why? Because, if you don’t take care of your own oxygen mask first, you will be passed out in your seat due to oxygen deprivation. Then no one is left to take care of the children.
The same is true for self-care. Self-care is NOT selfish or unnecessary, but an absolute MUST for us busy moms. You still don’t believe me? Then, read my post here on how chronic stress can affect the body from a momma who used to ignore self-care. Spoiler alert: It was a disaster. My body became crushed because of that. You DON’T want to end up like that.
I’m here to give you permission to take care of yourself first, for once. Of course, you have to make sure your children’s needs are met- food, clothing, shelter, etc. I’m not telling you to become a neglectful parent. However, you aren’t responsible for entertaining them 24 hours of the day. You don’t need to take them to every extracurricular ever invented in an attempt to make sure they experience everything.
It’s funny how children used to just run around outside, played with few scheduled activities and turned out just fine. In fact, children need some down time. Otherwise, you run the risk of stressing them out due to being overscheduled, as discussed here. It’s okay to let them get bored and find something to do, as long as it doesn’t involve fire or sharp objects.
In addition, your children will be much better off if they see you model self-care. First of all, they will realize they aren’t the center of the universe (gasp!). The reality is, in the real world, nobody cares that your baby was a champion dart thrower or painted a clay pot once. Second of all, they will see a much more joyful momma, instead of a frazzled and stressed out one. They will learn that it’s okay to take care of their own needs. Consequently, they will hopefully avoid becoming frazzled and stressed out in the future.
How to practice self-care
This should also be obvious. However, I think most of us moms have forgotten how to take care of ourselves. You’re great at giving your children what they need, but what about your own needs? That doesn’t always mean just spa days and mani/pedis, although those are great, if you can fit them into your schedule and budget. Self-care is whatever you need to be the best version of yourself.
As an example, I suffered with chronic neck pain and tension headaches for years and thought that was just going to be part of my existence. However, after talking with a DPT (doctor of physical therapy) friend, I realized that there were some things I could do to help relieve that pain. After working with her for several months, my neck pain was greatly improved and I learned ways to prevent flare-ups. Now, I go to see her for monthly “tune-up” sessions to help with any recurrences with my neck and to address any other body issues that might pop up. THAT is part of my self-care routine that greatly improves my quality of life.
When you’re thinking of your own self-care, think about what will feed those aforementioned three pillars of health. What will contribute to you physically, mentally and emotionally? Often, an activity or practice will improve one or more of the pillars at the same time. For example, walking in nature allows my brain to relax and recover, while also giving me physical movement.
I also want you to think about those self-care items that you might not realize are true self-care, such as seeking out professional help from a doctor or therapist or even a personal coach. There’s NO shame in asking for help, even though many moms (like my previous self) think that we should be doing it all ourselves. However, no one is an island. The most successful people in this world didn’t get there without support from others. Why should you?
Now, I want you to make your own self-care list of items that make you feel relaxed, content and at ease with life. If nothing comes to mind, think back to when you were younger. Before all of the responsibilities of life took over. What made you smile? What lit you up? Think about what you can do now to bring a smile to your face or fill up your physical, mental and emotional buckets.
Self-care examples to get you started:
- Read a good book.
- Be in nature.
- Set boundaries with your friends and family.
- Take a walk.
- Listen to your favorite music.
- Say no to requests that don’t resonate with you and are time and energy vampires.
- Do nothing (Sometimes less is definitely more).
- Exercise/Movement (Be sure it’s something you enjoy).
- Meditate (It’s not just for yogis and monks).
- Hire a personal coach.
- Cuddle time with a loved one.
- Body work (PT/Reiki/Chiropractic/Acupuncture/Etc).
- Talk to a therapist.
- Watch a favorite show (Not a binge session, just one or two shows to lighten your mood).
- Connect with a friend, either virtually or in person.
- Prescription meds (Especially for mental health issues).
- Have a good cry.
- Take a break from your kiddos.
- Take a nap (But not in place of sleep, which is a basic need item).
- Work on extinguishing negative self-talk (A huge mental distraction).
Feel free to choose from this list or come up with your own ideas. The important thing is to make sure that you have it written down somewhere. Then, when you’re feeling out of balance and worn out, you can refer back to your list and practice your own self care.
Keep in mind that you don’t need to do everything on this list everyday. It’s just a reminder that your needs are important too, that it’s okay to actually think about yourself without guilt. Plus, when you’re feeling the pressures of life taking over, at least you will be empowered to help yourself, because no one else can do that for you. If you commit to making this a habit, it will be.
Now I would love to hear from you! What is on your self-care list? How do you/will you include self-care into your life? Please share in the comments below.
“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation.”Audre Lorde