Moms need and deserve self-care! But first, what does self-care really mean?
In recent years, especially since the start of the pandemic, people have been shouting from the rooftops that we, especially moms, need to practice self-care. I remember when Thea was a tiny baby, and I was a new mom, I barely had time to shower in a day, let alone practice self-care.
So, self-care is the practice of taking care of yourself mentally and physically, especially in times of stress. It is often compared to the safety directions on an airplane. If the oxygen is compromised in the cabin and the oxygen masks fall, always put on your own mask before assisting others. You can’t very well take care of others if you are sluggish or passing out due to a lack of oxygen. Self-care is similar. You may feel that you have no time to care for yourself, but if you are sick or mentally and emotionally spent, you won’t be able to care for your family.
What is the science behind self-care?
Stress comes from within. It is how our bodies and minds react, or respond to stimuli that make us feel tightness in our throats, shortness of breath or rapid breathing, clenched teeth and hands, racing thoughts, and anything in the arena of a fight, or flight, or freeze. These reactions come from our nervous system and show us that our nervous system has kicked in and needs to be calmed.
Help! My nervous system is dysregulated! What do I do?
I have great news for you! There are so many ways to regulate the nervous system, including self-care strategies that can help all moms. Want some even better news? Some of these strategies can be done with little people around. Or you can do them with the tiny tots to begin to teach them how to regulate their own nervous system.
Self-care strategies for busy moms
That’s right! Candy does have a place in our lives! Science shows that when you feel an anxiety or panic attack coming on, or even just a little build-up of those feelings that can start us reeling, popping a piece of sour candy, like Sour Patch Kids, can make the brain stop the racing thoughts and focus on what is going on in your mouth. Your brain will start processing the very different sensation of the sour taste and move away from the anxiety. This strategy also works perfectly well with biting a slice of lemon or lime!
Far too often, women, especially moms, feel as if we must take away this or remove that from our lives to feel better. This is not true. We, as moms, can get overwhelmed by all that is taken from us in our quest to be the best moms we can be. We lose sleep, alone time, time with friends, and warm meals. I don’t know about you, but when Thea was a baby and then a toddler, I did not have one hot cup of coffee. I used to open my microwave at dinner time and find my once steaming cup of Joe sitting where I tried to warm it and drink it earlier, but I digress. Let us ADD something to our mom lives by implementing some of the self-care tips below:
Yes, yes, I know people are always saying this, but it does work. You don’t have to go anywhere, buy special clothes, or do it for long periods of time. Grab the remote to your smart tv or set up your phone or computer and go to YouTube. Type or speak what you want, and BOOM! There will be tons of videos. Do you want a 10 minutes wake-up yoga video? You got it! Do you want a 20-minute bedtime yoga video? Boom! You got it! Yoga gives us a precious self-care moment to reconnect with our bodies and place our mom minds on pause. Not to mention that welcome feeling of a well-needed stretch.
I strongly recommend you to watch and join yoga practices on Youtube by Ieva Luna. She is an amazing yoga teacher and a super warm person. And I don’t just say that because she is my sister! By the way, Ieva organizes one-of-a-kind yoga retreats in Europe, and you can find out more about them on her website.
Yoga it’s one of the activities that your kids can join as well. Thea usually finds it very entertaining and takes it very seriously.
There are videos of yoga for kids on YouTube as well. If you don’t feel like practicing it at the time yourself, but your little people are full of energy and running around, turn on a yoga video for them instead of Cocomelon. It works wonders!
If you are not yet familiar with what mindfulness is it can be described as a type of meditation. Now, the key here is focusing on being intensely aware of what you’re feeling and sensing that very moment. Practicing mindfulness involves guided and unguided imagery, breathing techniques, and other practices that help relax the mind and body. Mindfulness is incredibly effective at reducing stress. You can find videos on YouTube for mindfulness if you are looking for guidance while doing it.
However, a video is not a must. You can simply pick out a positive affirmation and repeat it to yourself.
Personally, I love books by Louise Hay. The pages of her books shine positive energy and emotional support. Try repeating some of the below affirmations that she recommends:
My home is a peaceful haven
I release all old hurts and forgive myself
The answers within me come to my awareness with ease
I have the power to make changes
I am wonderful and I feel great
All my relationships are enveloped in a circle of love
I speak and think positively
I have the right to have the life I want
Just typing these affirmations already made me smile and feel empowered. I find it that they are a wonderful tool for moms looking for self-care.
Actually, Thea and I have a couple of affirmations that we repeat together every single night. At first, she was reluctant to join me, but it’s now she who says, Mama, time for the affirmations!
