What is the first thing you think of when you hear the phrase “self care”?
I think of a glass of wine and a bubble bath.
However, self care is so much more than simply taking tiny moments to do something relaxing.
It involves nurturing all aspects of your being, from your body to your mind and your soul.
It also means finding the time to maintain balance in your life.
But this can be done in those tiny moments – it’s all about focus. What are you trying to achieve with that bubble bath? A relaxed body? A relaxed mind? A moment’s peace?
All of the above?
The key to practicing self care is recognizing where your imbalances lie and finding activities you enjoy that can re-establish that balance.
As a mom, this is extremely important.
What Self Care Is (And What it Isn’t)
By definition, self care is any activity you partake in that takes care of your mental, emotional and physical health. It may be a simple concept, but one we tend to overlook or ignore in our mom lives.
It’s the key to improved mood, reduced anxiety and overwhelm as well as maintaining good relationships with other people and ourselves.
Self care isn’t selfish.
Ever had someone tell you that you can’t take care of others unless you take care of yourself? This is totally true, especially for mothers. While most of your time and energy is focused on taking care of your family, you can’t do this to the best of your abilities if you’re running on empty.
Think of self care as fuel. It’s not something that takes away from yourself or other people in your life – it actually contributes to the happiness and balance in your life.
You are allowed to take care of your needs.
And, in turn, everyone around you will benefit.
The Benefits of Self Care
Perhaps one of the major benefits of prioritizing your self care is that you won’t be a scowley grump monster all of the time.
I remember when my daughter was young and I worked full-time. I worked with Autistic children all day and had to come home and look after my child.
I had nothing left for me, so I was not a happy and fulfilled mom. As part of my self care, I left that job and found one that was less stressful. My relationship with my daughter drastically improved and I found balance in my mom life.
Apart from just feeling generally happier, there are other benefits to practicing self care:
Slowing down your life allows you to live more fully in the present moment. This provides clarity when it comes to your priorities and makes it easier to get stuff done.
This stuff could be as simple as putting away forty piles of laundry or going for an evening stroll with your family.
However, when your entire being is bogged down with the stresses and anxieties of life, you’re likely to shove aside what needs to be done and allow yourself to get lost in time-wasting activities in order to avoid your responsibilities.
When you make time for self care, you carry less weight on your shoulders. This clears up both time and energy for getting things done.
Boosted Immune System
Self care doesn’t just benefit your exterior life, but helps with your inner well being too.
Getting lots of rest, exercising, practicing mindfulness and even taking a hot bath activates the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). When you activate the PNS, your body goes into rest and recovery mode.
This allows your body to decompress and take a break from the chaos in your life. The result is that your body is given the chance to build up its defenses against viruses and other ailments.
If you know anything about the idea of Holism, you know that the mind, body and soul are all interconnected. When one ails, the others suffer.
So when you take care of your mind and soul, your body will benefit.
You Find Your True Identity
If there’s one downfall to motherhood, it’s that you tend to forget who you really are and lose yourself in the identity of “mother”.
I refer to this is the “mom identity crisis” and it’s a very real thing that happens to a lot of moms.
When you focus on self care, you are actually forcing yourself to rediscover what YOU love to do. You need to really think about what lights you up and makes you feel good.
And it’s okay if these things don’t involve your children or your family.
Doing your own thing alone is not selfish and is actually necessary to maintain overall health.
I hate to use baths as a default self care activity (because there are many, many ways to take care of yourself), but it’s my personal favorite and one I turn to a lot.
Many times my daughter has begged to join me in the bath. I have no qualms telling her “no” and explaining that this is my “me time”.
And you know what? She’s cool with it now. She’ll even leave the room we are both in for a few minutes to give me “alone time”.
You Become a Role Model for Your Children
Children learn from what we do. When we don’t take care of ourselves, whether it means eating bad or ignoring our mental health, they will pick up on these habits.
When we carve out time for ourselves, we teach our kids two important things:
First, it’s okay to focus on ourselves and fulfill our own personal needs. If your kids are little, you probably serve them hand and foot – both physically and emotionally.
However, as they age, they will need to learn to take care of themselves. Whether this means asking for time alone to calm down or writing their thoughts and feelings in a journal.
Second, we teach them independence. When you carve out those moments to take care of yourself, your children need to adjust to not having you directly on hand.
When I go to take a bath, my six year old daughter is capable of hanging out in the living room by herself. She can find a show to watch and get her own snack.
If I didn’t step away for those moments, I would likely be automatically fulfilling those needs for her.
It’s also creating a healthy separation between us in an environment where she feels safe and secure. Someday, when she’s older, I’ll be leaving her teenaged butt at home to go do my own thing. By then, being alone will feel familiar and comfortable to her.
How to Practice Self Care
So you know why self care is important – but where do you start?
Keep It Simple
First, start simple and stick to the basics. Maybe it’s having that hot bath or reading a chapter or two in your favorite book. From there, you’ll be better able to understand what forms of self care work best for you.
Remember, self care is also self-discovery, so as you commit more time to those activities you know you enjoy, you’ll begin to find other activities that fuel your self care as well.
Make the Time (Don’t Just Find It)
Self care also needs to be something you actually schedule into your life. Sure, it’s great when it randomly happens, but in order to enjoy the benefits of self care you have to make it happen.
This means that you have to make a plan to focus on self care. This could mean asking a friend or family member to watch your kiddos for an hour or two or planning a movie night for the little ones so you can sneak away for a bit.
Make it Count
If you make time to soak in the tub, yet sit there and fret about all of your problems, you are not going to benefit from self care.
When you engage in a self care activity, you need to be mindful that this moment solely exists for you to take care of yourself.
As moms, however, it’s hard to turn our backs on the stresses in our lives. If you find yourself dwelling on challenges and issues, it may be beneficial to you to spend some time journalling to sort out your thoughts.
Figuring out which self care activities to engage in at the right time is all about being in tune with the imbalances in your life.
Is your life chaotic and noisy? Try a quiet walk in nature. Is your body tired all of the time? Practice some gentle yoga. Do your thoughts race constantly? Take a moment to practice mindful meditation or write it out in a journal.
Once you get into the self care groove, you’ll find yourself gravitating toward certain activities depending on your needs.
Turning Your Life into a Self Care Practice
Self care isn’t always about those few moments you can sneak away to do something you love. You can practice self care every moment of every day by making lifestyle choices that benefit and nurture your being.
Here are some examples of ways you can incorporate self care into your everyday life:
- Eat a healthy and nutritious diet. This goes without saying, but fueling your body properly will lead to an amazing change in your overall health.
- Stay active. Getting regular exercise can lead not only physical health but emotional health as well.
- Try to get enough sleep. Easier said than done, I know, but sleep is so important to your overall health. If you have trouble sleeping, try to eliminate wakefulness triggers (such as tv and phone screens) at least an hour before bed.
- Establish your boundaries. Get rid of people or things that no longer serve you and learn how to say “no” when you really don’t want to do something. (Except you can’t say “no” to those piles of laundry…sorry.)
- Have fun with your family. I know your little monsters are likely the source of all of your stress, but you are allowed to enjoy your time with them. Being a mother doesn’t always have to be a battle.
- Always give yourself time to unwind. Mom life is a busy life, so you need a moment at the end of the day to relax. This could be snuggling in bed and reading with your little ones or watching an episode of your favorite show on Netflix.
I promise you – once you start to incorporate self care into your life, you’ll notice a difference in your mood, energy and overall outlook on life!
How about you? How do you include self care into your life? What are your favorite self care activities? Share with us in the comments below!