On just about any mother’s group or social media page you will see memes and jokes about wine and coffee time. We are all joking about surviving on caffeine during the day and drinking wine to relax (to wind down so we can sleep) at night.
While we are all joking about our caffeine addictions I want to ask you, can you actually name one truly nourishing thing you have done for yourself today? This week? This month?
Self care for mothers is often a major challenge. Now when I say “mother’s” I’m an occupational therapist, we like to talk about roles so if you’re in the “mother” role this includes you!
When you find yourself grabbing that lukewarm coffee, chugging it down and call that “me” time, we have a major problem. I’m a mum of 4. I am in the lukewarm cup of tea/coffee stage. I get time to make it but most of the time there’s not even time to sit down and drink it. When it comes to self-care it’s a “what’s that?” response for the most part. It’s hard to get to the bathroom on your let along have some peace an quiet for meditation or reading or any of the other things I’d like to make time to do.
I have 4 children. I have to make a conscious decision to model to my children how they can perform the role of “parent”. Does that mean overworking myself until I am left in a state of loneliness and exhaustion? No. If I model this how will my children become parents who practice self-care?
Self care can be uncomfortable like going for your dental check up, pap smear, or having that uncomfortable conversation where you establish a much needed boundary in your life.
So for those overwhelmed parents out there; I ask, “What do you believe self care would look like for you?” I’m going to share some aspects of self care that come up for me as a mother of 4 young children.
Eating nourishing foods? How can I make that easy? Is there a way I can do some preparation in advance? Is there a way I can make shopping easier? Do I have long forgotten devices in the cupboard that make meal preparation, fresh food storage or cooking easier or faster?
Being outdoors in nature? Where can I go? When can I go? If you are in an apartment is there a park you can visit? If you literally can’t find a garden or park put some pot plants on your window sill it’s a step in the right direction. Book it into your schedule weekly, daily if possible. If nothing else making sure you are exposed to some sunlight each day can help you feel good.
Social contact? Having social connections with your community is essential for well being. This includes those loose connections between people that just recognise you. Humans need in-person contact, not just contact over social media. If you work from home you may need to build going out into your community as a way of building these connections. Volunteering can be a great way to build a connection with your community.
Bathing? If you’re in a stage of your life where your feeling overwhelmed, anxious or depressed even managing to have a shower or bath can become a major challenge. You may need to put it on your to do list, you may find playing music helps, setting a time limit — just one minute then I’m done and build it up to the time frame you enjoy.
Clean House? Cleaning as self care? Really? You ask. Some studies have been completed that have shown reducing clutter helps improve mood. Minimalism may not be for you but having a cluttered messy house is overwhelming. Setting a cleaning routine can be helpful so you don’t have to think about it as much. Flylady.com greatly helped me when I first moved out of home and had to start learning how to manage my own home. I really love how she says, “you can’t clean clutter”.
If you’re feeling really overwhelmed in this department you may find great pleasure in hiring a cleaner and using that time to do some other self care tasks like cooking a meal ahead, exercising, calling a friend, reading a great book or something you’ve been putting off for a while (we all have that mental to do list)
Journaling? It might be as simple as writing down your mental to-do lists, or writing down all your worries and tearing up the paper. I have been completing a quick daily gratitude exercise over the last 2 months and I have found it immensely beneficial and it helped me keep things in perspective.
Music? We all have our favourite songs that make us laugh or cry, making time to listen to music can be a great way to boost your mood but often we get so busy we forget to enjoy this simple pleasure.
Exercise? This is my biggest challenge personally. As someone who is always trying to do multiple things at once I like to walk for errands, but going for a walk around the block? I find that uninspiring, that’s where music can help, YouTube has thousands (if not more) exercise videos. For me personally I love the fun of going to a boxing for fitness class, they have great music, I get social connection with the other class regulars and the instructor and of course it’s a great workout.
Is there any way you can make including exercise in your day any easier? Sleeping in your yoga gear? Having a packed gym bag in your car?
Exercise is essential, we all know that, but it greatly boosts your mood and when completed at the right intensity for your fitness level has massive health benefits. Talk to your GP about what exercises would be appropriate for you, especially if it’s been a while or if you have health conditions.
Sleep? Mother’s often talk almost competitively about how little sleep they get. It is taken for granted that a new baby will be disrupting sleep but older children wake during the night too. Many parents find that it’s been years since they slept through the night uninterrupted.
Chronic sleep deprivation can affect your mood, it has health effects too. While there isn’t a lot we can do about the young people in our lives waking us up we can develop evening habits that promote sleep for both them and ourselves.
Exercise can help with sleep but you may find exercising different times of the day helps you sleep while another time of the day wakes you up and makes it difficult for you to fall asleep. So it is worth experimenting with the timing.
Some people find a bath before bed helps them sleep, others report a cool bedroom helps.
Avoiding screen time in the evening is one habit. Easier said than done I hear you say! Audiobooks, music, games (not on a device but actual games), reading is a nice way to unwind without losing hours of time on a device.
There is now some technology to help reduce the effects of the screen light on sleep and over time this will no doubt continue to improve however this does not reduce the mental stimulation that occurs when accessing social media, doing online shopping or checking emails. Sleep experts repeatedly encourage people to leave their devices out of the bedroom.
Meditation or breathing exercises can help you fall asleep. If you find you are unable to fall asleep regularly I would recommend speaking to your GP who may recommend different options, for example, counselling, based on the possible causes.
Difficulty sleeping? This is where that over reliance on caffeine to get through the day really starts to take effect. If you have difficulty winding down and falling asleep in the evening, cutting back on that coffee and switching to a herbal tea or a cool glass of water could greatly help you. I know on the days when I’ve had too many coffees I have trouble getting a good nights sleep.
Having an evening routine that helps your children and yourself get a good nights sleep can be the simplest and best self-care you could do in your day.
I invite you to ask your self some questions about your self care. Are there things you are missing in your life? Can you identify some ways you can make it easier for these things to happen? Do you have something you look forward to in your life? Can you make self care on the “path of least resistance”? I encourage you to see how you can make self care easier to do in your day.