Most moms excel at taking care of other people, but struggle when it comes to taking care of themselves. Because of their busy schedules and the number of balls they always seem to be juggling, moms tend to think of self-care as a frill, something that would be nice to do if they had time. As a result, they end up with less of what they really need – good health and energy – and tend to feel tired, stressed and downright weary.
No, it’s not possible to remove all of the stresses and responsibilities from a mom’s life. But if you struggle to care for yourself while caring for other people, you need to know that it’s possible to take better care of yourself while still handling all of your responsibilities. It will involve establishing your mental and physical health as priorities in your life, and may involve saying “no” to some things that have made themselves priorities, possibly without your permission!
Self-care will look different for every mom, but a few things are so basic that every woman should incorporate them into her life. Here are five:
Do something you love.
Yes, you love raising your children (most days!). And you may love your job or the work you do at home. But, frankly, those things can be hard – and some days they suck the life right out of you. So you need something in your life that you really love, something that feeds one of your passions and energizes you every time you do it. It can be anything – running, writing, painting, sewing, starting a business, volunteering for an organization you love – as long as it renews you and gives you strength for the humdrum and hard parts of everyday life. If you don’t have that now, find a way to add it.
Get up and move.
If you aren’t exercising regularly, you aren’t taking care of yourself. Your energy level is down and your stress level is up. You’re more likely to get sick. And you probably aren’t happy with your body. The solution is to make time to get up and move for about 30 minutes, at least 5 days a week. You can walk, jog, lift weights, take a class, work out with an online video or even play soccer with your kids. Anything that gets you up and moving. So get a FitBit or other fitness tracker and work your way up to about 10,000 steps a day.
Get more sleep.
More than likely, you’re not getting enough sleep. You’re busy, with more on your plate than you can manage in a day, so you cut into sleep time to get it all done. The problem, though, is that lack of sleep damages your mental and physical health. It makes you stressed and irritable, decreases your focus and ability to get things done, and increases your risk of getting sick.
So you need to find a way to get at least 7 hours of sleep every night. Put systems in place with your children and work/home responsibilities that keep you from having to stay up late, trying to get things done. During high-stress/low-sleep periods (newborn baby, teething toddler, sick child), sleep as much as you can, whenever you can. Say no to new commitments, and consider letting go of some existing ones. Establish a bedtime routine that allows you to relax and unwind. Put away electronics well before bedtime and do something that relaxes you. Make sleep a priority, because you are worth it.
Stop eating crappy food.
Fast food, processed meals, cookies, chips – it’s crap. Your body doesn’t want it or need it. It may make you feel better in the short run, but in the long run it makes you feel terrible. Your body needs fruits, vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats, protein, and water. If it doesn’t get those things, it will start to let you down. You may sense a loss of energy, feel bloated, or get sick more often. You may gain weight, even though it seems like you aren’t eating very much. And you definitely won’t look and feel your best. So if tend to grab crappy food rather than the kind of food your body needs, take the time to stop and make some changes. (This free ebook can help you get started – The Busy Woman’s Guide to Healthy Meals.)
Drink more water and less soda.
If you drink soda or anything with added sugar or artificial sweeteners, start weaning yourself off of it. (I’m not giving up sweet tea, but I’m not drinking it all day long either!) Regular soda, diet soda, energy drinks – you don’t need any of them. Instead, get in the habit of drinking more water. Add lemon or other fruit if you don’t like drinking plain water (I don’t). This one small changes creates a triple healthy effect – you consume less sugar, you avoid artificial colors and sweeteners, and your body gets the water it needs to function well and help you feel great. (Did you know that feeling tired or feeling hungry can actually be signs that your body is thirsty?) So get a fun water bottle or a nice big glass and start drinking more water.
I know you’re busy, but you’re not too busy to do these five things for yourself. And if you are, you need to make some changes. Your body, mind and spirit – and your family – deserve it.