For many families, summer has begun, shifting the structure of school and extracurricular activities to the long, unstructured days of summer. For moms, the summer brings relief-temporary reprieve from rushing to the bus, carpools, battling homework and packing lunches, shifting into unstructured or semi-scheduled summer days, a welcome change. But there is often a thread of stress for many moms during the summer-how to keep everyone entertained, how to get to everything done with kids home, and how to make time for self-care. And if your home is anything like mine-the non-stop eating begins, starting with breakfast-second breakfast, snack, first lunch, second lunch, snack, snack, dinner and another snack.
Whether you are stay at home mom, working mom, or working from home mom, the summer can present challenges for finding time for personal self-care. The sacred few hours relied on when children are in school or in other activities come to an end, leaving a scarcity of free time sans children. Over the years in my work supporting moms, and seeing it in my home, the challenge in summer is often this: the push-pull of looking forward to less structure with carefree days and trying to be creative to get all the things done that I need to do, whether for work, home and family.
Here are five skills and strategies to manage self-care during the summer when the schedule as you’ve known it for the past nine months changes a bit:
1. Know Yourself. Taking care of yourself is uniquely individual to each mom. What works for me, may not work for you. Which is why it is so important to know what you need to feel healthy, happy and content. I encourage moms to start with a foundation of physical health to promote well-being, which is sleep, nutrition, and exercise. These three components create a solid foundation to build from. Once you take care of these three components, you can add self-care activities most meaningful to you. And if you are going through a stressful event, what once was enough self-care to manage stress, may not be what you need now, and you could require more self-care. If you are interested in learning more about your self-care and well-being, take this free quiz I created: How Is Your Well-Being and Self-Care, and you’ll receive an overall assessment in each area of self-care and ideas, suggestions and skills to improve your well-being.
2. Self-Care Evolves. Over the years of mothering, my self-care activities have changed a bit. In the early days of mothering, when my twins were toddlers, all I could think of is getting enough sleep and mindfully eating a meal as I was in the busy day’s toddlerhood moving constantly from morning to-night, meant I was too. As our family grew, new challenges arose, such as parenting through three different developmental stages and rarely having time when I wasn’t caring for someone. I have seen over the decade and a half in my mothering, my self-care needs-what I need to feel healthy, happy and content, have shifted and evolved. No longer is a good night sleep, exercising a few times a week, and eating well, enough self-care. I also need to carve out time to savor the quiet (as my house is seldom quiet these days), start my day with yoga, and schedule creative time for writing. Take a few minutes and reflect on your self-care habits. Are you spending enough time taking care of yourself? Is there something missing from your self-care routine that if you could add in right now, you would? And what would it be? Do you ever find yourself saying, “If only I had time to do _________.” If so, you need to listen to your heart and find time to make these self-care activities happen.
3. Make a List of Self-Care Activities. One skill that has helped me whether at work or in my personal life, is to write down thoughts, ideas and intentions. Have you ever noticed how thinking about something is so very different than actually writing it down? Writing our intentions down, whether in a list or journaling, helps to get our thoughts out of the abstract and into the concrete. Seeing our intentions written down is akin to making a contract with ourselves and showing up for what we value. Take a few minutes and make a list of self-care activities you need, you enjoy, and you may have done in the past and want to bring into your routine this summer. Ask yourself this: Is there an activity or routine missing from your schedule? What brings me happiness and joy? (be specific). Then ask yourself when was the last time I made this part of my routine or did this activity?
4. Be Creative Scheduling Self-Care. During the summer, if you have limited kid-free time, you will need to be creative planning your self-care time. Perhaps, this means setting your alarm a half-hour or so before the kids wake to take care of yourself or trying to fit in time when the kids are occupied. If you have a little one napping, use this time to take care of yourself rather than doing a chore or scrolling on your phone. Be intentional about how you spend time when you have small amounts of downtime. I’ve also found that during the summer we do self-care activities at the same time, for example, the kids may be reading or playing in the yard and I use that time to do some type of self-care activity-usually reading or editing a piece of writing. And summer days are great for a family walk together, which covers exercise and time outdoors as self-care!
5. Be Realistic About What’s Possible. Self-care can become a frustrating task when you don’t have the time, resources or support to make the kind of self-care you want to do, possible. The goal of self-care is to be restorative and increase your well-being, not to stress you out! Reach out to friends and family and see how you can be creative about creating space for self-care. Perhaps it means having your friend’s kids over for a playdate and then she reciprocates, giving you some child-free time. Look at your schedule and your support system and see how you can prioritize self-care.
As the summer begins, remember, as you care for your family, it is so important to take care of yourself! And the saying: ‘You Can’t Pour from an Empty Cup’ is so true when you are a mom! Be good to yourself and take time to prioritize self-care, creatively this summer! And rest assured, in a matter of weeks, you’ll be faced with a new challenge, getting ready for the school year to start, because, at times, the summer can really go by fast.
© Copyright Dr. Claire Nicogossian 2018