8 Simple Self-Care Tips For Moms To Be Happier
As a parent, do you find yourself tired, stressed and less patient with your loved ones? Then, don't feel guilty about doing some self-care. For, investing in yourself will benefit your family too.
By Dr Meghna Singhal
As a parent, you’re always taking care of other family members, especially your children. Packing their lunch, shopping, ensuring they eat healthy, keeping up with vaccine appointments and school projects, pick-ups and drop-offs, cleaning, scheduling…it seems like a whirlwind of never-ending things to do. It can leave any parent frazzled and stressed. Yes, parenting is a full-time no-break job. The constant tending to your home and loved ones can leave no time for you to de-stress and take care of yourself.
However, you cannot pour from an empty cup. Remember the standard safety instructions given on all the flights? ‘Put on your own oxygen mask first, before you help your child’. If we allow our role as a parent to eclipse the need to care for ourselves, we can become exhausted, ineffective and inept at handling the everyday challenges that parenting throws at us. When we emphasise our own well-being, it makes us more patient, joyful, and energetic. Taking care of ourselves also allows us to return to our parental duties feeling recharged.
Why you’re not taking care of yourself
There is a strong cultural pressure to keep pushing ourselves, glorifying people who’re always busy. This leads many of us to put our physical and emotional needs on the back burner. Also, many of us believe self-care isn’t easy and that’s why it doesn’t come naturally to most of us.
There are many reasons why most of us don’t practice self-care, even though we might know it’s important for us. Here are some of them:
“There just isn’t enough time”
You might argue that every waking second of your day is filled with a chore, a job or an activity. Then how can you possibly find the time for something fun or something focused on yourself?
What if you changed your perspective of what self-care looks like? Have you tried to do something for yourself, with purpose, and timed yourself to know how long it really takes? What if self-care looked like dancing to your favourite song or sipping hot coffee while looking out your balcony or reading a few pages of a book or simply making a healthy smoothie for yourself? It doesn’t take much to begin with such small changes and remember it is key to tell yourself that what you’re doing is taking care of yourself.
“Self-care is selfish”
When you’re a parent, it is assumed that any time not spent on jobs or chores should be spent with children. It’s what most parents are expected to do. ‘Besides, isn’t it selfish to want me-time, especially when I’m a working parent?’ That is what most parents ask themselves.
Look at it this way — what if you found that taking time for yourself helped you feel more relaxed and in fact, more energised to tend to your loved ones? Yes, if you do decide to go to the theatre to catch a movie, you will miss your child. That is perfectly normal. But it’s not okay to feel guilty about it or feel that you’re being selfish. On the other hand, taking time off for yourself will also help you realise that you appreciate the time with your family even more.
“I watch TV every night — isn’t that self-care?”
It’s alright to occasionally tune out and indulge in a Netflix binge or watch some TV show that does not require deep thinking or intellectual stimulation. But, is watching TV every night really leaving you energised? Is sitting in front of your screen helping you connect with yourself and do you feel like you are taking care of your well-being? Instead, why not swap one evening of TV-watching with something that’s important to you but which you have not paid attention to? A shared goal with your partner and spouse? Or something that challenges you, energises you? One evening a week. You will notice how different (and refreshing) it feels in comparison with the mind-numbing screen that we usually seek out.
“I don’t have help to look after the kids”
It’s understandable that you are unable to devote time for self-care when you don’t have any help to look after your children. After all, doesn’t self-care involve activities that will take you away from home?
Well, what if you were to choose self-care activities that require less time, and which can also be pursued at home? What if your self-care can be fitted around your family’s schedules? The best part about self-care is that you can define it for yourself and plan it to fit your children’s nap times or early mornings or, the time when children have gone to sleep.
“It’s impossible to do it every day”
It is possible that when you have to complete errands at home, meet deadlines at work, and also, read to your child while finishing cooking dinner, there is no time left for yourself.
But self-care doesn’t have to become another thing you have to tick off your list. Rather, it should be something you look forward to and indeed, pursue, in order to feel good. If you’re not able to do it every day, that’s perfectly alright. If you’re not able to do it the way you planned to, even that’s okay. The idea is to ‘fill yourself up’ whichever way you can and enjoy the process.
What you can do for self-care
‘How can I fill up my tank so that I’m ready for parenting and for life? What can I do to give myself the permission to claim my time? How can I take care of my body and my mind in order to be prepared for all the challenges that I face, every day? How can I make space for myself? How can I be kind to myself?’
