How to take care of the most important person in your life: You
“Self-care” has become such a huge buzzword that it’s almost a cliche. After all, as busy moms, do we need yet another thing to do, even if it’s good for us? Why is it even a struggle to care for ourselves, brush our teeth, or use the bathroom in privacy?
As mothers, we seem instinctively and biologically designed to give of ourselves. So it’s not a surprise that at the end of the day, we feel empty and touched out, with nothing left to give, even to our own spirit and body. Many of us resign to that fact as “That’s just the way it is.”
But it doesn’t have to be, and it shouldn’t. Living entirely for others is not sustainable. There’s no need to be reduced to the stump of The Giving Tree. You can be a tree of life and sustenance for your family and yourself!
Self-care is necessary for your well-being and calm because, with a rested, filled spirit, you are more likely to be patient and make decisions from a place of mindfulness. Everyone wins.
Starter Guide for Self-Care
1) Manage your energy.
As moms, we’re expected to be “on” 24/7. There are no lunch breaks, guarantees of sleep, or even a solid work day without interruptions. While there will always be demands and stress around you, you can remain grounded and calm by paying attention to your energy levels.
Plan events around when you feel your most energetic self. For example, don’t go to a mommy-baby music class at 8 am if you’re grumpy in the mornings and take a while to get going. Schedule intense meetings or activities when you feel more energetic, and give yourself grace and rest during phases you don’t usually feel as inspired.
Remember, even happy, social activities are energy-suckers. You may feel pressured to have your kid in every activity, and it’s lovely to be social outside the home, but remember that every activity takes energy, and don’t overdo it.
2) Take care of your body.
I know you know the drill about eating well and getting rest. But mamas, you hear it a lot because it is true. There are energy-giving foods and energy-zapping ones. Sleeping is not negotiable. Going to doctor appointments and daily exercise are ways to care for your body that aren’t massages and nails (though those are wonderful). Making time to do some morning stretches or a short walk at lunch is self-care.
For me, everyone in my home knows if I don’t get my morning sweat on after kid drop-off and before work, I turn into The Wicked Witch of the West. So “Sweat-time” is on my calendar daily, and I stick to it.
3) Nourish your mind and spirit.
Self-care isn’t just about external ways you feel the most “you.” As mothers, we rarely have time to nurture our inner world. Taking care of your mind and spirit is an investment into your calm “bank account” with compounding interest; the more you put into it, the more you get out of it.
One way to easily fit in this kind of self-care is to carve out a few minutes – really, only a few minutes – for stillness. Call it “Mommy’s Mindfulness Minute” in your calendar to protect the time. In a quiet space, do what matters to your spirit and mind most, whether praying, journaling, meditation, listening to your favorite song, or simply just eyes closed and breathing.
“True” self-care versus “Surface” self-care
Another way to better understand self-care is, as my friend Amber Trueblood shares in her upcoming book The Unflustered Mom, understanding the difference between true self-care and surface self-care.
True self-care activities provide lasting effects and create a deep positive shift when done regularly. An example of true self-care would be journaling (if that’s your jam the way it is mine.) Journaling is caring for your mind while you’re writing but also provides lasting benefits in mindset.
Surface self-care activities only feel great while you’re doing them but can actually make you feel less calm in the long run. An example of a surface self-care activity for me (and it’s different for everyone) would be getting a manicure. It feels nice that day, but when it starts chipping on day three, and I have to then figure out whether to take it off or make another appointment, it leads to less calm overall.
Making self-care a habit
Like habits, the key to starting a self-care practice and being successful at implementing it is to start small. What can you do today that is just for you? DO. IT. Put it on your calendar and do it again! I promise everyone else will benefit.
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