Self-Care Strategies for Busy Mums

“When was the last time you made time to do something just for you?”

Do you get annoyed when people ask you this? Like, if you had a spare half an hour to go and get a massage and have a glass of wine (at the same time) you would totally be there, but you know, responsibilities.

Lets explore ‘self-care’, we see the term thrown around a lot on social media and in the blogosphere, but I’m not just talking about leaving the kids with a baby sitter for an hour once in a while and going to get an express mani-pedi, I’m talking about actual self-care. Let me explain.

It’s no secret that my motherhood journey thus far has been a challenge, and if you caught my first few blog posts then you would’ve read about my experience with postnatal depression and anxiety.

I still see a counsellor regularly, and plan to for as long as I think I need it. Counselling is part of my self-care plan. For me, it’s time that’s non-negotiable, it’s time that I make happen every 2-4 weeks regardless of what’s going on in my life.

Sometimes I take the boys with me and other times I go on my own, I don’t care how I make it happen, as long as it does. Initially, the very essence of my anxiety was centred around leaving the house with both boys, so keeping my appointment every fortnight has been a challenge, one that’s getting easier, but one that I know is yielding me great results.

In my personal experience (very specific to me), the cognitive therapy wasn’t helping to improve my mood until the anti-depressants kicked in. For me, the medication lifted the mental fogginess and gave me the mental clarity to implement the tools learned in my counselling sessions.

This has led me to my current project, my ambition to coach and has given me motivation and now finally a future to look forward to that also includes my children!

The funny thing is, now I have too much on the go and I’m starting to feel the burnout. I started going full steam ahead once my mood and spirits started to lift. I had found purpose and motivation in my life, but simultaneously forgetting that recovery is a slow process, and that I still need to practice self-care.

I like to think of self-care in terms of cars, (stay with me) they require fuel to keep them running and require regular servicing to maintain them. This analogy applies to our mind and body, we need fuel for our bodies so that we can function optimally, but we also need to maintain our mind and body. Self-care is our maintenance plan if you will!

“She made a promise to herself to hold her own well-being sacred”  – Unknown

Finding the time to dedicate to me, has been a challenge in it self. Reasons why I neglect myself:

  • A baby and a toddler…. say no more…
  • I like feeding my family healthy, home-cooked meals, and so I cook instead of resting.
  • I don’t like when my house is messy, and so I clean instead of relaxing.
  • Spending time with my kids is important, and so I choose that over time to myself.
  • Spending time with my husband is also important, and so I choose that over time to myself.
  • I had this crazy idea to start a blog and I want it to succeed, so I work on it constantly instead of unwinding.
  • There are appointments to make… there is ALWAYS SOMETHING TO DO.

I could keep going forever, but you get the point.  If you are a mum reading this, I’m sure you can relate to most of these points, plus a few of your own.  Well mama, let me tell you what I have learned about self care and why I need to add it to my daily routine.

What has postnatal depression & anxiety taught me?

  • It takes a village – social relationships and social connections have a major influence on our happiness in general. Maintaining close social ties has been shown to increase our life satisfaction.
  • Accept help – This ties in with the above, it really does take a village to raise a family. Accept help in whatever form it comes, and if you don’t have family or friends close by that can lend a hand, then seriously consider the option of hiring help, whether that’s a cleaner or a Nannie.
  • Letting go of control – I have a really hard time letting go of control of things that I have been doing as part of my daily routine forever. My husband often asks what can i do to help? And previously, I would get anxious about having to explain how to do something, or risk it not being done to my ‘standard’. I have come to accept that the way I do things is not necessarily the ‘right’ way. Progress over perfection will keep you moving forward.

Experience has taught me that self-care is not about taking an hour out here and there to go and have a bubble bath. It’s deeper than that. It’s about building emotional intelligence, and building your tribe – the support network around you, that will be there for you unconditionally, and letting go of control.

Being honest with yourself and letting go of some of the guilt. I don’t think the guilt ever disappears, it’s always there in some form, like a badge of honour gifted to us from past generations of mothers. I think it’s built into our DNA, our genetic makeup as women, as mothers.

Recognising that all feelings are OK, (even guilt) and labelling these feelings… this is what I have explored in depth during my counselling sessions. I wasn’t expecting to feel so liberated when I actually stopped and acknowledged my feelings, no matter how irrational they can be, just acknowledging and labelling them…. then moving on. It’s how we behave that is important. This reverberates through the whole family.

Connecting with yourself emotionally

Taking the time to really understand what causes your stress behaviours, this has been a really big thing for me. When I began to actually identify what behaviours I display when I’m stressed, or my needs aren’t being met, I was then able to recognise those behaviours and stop before the burn out sets in. Easier said than done, but practice makes perfect. Find some insight into your personality type by taking this quick, free quiz.

Bouncing back!

Building up resilience is a fundamental component to high emotional intelligence. Having the ability to adapt from difficult experiences can help us manage stress, anxiety and feelings of uncertainty. It’s not easy, but it can be learned. Even after misfortune, resilient people are blessed with such an outlook that they are able to change course and soldier on.

Being resilient is not about being ‘assertive’ or ‘fearless’. It’s about how you react to experiences in your life that are difficult or traumatic and still maintaining a positive outlook.

“Self care isn’t a list of things you do, it’s a state of mind”  – The Life On Purpose Movement

“I have come to believe that self-care is not self-indulgent. Caring for myself is an act of survival” – Audre Lorde

My ‘go to’ self-care activities when adulting gets hard!

  • Going for a drive: Sometimes when I’m home on my own with one or both boys and either one or both are a bit (a lot) grumpy then I bundle them into the car and head off for a drive. The youngest one is guaranteed to fall asleep (because surprise surprise hes over tired!) so I can get a bit of peace without him attached to me and I can go through drive through coffee (amen!) park at our local lake, share some banana bread with my eldest and point out the trucks and cars that drive by. It kind of resets me, and distracts the kids enough to forget what they were whining about. I’m then better equipped to parent for the remainder of the day.
  • Therapy: I’m lucky enough to have access to free counselling sessions, these are invaluable to me, and I make it my personal mission to keep all of my appointments.
  • Regular chiropractic care: I fully understand that this isn’t for everyone, and it can be expensive. However, for me regular adjustments helps to keep me centred, physically and emotionally.
  • Going for a quick walk around the block and taking deep breaths of air.
  • Drops of lavender oil in the corners of the shower, and having a hot steamy shower before bed. When I get into bed I do a 5-10 minute mini meditation session. I’ve usually fallen asleep before the end though.
  • Having a conversation with an old friend that boosts your positive vibe! And having plenty of giggles!
  • Epsom Salts in the bath. The healing properties of Epsom Salts result from the combination of magnesium and sulphate, both of which can be absorbed through the skin when you bathe. They help to ease stress and help you sleep better and relieve muscle soreness and pain. WIN!
  • Indulging in guilt free delicious food feasts! Nothing speaks to the soul more than delicious food and good company.

Self-care is unique for everyone, and it’s important to identify healthy strategies versus detrimental forms (such as substance use, procrastination, self-harm, or isolation). Start by slowly incorporating small ways of enhancing your well-being into your daily life, so that it feels more natural to do something just for yourself, rather than adding another chore to your overflowing to-do list. Download my Self-Care Strategies for Busy Mums e-guide below.

If self-care is something new for you, or perhaps you’ve left it on the back burner for too long, and need some help to create your own list of self-care strategies, consider connecting with a health/wellness coach like myself who can support you in exploring the areas of your life that can benefit from creating deliberate acts of kindness for yourself.

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