The great thing about affirmations is that you can repeat them to yourself anytime, anywhere, doing whatever. From queuing in line at the groceries to changing diapers, there is always time for a couple of affirmations. It is very important to say them in the present tense. As if stating the fact. Your subconscious mind does not make selections and has no sense of humor. It accepts everything we tell it and acts accordingly. So make sure you feed your subconscious mind with positive thoughts, and the outcomes you want will come to you.
I don’t know about you, but I sometimes find when I am driving or doing other simple tasks, I am not breathing! I am holding my breath! Taking some time to focus on our breathing helps us to destress, relax muscles, and replenish the oxygen we need to be present.
Try box breathing in which you inhale 4 seconds, hold 4 seconds, breath out 4 seconds, and hold 4 seconds. This will help you to only pay attention to your breathing and give your nervous system time to relax.
Just a few moments for self-care
Sometimes finding a chunk of time is next to impossible for a busy mom. If you plan ahead, you can find time to practice or enjoy things for yourself in stolen moments throughout the day. I always keep a list of podcasts on my phone, books in my car or purse, etc. for when I see a moment for self-care.
Speaking of books, there is one book that all women should read. Written by Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes, and called Women who run with the wolves is a seminal masterpiece on the inner life of women.
This book is the creation of power and poetry. It began a revolution and continues to transform the lives of millions of women around the world. Make sure you keep a pencil close while reading. It’s packed full of information that you will want to highlight and come back to again and again. It’s a lengthy read. The edition I own is written in a small font and contains 478 pages. But it’s absolutely worth it.
When Thea was a toddler, one of the moments I used to “steal” for myself every day was the time in the pickup line at the nursery. I tried to actually go a few minutes early and listen to a podcast or read a few pages of a book. It is a great way to re-energize.
Time just for you
As soon as I suggest this, I will hear an audible sigh across the land of exhausted moms. You know what I am about to say: get up 30 minutes to an hour early to have quiet time in the morning all to yourself. This is not time to do laundry or clean last night’s dishes or any of the other 1,000 chores you need to do. This is just… a self-care time for a tired mom.
A time where you don’t have to fix anything for anyone else. Time to have where no one is touching you or pulling at you. This is time to get right with yourself before the flurry of events comes your way. Even if it is just long enough to have your first cup of coffee from the first sip till the last sip without heating or sitting it down, this will give you so much peace and a chance to be you.
Let’s talk food. Although I don’t excel at cooking, I am passionate about nutrition. While pregnant with Thea, I ate a balanced and healthy diet. I did a course in nutrition a few years before that, so I was able to create a balanced pregnancy diet with healthy meals. They contained superfoods and all the goodies for the bun in the over.
However, after she was born, I drowned in junk food. I don’t know about you, but due to sleep deprivation, my first few months of motherhood felt like drifting in space. Superfoods were the last thing on my mind. If they were at all.
I often used to find myself existing on coffee until 2 or 3 pm. Then scarfing down a whole bag of tortilla chips because I am famished. I then oftentimes wondered why I am sluggish, cranky, have a headache, and feel all around miserable.
Healthy food is our fuel. Our body and mind NEED it.
Prepare fruit and veggies that you can grab quickly when you want a snack. If you have a blender, prepare yourself nutritious smoothies. It’s so quick and easy to prepare. AND it doesn’t leave a mess in the kitchen. Just throw in a banana for a sweeter taste and add anything you like, from spirulina powder to raw spinach and blend it with water or milk of choice. And just like that, you have a powerhouse of vitamins and minerals in one delicious glass.
It is ok to make something special for yourself if you know your body needs it. If you can, order a meal just for you that is delish and already made. This is about fueling your body and helping you to feel your best. By the way, if you want the piece of chocolate, eat the piece of chocolate.
Do something that makes you feel put together
As a mom, I can feel like I haven’t brushed my hair since last week, worn the same clothes two days in a row, and have God knows what stuck to my sleeves. Take a little time to assess what it is that would make you feel a little more like yourself. Is it painted nails? Take a moment to paint them in a nice bright shade. So what if it will be chipped by tomorrow. At least today, it will make you smile to see those bright nails holding your little’s face as you cover it in kisses. It’s also ok to pay someone to paint your nails. It’s about giving yourself permission to do something just for you! This can be anything like hair, clothes, perfume, etc. that just puts the cherry on your sundae!
Self-care as a mom can seem like such a pipe dream. As a mom, we have to be creative so let’s use a little of that creativity on ourselves and find ways to love ourselves too. You do so much for your family, but without attention to yourself, you won’t get to reap the benefits of all that hard work. Your kids need a mommy that smiles and feels good. If you can’t do it for yourself, do it for the little ones who think the sun sets in that amazing mommy.