We all KNOW we need more self-care. "Put on your own oxygen mask first!"
Cool. Where is my oxygen mask anyway? I think my kids hid it along with the floor of my living room. Sounds great, though.
Many parents that I work with as coaching clients, or in my online group, say that the phrase self-care actually stresses them out, because it's just another way the feel they're failing, and adds one more item on their never-ending to-do list.
But often we're thinking of self-care in terms of big commitments of time, money, childcare, or all three. That doesn't have to be the case. So what are some ways to fit in self-care activities that improve your wellbeing?
Simple Physical Self-Care Ideas for Moms
Physical self-care might sound the most straightforward, but there are a range of activities that can fall under it which may not be as obvious. If you start feeling overwhelmed, try asking yourself, "How could this work for me?"
Physical Movement and Exercise
This is probably what most people think of first. Exercise generates endorphins that improve our mood and mental health, so it's a wonderful method of self-care. But it's not just aerobic activity that counts. Any movement that feels good, regardless of intensity, counts.
- interval training
- weight lifting
- playing a sport like tennis or soccer
What else can you think of?
Nutrition and Mindful Eating
How you fuel your body can make a huge impact on how you feel. Often in times of stress we gravitate toward carbs, which is a biologically normal event in case we need to run from a tiger. Usually the cause of stress isn't a tiger, and we don't need to run, so then we have a drop in blood sugar instead and feel worse. Oops.
- Eating breakfast if you normally skip it can make a big impact on your day.
- Eat more protein in the morning instead of carbs or just coffee.
- Increasing your fiber intake can help you feel fuller, balance blood sugar, and improve digestion.
- Eating more fruits and veggies increases your antioxidant and fiber intake as well as vitamins and minerals.
- Eating more slowly and chewing more thoroughly can improve digestion and portions.
- Eating naturally fermented foods can aid digestion and energy.
Eating well doesn't have to feel restrictive! Just focus on what makes your body feel good and do more of that.
Water Intake and Hydration
I've been a certified holistic health coach since 2011, and the biggest impact you can make with the least effort is drinking more water. Our bodies are mostly water, and most of us are chronically dehydrated. This means our cells aren't working as efficiently, and we can experience brain fog, headaches, fatigue, and more.
- Drink a glass of water first thing in the morning to "flush" your system and clear out the cobwebs.
- Keep a water bottle with you to ensure access to water all day.
- Take your body weight in pounds, and aim for half that number in ounces of water per day (for example, if you're 150 pounds you would try to drink about 75 ounces of water per day) -- aim for 100-120 ounces if pregnant or nursing.
- If you don't like water, try infusing your water with fruit or herbs (strawberries, orange, lemon, mint, cucumbers, etc.).
- If regular water is boring, try sparkling water (I bought a SodaStream just for this purpose).
This is a relatively simple step that can make a huge difference when we pay attention.
Sleep, Naps, and Insomnia
Ha, right? This is the hardest one for my clients since we can't stop parenting just because the sun went down. If only!
Sleep-deprivation takes a huge toll on your physical, mental, and emotional health. So how do you find ways to get more sleep? (Again, these are just suggestions to get you thinking. They won't all work for everyone.)
- Focus on what gets YOU the most sleep, even if other people tell you that co-sleeping is wrong (or whatever their criticism may be).
- Find ways to take naps, whether that's with your kids or not. My husband and I sometimes take turns taking 10-15 minute power naps before dinner.
- This one is tough, but go to bed earlier, even if it's 15 minutes, or just once a week. It's a trade off for that alone time, but if you're a zombie, the sleep might help more.
- If you can't fall asleep, identify the root cause: anxiety? too much caffeine? something else?
- An evening wind-down routine may help you, too. That could be meditation, yoga, putting your phone away, reading a chapter of a book, etc.
- Depending on how old your kids are, maybe it's time to night wean, or discuss with them what would help you both get through the night.
Medical and Dental Health
Taking care of your medical and dental health can easily get lost in the shuffle of everyday life. We juggle our kids' checkups, but often neglect our own. Putting off our own appointments can create worse problems later on!
- Schedule a wellness exam if you haven't had one for a while. It's helpful to get baseline bloodwork, check your skin for sun damage, and just check in about any questions you might have. Make a list in your phone so you don't forget to bring things up!
- Schedule regular dental cleanings in advance and put them in your calendar now.
- Call for that referral or specialist appointment you've been putting off.
- Get in for an acupuncture or chiropractic appointment.
- This could even be getting your insurance straightened out or researching a primary care doctor for when you need one.
Medication, Prescriptions, and Refill Reminders
If you have health conditions or take regular medication, make it as easy as possible to stay on top of your own care.
- If you take monthly medications, see if they can auto-refill, if you can get a 90-day supply, or if your pharmacy can deliver to save you time.
- Get yourself a fancy pillbox, or a day-of-the-week one so you don't have to remember if you took your meds today.
- Schedule a reminder to pop up on your phone to refill meds or take your pills.
Vitamins and Supplements
I wasn't a supplement person before I had kids, but postnatal depletion is real and it's hard to regularly eat lunch let alone get all your vitamins and minerals in.
- If you take vitamins or supplements, make them accessible (but out of the kids' reach) so you actually take them.
- Create a habit to take them at the same time each day so you don't forget.
- if you take some regularly, consider using a subscription service so you don't run out.
- If you're feeling run down, consult a doctor, naturopath, or acupuncturist for possible suggestions.
Breathing and Aromatherapy
You would think this is pretty baseline for survival, but our breath can affect our blood pressure, our sleep, our stress and anxiety, and more.
- Find a regular time of day to just focus on your breath for at least 60 seconds. Put a reminder in your phone if it helps.
- Need a little bit of structure? Try The Breathing App to help you pay attention. Download it in the App Store or on Google Play.
- Do you usually breathe through your mouth at night? That can impact your sleep cycle and how rested you feel.
- Make your air fancier to breathe by diffusing essential oils that lift your mood. Make sure they're safe for your kids first, or buy/make a roller for yourself to sniff.
- Set a timer for 5 minutes (or use something like Insight Timer - App Store or Google Play) and relax before bed.
Massage and Skin Care
I'm writing this during COVID-19, so going out for a massage isn't available for many of us right now, but there are small ways we can incorporate massage at home, too!
- Use a foam roller or TheraCane massager to help work out muscle tension at home.
- Get a back massager you can use at home. Bonus points if your kids are old enough to use it on your back. Use caution if searching online in front of your kids. 😂
- Use the fancy lotion you're saving for a special occasion, or massage oil (or you can use any topical oil) and give yourself a hand/arm/leg/foot massage. Or talk your partner into it.
- Use a body scrub or do a face mask to feel taken care of and pampered. Play some relaxing spa music while you do it to help you relax.
- Give yourself a little face massage when washing your face, exfoliating, or applying moisturizer.
This one is so simple, but effective. I realize this is easier year-round where I live in San Diego, but I grew up in Minnesota and this is often possible there, too!
On a sunny day, take a break and make some vitamin D by going outside. Just stand there and put your face to the sun, or level up and lay on a blanket on some grass if available. Take your kids with you and they might surprise you. Just a few minutes can make a big difference. (And upping your vitamin D can improve sleep, too.)
Can you pick one to try first?
If you're not already a member of the Semi-Crunchy Mama® Club over on Mighty Networks, join us there for our weekly Self-Care Sunday check-in for accountability and inspiration!