Last summer, I was not in a good mental space. My business was going very well, which was wonderful, but that meant I was working more than ever. My husband had started a new high-stress job and was basically non-existent on the homefront; my daughter was being a full-force threenager, with all the boundary testing that entails. When a miscarriage added an additional heap of physical and emotional turmoil, I realized that in order to survive, I needed to start putting myself higher up on my priority list. With everything seemingly in shambles, I revamped my existing routines and started new ones, changing my day to allow for more self-care and quiet time. Most moms could benefit from putting more focus on self-care. Whether you are going through a particularly tough time like I was or you’re just feeling bogged down by the stress of motherhood, making time for yourself can leave you feeling happier and more balanced. If you’re preparing to start a new job or welcome a new baby, taking a bit of time for yourself can help you recharge to face the challenges of those changes with ease. Fitting self-care in as a busy mom is challenging, but essential. Here’s what worked for me:
Learning to Let Go
Truth be told, I was always jealous of my husband’s ability to take care of his needs. Although I might feel frustrated when he was reading or playing games without noticing the mess around him, I also wished that I could do the same, going for a walk when I needed some alone time or taking time for a hobby even when there were dishes to be done. Last summer, I started doing just that, taking a page out of his playbook. Now when I want (or need) to relax for a minute, I don’t ask myself whether the dishes are done, the floor is swept, or the bills are paid. I just take care of me. All that other stuff can wait. This might mean waking up to dirty dishes or having laundry sit in baskets for a while, but taking away the self-imposed pressure to always be productive has cleared lots of mental space.
I always feel better when I’m working out regularly, and even if this isn’t the case for you, exercise has proven benefits. If you hate the gym, find a fun movement routine that works for you, like gentle yoga at home or even a dance class. Rather than squeezing in my workout around client calls and childcare obligations, I now make it an integral part of my day that is booked right into my calendar. Most days I go to the gym before taking my daughter to school (she protests, but tough luck, kid). If I can’t go early, I work out after school drop-off, even if that means getting a slightly later start to the work day. The key is figuring out what time will work for your schedule and making fitness a priority.
Everyone has an activity that can instantly make them feel more relaxed and centered. For me, that is a hot bath. I would hate to reveal what I spend on bath bombs and wood-wick candles, but the truth is that those expenses are investments in my mental health. Most nights I end my day with a long, hot, relaxing bath where I don’t worry about anyone or anything beyond that locked bathroom door, and that is priceless.
Knowing My Limits
Most women tend to spread themselves thin, taking from their own reserves to care for friends and family members. Although it’s still a work in progress, I’ve learned to recognize my limits and say no more often. Whether that means doing fewer extracurriculars with my daughter, declining a work project, or RSVPing no to a social engagement, I now weigh how much time and emotional work is required for an activity before I say yes. Self-care can sound like a buzzword, but until you’re doing it, it’s hard to understand how life-changing it can be. In the past nine months I’ve seen real changes: I’m more patient with my daughter and less likely to bicker with my husband. I have more energy and motivation to tackle challenging projects at work and at home. All of that, I believe, has come from finally giving myself permission to make time for me.