What comes to mind when you think of self-care? I will bet you immediately thought spa treatments and retail therapy. Am I right?
If so, you are not the only one to think that self-care is just for pampering. There’s nothing wrong with spoiling yourself on occasion but real self-care is more than a day at the spa. Think about the last time you went to the spa or the salon. You probably left with a spring in your step and you felt restored.
But when you got home that feeling faded fast. You are back to where you left off, back to the chaos, back to stress. It’s like it never left you. The house is still in a state of disarray and you still have that sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach.
Getting out of the house without kids tagging along feels good. It feels like freedom. But do you notice that when you’re out, you’re on autopilot and move like you have kids in tow anyway? Instead of soaking it up, we hurry up and worry that the house will be in shambles when you get back or that you forgot to turn on the dishwasher or take out the laundry? You never enjoy the moment and savor it.
So many moms, including myself have experienced this. When moms gather to talk about the stresses of motherhood, you often hear the usual “Treat yourself to a facial or get a manicure and you’ll feel better!” You might have even received this advice from a family member or a good friend. It’s not terrible advice, and it comes with good intentions. Sure, you will feel better but it’s temporary. Most importantly, it doesn’t solve your underlying problem.
What Is True Self-Care?
If you think about it, the spa is really a band-aid solution. It’s going to keep you together for that moment but after that the bandage will start to come off, exposing the wound. Not the prettiest picture to imagine but we all know that when we don’t deal with the root of the problem it will fester, like a wound.
Motherhood is stressful and like any stress in excess, it will negatively impact your health. An occasional day at the spa isn’t the self-care habit you need to maintain your mental and physical health, awareness is. Awareness is your life preserver, it keeps your mental and physical health buoyant.
When we’re self-aware we know our thresholds, we notice the cues our bodies are giving us, and with consistent practice it gives us the skill to be proactive when facing pressure.
The Big 3 in Self-Care
- Self-care is acknowledging you can’t do it all. If you catch yourself trying to do it all and are beginning to get stressed out, ask yourself, is this helping me?
- Self-care is managing the guilt. For many moms, guilt is the culprit, and it leaves us depleted. This is where mindset and self-awareness are so important. Self-care doesn’t make you a bad mom.
- Self-care is about ongoing mindset awareness and adjustment. The moment you feel you’re fighting with your mind between guilt and resentment, take a moment to step back, acknowledge it and look at the bigger picture. You might notice immediately that what you’re feeling is unnecessary.
Practice being aware of these feelings and handle them with confidence. You are in control of your feelings and how you act on them. It’s true that what you think is what you are. Self-care needs to be woven into your daily life.
A Simple Way You Can Build Self-Awareness
How can busy moms practice self-care and self-awareness when they are already maxed out for time? You barely have 15 minutes to yourself as it is, so how can a busy mom fit in the time? I understand that it sounds like an impossibility, but it’s like any other habit. It takes small consistent steps until it’s set.
If you’re like a lot of moms that struggle to put themselves first, a good place to start is by journaling. Keeping a journal can help identify triggers and bad habits. It can also help unload any mental garbage that has been piling up. It’s important that you do it every day because it’s your best source of information you can glean about yourself.
For me, journaling has made me realize that quiet alone time is necessary and not an option if I want to feel restored. In the evening when my son is in bed, I use this time to journal to reflect on the day and write about what worked and what didn’t. If looking back and there was a moment of considerable tension that seems to have come from nowhere, I can dig deeper in my journaling.
That’s not to say you have to be journaling all night or all morning. When I started journaling, I gave myself only 5 minutes because that’s all I had. It can really only take five minutes to get it all down on paper. Don’t let it intimidate you, try it!
Another great way to prioritize yourself is to engage in activities you enjoy. Think about what activities make you feel like your best self before you had children? It could be reading books from your favorite author, it could be writing a book of your own, it could be dusting off your camera to take some beautiful pictures of nature, whatever it is, it’s important to preserve these interests.
Instead of thinking of such activities as a “treat yourself” think of it more as an investment in yourself.
Compare self-care to a vegetable garden. It’s simple but if you don’t give it the care it needs to flourish, the harvest will spoil and not leave any nourishment for yourself and the ones you love.
Self-Care Is Your Obligation to You
Being a mother has its trade-offs, but that doesn’t mean you have to make sacrifices.
Self-care takes practice, but it gets easier with time.
Before you escape to the spa, take a moment to be mindful of your situation. For you, writing your thoughts on paper might give you the insight you need to recalibrate.
Investing in caring for yourself is the best way to improve the quality of your life and it will be the best way to serve others.
You are cultivating healthy and positive habits that will spread into every part of your life. Building these habits don’t have to take a ton of time or don’t have to be difficult to make big positive changes in your life.
So, grab that journal and start writing or engage in activities that keep you thriving. It’s not an option, it’s a necessity!