When you’re a mother, self-care is often one of the first things to go.
Screaming toddlers, children, and husbands (hopefully your husband isn’t screaming, but you get my point) are all vying for your attention. And that’s in addition to your general to-do list and home upkeep.
With all of that going on, it’s easy to push self-care to the back burner!
But is that really the best thing for you (or your family)?
I’ll be the first to admit that there’s a fine line between self-care and selfishness, one that parents (myself included) are often terrified to cross. But if you’re not taking care of yourself, you’ll easily burn out and do your entire family a disservice.
How to Practice Self-Care
If you’ve been putting your needs and self-care on the back burner, of if you’ve already burnt out, you may not even know where to begin to take care of yourself.
Sure, you may have had goals and dreams before you started your family, but what about now?
Chances are, your goals, dreams, and even your likes and dislikes have changed. So where do you start?
What does self-care look like for you?
Think about your own definition of self-care (we’ll worry about how you can find time for it later). Start by thinking about the following:
Dreams and goals
Long term, what do you want your life to look like?
Think about what you want to be doing in twenty years, ten years, five years, and next year.
Write everything down. Make sure that you write down EVERYTHING, not just the things that you think you should write down or that seem the most realistic. Don’t be afraid to dream big!
Next, make a list of your hobbies (current and potential). Are there any hobbies that you used to love but don’t make time for? What about something that you’ve always wanted to try, but it’s never “the right time?”
Again, this is your chance to dream. List everything that you’ve ever wanted to try, regardless of how silly it might seem.
If you’ve been wanting to try a new hobby, try taking a class through Craftsy. I took a few classes this past year to hone my cooking skills, learn photography so I could actually take a decent picture of my kids, and even learn the art of cookie decorating. The best part is that Craftsy courses can be taken on your own time (like for thirty minutes after the kids go to bed when you’d otherwise be zoned out in front of the TV). They’re also affordable (some are even free).
Now that you’ve listed all the things that you might want to do, it’s time to step back and think about all the things you could do to create a more relaxing life.
What would help you create margin in your life? What would help you relax? What would bring a small smile to your face as you go about your day?
Small things like enjoying a cup of tea before bed or listening to a motivating podcast on your way to work will help you relax and enjoy your day.
What is your body craving? Your body will often tell you what you need.
One of the first signals that I’m forgetting self-care is that haggard, “I’m getting the sniffles,” exhausted feeling.
Sleep often goes a long way in helping to get yourself back on the path to self-care, but there are other things you can do, too.
Make sure you’re eating well, taking vitamins or supplements, drinking water, and even making time to fix yourself up (getting dressed instead of having a daily “pajama party” is a good start). 😉 Carving out a few minutes for a fun exercise routine will also do wonders for your health (both mental and physical).
How do you decide what to focus on?
Now that you’ve written down everything you’ve ever wanted to do, you’ll need to organize your list.
Trying to accomplish everything on your list at once will just stress you out, so make a plan to work on different forms of self-care throughout the year. You could try a new hobby each month or choose a different goal or focus for each quarter of the year.
Also, if you want to tackle a big goal, like traveling to all 50 states, you’ll want to break that goal down into manageable steps. It may take you a lifetime to achieve that goal, but if you’re strategic, you can plan to visit a new state each year on your family’s summer vacation.
When should you practice self-care?
There’s no right time to practice self-care, but it’s important to make sure that you’re actually doing it regularly.
Try to carve out a few minutes every day for self-care. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Take a few extra minutes in a hot shower (I used to do this before work to relax and mentally prepare myself for the day). Another great way to work self-care into your day is spending a few minutes reading after the kids go to bed.
You’ll feel better if you work small doses of daily self-care into your routine, and you may notice other benefits, such as better sleep quality and a more relaxed morning.
Scheduling and planning self-care is a great way to make sure that it actually happens. Especially if you want to try something new or tackle a big project, like making a quilt, you’ll need to schedule time and set goals to accomplish your hobby.
I recently read 21 Days to a More Disciplined Life by Crystal Paine. She suggested making a master project list and working on one small task daily to complete your project within 21 days.
To plan for big goals or hobbies, think about all the steps that need to be accomplished. Work on one small task each day. Even if you only spend five minutes working on your hobby, it’ll be a nice break and you’ll feel more accomplished.
If you schedule time to work on your goals or hobbies, you’ll feel great knowing that you are making progress. The best part is that you’ll be carving out regular “me time” to do it!
Sometimes, life happens and you just need to slow down and make space for breathing room.
Don’t be afraid to take an occasional afternoon or even an hour to relax and recuperate.
Schedule a mommy date or even find someone to watch the kids while you get a massage (or a much-needed haircut).
There are so many different ways to practice self-care. The important thing is that you make time for it regularly to avoid burnout. By carving out time for self-care, even in small doses, you’ll feel so much better!