Motherhood, despite all its joy, can be hard, exhausting and overwhelming. There is so much to do, so many expectations (many we create ourselves) and not enough time in the day. Many of us, especially at this time of year, are on the edge of burn-out and feel that we desperately need a break. So, how can we cultivate self-care in a life that is already full to overflowing?
Self-care is a catch phrase that gets bandied around a lot on social media lately. It has become fashionable to chuck a #selfcare hashtag on all our Insta posts when we escape for a girl’s weekend away, or have an occasional massage or a rare hair appointment. But, what if I were to tell you that self-care is an EVERYDAY ritual that can become part of ordinary life? A life that you don’t feel that you have to always ‘escape’ from? A life that although at times busy and stressful, is balanced out with moments when you truly take care of yourself.
Rise & Shine
I am the first awake in my house and I use that time to enjoy a rare moment of quiet. I open up windows and doors to the world, light my favourite candle, put on some soothing (very quiet!) music and then I make myself a cup of liquid gold (y’all know what I’m talking about!) I slowly drink my coffee and have a moment of peace before my day begins. Sometimes I stretch, sometimes I read a few pages of a book, but mostly I let my mind wander. The most important thing is NOT to check my phone during this time and to enjoy the moment. Do you have early risers? Make your children a warm drink of their own and snuggle on the couch together.
When was the last time you really sat and enjoyed your food? Can’t remember? Food is one of life’s greatest pleasures, and yet most of us gulp it down while trying to do a million things. Aim to have at least one meal a day that you sit and savour, even if it’s when kids are bed at night. I’ve started making overnight oats each evening for the whole family, then we sit outside on a picnic rug and eat breakfast that way. There’s less mess and if the kids wander off to play I get a few mouthfuls in peace!
This is hard to do, but so important when trying to simplify everyday life. A few years ago, when I felt like things were out of control, I wrote a list of what was really important. I put that list up where I could see it each day and then based most of my decisions around it. So, anything that didn’t fit in with those priorities had to go. The huge amount of extra curricular my children were doing? We cut it down to the few things we really loved. The massive list of events at the school? We said “yes” to one thing a month and “no” to the rest. These new priorities meant that sometimes we had to say no to people you love, or to events that you would normally go to. Explain to friends and family that you have a lot on right now and you’re slowing down for the rest of the year.
Be in the Moment
It’s the simple, everyday things that make up the fabric of life. Try each day to be mindful about what you are doing and why you are doing it. Instead of thinking about what you “have” to do, concentrate on the present moment. Driving to work? Look at the scenery and pick out one beautiful thing to notice on your commute. Hanging the washing? Pay attention to the breeze and warmth of the sun. Dealing with another temper tantrum? Diffuse the moment by doing something silly and have a good belly laugh with your child.
Cut that to-do list
Speaking of that to-do list, cut that baby right down. Have literally three things to get done each day other than the essentials (unfortunately you can’t cut out feeding the kids…..sigh!) and don’t have expectations to do anything else. Expectations lead to disappointment and stress. Do less and rest more.
Your day has been mayhem, kids, work, partner, mess. Ugh! Now, you have to face witching hour! Pour yourself a refreshing drink, turn on the tunes and dance!! Music lightens any mood and dancing like nobody is watching is even better. I find incorporating music into most aspects of my day is wonderful for my mental well-being.
I often feel that I am just going through the motions of another long day and not really appreciating anything. A daily walk tends to bring me back to earth and I take the time to pay attention to the world around me. Our favourite time for a walk is before dinner – it refreshes us all, ready for the bed time home stretch.
We all have a bedtime routine for our children, but do you have one for yourself? Once the kids are tucked in bed, light a few candles, have a leisurely bath, turn off your phone and shut down your computer, eat something delicious and make a nourishing hot drink. Instead of watching TV with your other half, could you play a board game together, sit outside under the stars with a drink or quietly read in companionable silence?
Self-care is not selfish, it is a necessity. Gently find your own routines and rituals that suit your lifestyle and help you feel balanced and happy. Self-care will help you feel calmer and less stressed, which helps you be a better parent, partner and friend.