Self-care has become a mainstream and sometimes overloaded term these days, but it doesn’t make it any less important. Some only associate it with getting pampered, or a big event that requires escaping responsibilities and hiring a babysitter. For busy moms, especially those in the trenches of early motherhood, self-care sounds like a luxury and not a priority. Contrary to this belief, self-care is a way to ensure your own needs are being met. When this happens, we can function as our best self…whether that’s being a mom, a partner, or a professional. Here are some quick ways to engage in self-care everyday that take minimal effort but have an even larger effect.
This is a strategy I encourage all of my mom clients (especially new moms) to implement into their daily routine. It involves carving out just 5 minutes dedicated to yourself. Sometimes even 10 minutes seems impossible to fit in…which is why we start at 5. We’re often doing a lot for everyone else…the list and the day seem endless. “Take-5” means you put that phone on Do Not Disturb and for 5 minutes, you’re not responding to anyone but yourself. The key is to hit the reset button on your mind and body. Your nervous system loves to be regulated, so this is a way to de-stimulate and refresh. Maybe it’s taking a 5 minute walk outside, meditating, drinking your coffee in your favorite chair. You can certainly listen to music, or even scroll through your phone, but the less stimulation you have, the more of a “reset feeling” you will get. When should you do this? Whenever you feel a lull in your routine and less likely to be interrupted. Maybe this is in the wee hours of the morning when no one is awake, or after the kids are off to school but before you start your day. Maybe it’s at night when they’re all in bed and you’re winding down.
Most moms know the feeling of being overwhelmed and overstimulated. We’re getting flooded with sensory input from the time we wake up until we rest for bed. Some examples you may relate to: the constant calling of “Mom! Mommy! Mama!”, always having someone in your arms, lap or touching you, or having to keep eyes on multiple kiddos throughout the day. Just how we teach children how to regulate their sensory system, adults can benefit from this too. Think about sensory input that calms you when you are stressed. Maybe it’s burning a scented candle, wrapping up in a cozy blanket, putting on some noise-canceling headphones, or playing some classical music. Give your nervous and sensory system a break by finding ways to quiet the chaos for at least a brief moment, and bring you back to that regulated, calm state.
Being a mom can be a physically demanding role, and can leave you feeling strained and exhausted. However, physical self-care is often at the bottom of the priority list, right? Consider how well you cared for your body while you were pregnant…maybe you were conscious of your nutritional intake, maybe did some prenatal yoga, and rested when you needed to. Take that same mindset into everyday life and continue to honor what your body has gone through. No, you don’t need to join a gym or get a massage (although it’s not a bad thing either). It can be as simple as staying hydrated, going for a walk, preparing healthy meals, an at-home spa experience with a face mask and bubble bath. If you need some extra guidance, don’t hesitate to seek help from a professional: a pelvic floor therapist, a PT or personal trainer, acupuncturist, chiropractor, nutrition specialist, etc. Your body will thank you.
Motherhood can feel isolating at times, especially if you’re the first of your friends to have a baby or don’t know anyone who is in a similar stage in parenting. Friendships can often shift when you enter parenthood and you aren’t as available as you once were. Socializing can look very different when you’re a parent, and it can take some time to find friends who “get it”. It’s so refreshing once you connect with someone with whom you can share experiences, trade parenting advice and ideas, commiserate about challenges and just feel seen. Socialization is self-care. It brings us a sense of connection, love, appreciation and understanding. Not to mention it’s nice to talk to adults when you’re surrounded by little humans all day! It can be as simple as a text to check-in, sending a meme through a DM or meeting up for a playdate. Lean into your tribe…they’ve got you!
They say that being a parent can be a thankless job, with lots of sacrifice and minimal outward appreciation in return. Of course we don’t expect a baby to say “thank you”, but it does mean we need to find internal gratification for all the work we do. Journaling can help express these feelings and words we’re longing to hear. Keep it next to your bed, so you can start and end your day with reflection. Maybe in the morning, you wake up feeling grateful to have a lunch date planned with your best mom friend. Maybe at the end of a rough day you jot down the things you did well, like getting all the kids fed and in bed. You might not hear that “thank you”, but putting it to paper can make you feel it from within.
Bottom line: every person deserves a little self-care, self-love, self-appreciation everyday and you don’t need to go far or do much to get it. Put yourself at the top of your priority list so you can show up as your best self. Some days you might be dominating the self-care game, others you might struggle to get that 5 minutes of peace in. Just know you’re doing great, and your best is enough!
By : Carolyn Johnson, OTR/L, postpartum specialist