Making time for self-care can be challenging, especially when you don’t have a lot of time, or you lack support to get kid-free time, or if you’re going through a stressful life event. And, sometimes self-care is challenging because of the amount of time it takes to parent on top of other work and responsibilities.
Over the past month, all of the above applied in my life. The demands at work and home pulled me in so many directions, and I put my go-to self-care activities on the back burner. And the places that took a hit during this time of stress in my self-care routine was meditation and writing. It wasn’t until a string of headaches, and I needed a third cup of coffee instead of my usual two, I knew, something had to change.
While I kept in place my routine of exercise, sleep, and healthy eating, I put other self-care activities on hold. As the stress mounted, I needed more than my physical self-care activities to bring me back to a place of well-being. Knowing how much meditation improves my overall health, I decided this has to be a commitment I make every day, no matter what is going on in my life. I decided to set my alarm 20 minutes earlier in the morning and spent fifteen minutes doing yoga and five minutes meditating. At first, it was challenging because I wanted to sleep that extra twenty minutes. But after a few mornings of quiet stretching and breathing, I was feeling back to myself, calmer and ready to handle the stress of the day. It was a powerful lesson: I don’t think I’ll ever let a summer schedule or stress get in the way of meditation.
When stress and schedule changes happen, it can be easy to fall out of a self-care routine. Here are six things to keep in mind with your self-care routine needs improvement:
- Self-Care is a Process. When self-care works best, it is a habit of building in self-care activities daily, weekly, and monthly, that restore physical, emotional, mental and spiritual health and well-being. Many people hear the word self-care and think of self-pampering, like a bath or manicure or massage, or self-indulgence, like having a piece of chocolate cake or a decadent meal. Self-care is a commitment to taking care of your physical, emotional, mental, social and spiritual well-being. But for many moms, self-care can feel impossible with the demands of caring for and raising a family. Which is why, I encourage clients to think of self-care as a process, rather than a one-time event. The foundation of self-care starts with getting enough sleep, exercise and nutrition/hydration. Once you have the necessary foundation of physical self-care, you can start adding in other self-care activities. Just as children need a routine to thrive, so do moms! At the minimum, make sure to get enough sleep, exercise and don’t skip meals or snack mindlessly during the day. Make yourself a priority, just as you do for your children.
- No One Size Fits All. There is no one size fits all way to take care of yourself. However, as I mentioned, the foundation of self-care is getting enough sleep, exercise, and nutrition/hydration. Spend time thinking about what areas of self-care would be the most beneficial to you right now. Perhaps, you are overdue connecting with friends and doing so would increase your well-being and happiness. Or, you are so sleep deprived, sleep is your self-care activity. Or, you’ve been so overwhelmed and busy, spending time sitting in the fresh air, writing down what you are grateful for would improve your well-being. The key is to find out what you need and what works to increase your happiness and well-being. What works for one person may not work for you, which is why spending time knowing what you need is a major step in developing self-care.
- Self-Care Needs Fluctuate with Stress. The amount of stress in your life will impact the how much self-care activities you will need. For example, an enormous stressful event is going through a divorce. A recommended self-care activity for this life event would be seeing a therapist for extra support. A new mom who is constantly feeding and caring for an infant may need the self-care of spending a night out with friends. Your self-care needs will shift as the stress in your life increases or decreases. Be mindful of how stress impacts your well-being, and it’s crucial to know there are things you can do to reduce stress and improve well-being.
- Know Yourself. Are you able to notice and recognize when you need more self-care? Do you pay attention to the signs your body and mind give you when you’re in need of more self-care? Has stress in your life increased pushing self-care low on the priority list? Have you stopped to think about what you need right now in your routine to bring more calm into your life? Knowing the answers to these questions can help determine what you need to do to increase self-care activities, which will lead to an increased sense of well-being.
- Barriers to Self-Care Will Always Be Present. Being a parent is a 24/7, 365 days a year role filled with a lot of responsibilities. I promise you: there will always be a reason or need that will take priority over your self-care. Which is why it’s so important to put into place a foundation of self-care (sleep/exercise/healthy nutrition and hydration). Manage the demands of parenting by scheduling self-care. And during times of stress, be sure add in, even more, self-care activities to help you cope with stress and increase well-being.
- Small Amounts of Self-Care Make a Difference. Many clients I work with often say how hard it is to find the time for self-care. My response is always: there is always a way to find time. Self-care for busy moms can be as simple as checking in with your breathing throughout the day, to writing five things you’re grateful for, to eating mindfully, and getting enough sleep. Small amounts of self-care every day will add up, and you’ll see the positive impact.
If you are interested in getting helpful suggestions on how to improve self-care, take the quiz: How is Your Well-Being and Self-Care and you’ll learn ways to increase self-care in the areas physical, emotional, social, mental and social well-being.
© Copyright Dr. Claire Nicogossian 2017