Since becoming a mum, I have craved time by myself more than ever. It is hard for us to find that time though. Ok, once the kids have gone to bed and if we have help from family on the weekend, then yes we can take that time for ourselves. Often at night though we are tired and also we are catching up on chores/cooking dinner and doing all the things that we didn’t get a chance to do in the day. And we might want family time and feel guilty for having that time to ourselves, like who do we think we are swanning off? It’s not like we deserve a break or anything!!
I would encourage you to look at your evening routine. Once the kids are in bed, even if it’s just for 5 minutes, embrace the silence. The relief. Read, meditate, give yourself a hand massage with your favourite hand cream, list down 5 things you were grateful for today, listen to a podcast/your favourite song, journal….basically anything that is just for you. Treat this time as sacred and the chores and cooking dinner can wait!
The other part about self-care that I have found hard is, how do I incorporate self-care into my day when I am with the kids all day? Because you don’t have the luxury of having that time to yourself. That in itself can stress us out. Knowing that you actually won’t have a moment to yourself throughout the day, and it’s a long day when your kids are up at 5am! And actually it’s when we need self-care the most. When we are knackered after another sleepless night and we wake up feeling exhausted. Then we realise that we’ve got to do it all again today and we wonder where am I going to find the energy and why can’t I have a nap?! Ok that might just be me!! I love a good nap!
Or when your kids are kicking off at playgroup, when they are screaming in the buggy, when the loneliness or boredom kicks in, when they refuse to eat your home cooked roast, when they don’t listen for the millionth time that day, when they carry on jumping on the bed instead of putting on their pyjamas…
How do we cope with these multiple stressors throughout the day?
So, in the morning, if you can, even just finding just 2 minutes to yourself will help. Just to sit and do some deep breathing, a meditation or affirmation video on Youtube, mentally listing the things you are grateful for (I do this in the shower), reading for 5 minutes, listening to music – whatever works for you. Failing that, make sure you drink that cuppa & have breakfast, and listen to an inspiring podcast while you are sorting breakfast out.
On the school run, I practice mindfulness. No, I know meditating while pushing the buggy isn’t practical, but even just noticing your surroundings and taking in a few deep breaths. Involve your kids and talk about the colours you can see or what you can see and hear. One thing that I practice when I am feeling anxious or just as a way to bring myself back to the present moment is by focusing on 5 things I can see, 4 things I can hear, 3 things I can feel, 2 things I can smell and 1 thing I can taste. This really helps focus you and bring you back to the present moment. Which is especially needed when I’ve been rushing to get everyone out of the door and we are running late!
A game changer in terms of self care for me, has been practicing self compassion and kind self talk. You can do this anywhere and at anytime and in your head, no-one will even know you are doing it! So for example, on the school run, I’m pushing my 20 month old who is screaming in the buggy, my 4 year old is on the buggy board and she’s cross at me, we are running late, I’ve forgotten her school bag, it’s raining…and it’s not even 9am. Just your standard mum morning and that’s not including the 5am start!
This is obviously a relatively stressful situation – unless you are the most calm person in the world that is (!)– and in these stressful situations, instead of helping us and soothing us our inner voice turns into the inner critic and berates us – ‘You should have left earlier’, ‘Why can’t you be more organised in the mornings’,‘ Everyone is going to stare at you because you are late’,‘Everyone is staring at you now because your son is crying in the buggy and they think you are a bad mum because you are not stopping to comfort him’ …I could go on but you get the idea…
Instead of berating ourselves, we can change this inner critic to be our kind inner voice – one that soothes us when we are stressed and cortisol and adrenaline is running through our bodies. This voice says ‘ God, that was a hard morning, you coped really well’,‘Ok, you are a bit late, but it’s not the end of the world’, ‘It’s no wonder you feel stressed after a morning like that’ or ‘That was a tough morning’.
So not ignoring your feelings and or discounting your stressful situation, (because it’s healthy for us to experience all emotions), but allowing the space for you to be soothed in the moment. And validated. If you tell yourself that it’s no wonder you feel stressed because you are running on broken sleep, the constant demands of motherhood and balancing work, relationships on top, then it’s no wonder we feel the way we do. Add to that a huge dose of negative self talk then it’s no wonder we feel like crap!
Try it – next time you are in the midst of a stressful situation, instead of telling yourself off for feeling stressed, try to tell yourself – it’s no wonder you feel like this, this is hard. Feel the change. You are supporting yourself, you are giving yourself the advice you would give your friend. You would never tell another mum to shut up, stop moaning and get on with it, but we tell ourselves things like this all of the time. And it weighs us down.
Another pocket of time when we can practice self-care is when we are doing the chores – put on your favourite music, or podcast and make yourself a cuppa and take your time, so that it doesn’t just turn into you racing from one chore to the next.
Making sure you eat and drink enough throughout the day is a big one too, and one that we might not automatically think of as self-care, as it’s such a basic need. I don’t know about you, but I forget to drink enough water when I’m with the kids, make snacks for them but don’t take any for myself, and sometimes will eat at different times to them or skip a meal because we are out and about. Then I wonder why I feel exhausted, drained, light headed and why I turn to a can of coke and chocolate for my energy. When we are exhausted the last thing we feel like doing is cooking a nourishing meal or a healthy breakfast or having a healthy snack, but it is the thing that is going to keep those energy levels more stable, rather than the quick energy boost unhealthy snacks will give you.
Do you practise self-care? Share your favourite type of self-care in the comments below!