Thinking about these questions as they apply to your life can lead you to discover small and simple ways in which you can take care of yourself. Here is a list of some ideas that work with a lot of people. You can choose a few or have some of your own, whatever works for you and your situation. Here are eight simple ways to self-care:
Whether it’s a magazine or a comic or a book, reading as a tool for self-care is really effective. Not only does reading let you unplug from the world, it gives you an opportunity to learn something new. Reading can inspire, educate and inform. And it can help you feel empowered. To make it a part of your routine, you needn’t have lofty reading goals, but you can simply read one page every now and then during your busy day — for example, when taking a break between jobs or chores (instead of checking your social media accounts).
Painting, doodling, or writing a piece of poetry — anything, any hobby that helps you feel happy and engaged can be used as a tool for self-care. Art helps us represent our inner world and in turn facilitates self-knowledge. It not only brings us closer to ourselves, it also helps us connect to others. Creating art need not be a gargantuan project. You can let art into your daily routine in small and easy ways — grab a pencil and draw or take your phone camera and take a picture. Look at a picture or simply even notice the shape of the clouds outside your window. Think of which other art forms appeal to you — music, dance, theatre — and take one small step every day to bring yourself joy.
- Healthy eating
Who wouldn’t attest to the importance of healthy eating for healthier minds and bodies? But when we use healthy eating as a tool for self-care, we tell ourselves consciously, “I’m making an effort to eat healthy for myself. I’m doing this to take care of myself and to feel good.” Food affects our energy levels, impacts our mood, and provides satisfaction and comfort. Incorporating healthy eating in our day doesn’t really take much time or effort, just some planning. Making a smoothie for yourself after work, tossing up a crunchy salad, paying attention to your plate, mindful eating… all these count for healthy eating, support your health and leave your body and mind energised and light.
Journaling is a very powerful self-care technique as it allows you to look within, uncover and re-discover as also, clarify your thoughts and feelings. Doing this, can enhance your self-knowledge. It has also been shown to reduce stress and enhance feelings of happiness. Again, it doesn’t have to consume much of your time. You can start by writing about your thoughts for a few minutes each day or, perhaps even type them on your phone on your commute from work. You can then revisit your writing with loving curiosity and dig deeper into your feelings. This can help you gain more perspective about yourself and even leave you feeling empowered.
Sleeping as a form of self-care involves getting both good quality and quantity of sleep. It’s tempting to stay up late to get work done but that can result in sleep deprivation over a period of time. Sleeping adequately helps your body recharge and improves your mental and emotional health. What’s more, it can even positively impact your judgment and reflexes! You could start by developing a simple bedtime routine, which includes turning off all gadgets, taking a shower, and reading a light book or listening to soothing music. You could also consider doing deep breathing or meditation to help you relax.
Exercise does not necessarily mean that you should go a gym or work out for an hour. It could just as well be a daily 30-minute brisk walk either by yourself or with your partner and spouse. It could even be you jumping up and down to upbeat music or doing Zumba (the very popular dancercise) at a class or at home while watching a video on YouTube. Or, it can involve a yoga session, including some rounds of surya namaskar (sun salutation) every morning or evening. Whatever suits your busy schedule. The benefits are manifold — exercise releases endorphins (also called happy hormones) that leave you feeling uplifted and less stressed. Also, regular physical activity helps you maintain a healthy body weight. So, not only are you being a wonderful role model to your children, you also feel better about yourself.
Meditation is a mind-body practice that leaves you calmer, strengthens you emotionally and psychologically and brings about balance in life. It can also enhance your overall health and well-being. Studies prove meditation can even ease symptoms of anxiety and depression. But, do you feel you are too busy to meditate? All it requires is a quiet corner of the house (or your workspace) and few distractions. You can choose to do guided meditation on your smartphone or, it can be as easy as doing some breathing exercises (look up videos on YouTube). Practice mindfulness every day. And then see how it transforms you, within and without.
- Meeting friends
Did you know that friendship can impact your health and well-being? In fact, good friends provide much-needed support during bad times and help you cherish the good times. Meaning, a rich social life is essential for overall health. So, if you have lost touch with school or college friends, make it a point to re-establish contact. Meet up for lunch or coffee once a month, swap life stories, share your ups and downs. You will find yourself feeling happier and healthier. And yes, ready to be a better parent too.
Self-care can give your mind and body the much-needed opportunity to relax and rejuvenate; so that you feel ready to take on your day with confidence. So, ‘fill your own cup’ and put on your own oxygen mask, so that you live life to the fullest. You’ll end up functioning and feeling better; you will also be able to do more for the people you care about. And ultimately, that’s the best and most fulfilling way to be.
(with inputs from Divya Sreedharan)
Dr Meghna Singhal is a clinical psychologist, psychotherapist and a parenting consultant at ParentCircle.
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