You know those moms on Instagram who have perfectly blown out hair and flawless make-up and they look like the happiest moms around?
Or maybe you know a mom like that in your local community or from your kid’s school.
I sure do and I don’t like it.
Most of the time, I’m a hot mess: my hair is in a ponytail, I have no make-up on whatsoever, and I’m dressed in workout gear.
I often fall into the comparison camp, wondering, why can’t I pull it together like they do?
What I’ve learned throughout the years as a mom, is moms don’t have it all together and if someone tells you they do, they’re in denial or lying.
Being a mom is the hardest, most exhausting job you’ll ever have and one that never has a day off.
Unfortunately, I don’t think we can have it all, despite what society tells us. There will be some element of sacrifice, trade-off, or not feeling the same way you did before you had kids.
It’s uncomfortable and disheartening for sure, but I think it’s part of being a mom.
That’s not to say however, that you can’t be a happy, healthy mom. Here are 10 easy, realistic tips that can help you re-gain your former self.
1. Carve out me-time
A few years ago, my therapist told me that just like on a plane, “you need to put on your oxygen mask first.”
I knew she was right, but with all that I had to do in any given day, it seemed impossible—and most of the time, it still does.
I usually put everyone’s needs before my own and as a result, I feel depleted, anxious, stressed and overall, unhealthy.
I won’t suggest that it’s easy to find time for yourself, because it definitely isn’t.
I also don’t claim to do it well, but in the last year or so, I’ve done a better job at carving out time for myself.
Although it’s not trips to the spa or countless hours curled up with a good novel, it is more intentional: 20 to 30 minutes in the morning to read the Bible or a devotional and pray. Or 30 minutes at night to read. Or blocking out my calendar to take my favorite classes at the gym.
It can be difficult to make time for yourself, but if you don’t do it, no one else will.
2. Eat healthy
When there’s so much to do and not a lot of time, or you have a new baby at home, getting healthy meals on the table can be challenging.
Avoiding fast food, and processed, packaged foods and a ton of sugar and focusing on fresh, healthy, whole-foods however, is one of the best things you can do to be a healthy, happy mom.
When you model how to eat healthy for your kids, they’ll be more likely to want to eat healthy too. You also won’t have to deal with a ton of picky eating and power struggles at the table.
A misnomer about preparing healthy meals is that it’s time consuming but nothing could be further from the truth. By doing some prep work on the weekends, cooking in bulk and sticking to the basics, you can get dinner on the table in no time.
3. Eat breakfast
You know breakfast is the most important meal of the day for your kids, but it’s for you as well.
A healthy breakfast is important because it gives you energy, prevents low blood sugar—and that hangry feeling—and prevents overeating throughout the day.
While the jury is still out on whether eating breakfast prevents weight gain, there is evidence that skipping breakfast is linked to high blood pressure, high cholesterol type-2 diabetes and heart disease.
In fact, an April 2019 study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that people who skip breakfast have an 87 percent increased risk of cardiovascular-related death compared to those who eat breakfast every day.
Starting the day off with breakfast can also make it more likely that you’ll make healthy choices throughout the day. According to a March 2016 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, overweight adults who eat breakfast are more likely to be physically active in the morning.
4. Keep healthy snacks on hand
When late afternoon hunger strikes, your energy levels are dipping and you’re vying for a pick-me-up, a coffee run can help but you should also fuel up with healthy snacks.
Instead of relying on something in a bag, box or canister, have foods like fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds and nut butters, or Greek yogurt on hand.
Take the guesswork out of snacks by washing, prepping and cutting up your fruits and vegetables ahead of time and setting aside individual grab-and-go containers or re-sealable plastic food bags.
5. Get moving
A sweat session at the gym makes me feel like a rock star. Not only does exercise prevent me from gaining weight, it has made me physically stronger.
Since I also deal with anxiety and depression, it’s a must-have to boost my mood.
Of course, the benefits of exercise are endless: a lower risk for chronic health conditions and cancer, improved brain health, better sleep and a longer life.
According to the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, adults should get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity throughout the week. But if all you can do is 15 minutes, it’s better than nothing.
If you don’t enjoy going to the gym, you can still get a great workout at home or in your community.
Walking, running, biking, swimming or using one of the many fitness apps at home can be a fun and realistic way to fit it in.
To ensure it nothing else gets in the way, make an appointment with yourself and block it out on your calendar.
I like to work out in the early morning because I tend to lose motivation as the day goes on. But maybe after-dinner or your lunch hour are the best times. Whenever it is, find a way that works for you.
6. Prioritize your sleep
Sleep is important for your physical and mental health: it affects your hormones, immune system, appetite and your overall function.
But getting enough sleep is pretty much a pipe dream for most moms, whether they have babies or big kids.
Also, when you finally settle in at night, doing something for yourself may feel more important than sleep. Although it’s not easy, on the nights when you can turn in 30 minutes or an hour earlier, do so.
7. Find ways to relax
Yoga and meditation are excellent ways to relax and cope with stress and anxiety, but it’s also important to find something that’s realistic and works for you.
Perhaps it’s reading, watching an inspirational video, doing a visualization exercise or calling a friend to talk.
8. Practice gratitude
There will always be someone else who is smarter, has more money or seems to have been dealt a better deck, but practicing gratitude as much as possible—even every day—is a proven way to increase happiness.
In fact, a May 2016 study in the journal Psychotherapy Research found people who wrote letters to others about gratitude reported improved mental health compared to those who wrote about negative experiences or only received counseling.
9. Have sex
Whether you’re trying to conceive or not, sex is one of the best things you can do to be a healthy, happy mom.
Sure, you’re probably exhausted at the end of the day but sex is pleasurable, builds intimacy with your partner, and is associated with marital bliss over time.
Sex has other physical and mental health benefits: a stronger immune system, reduced risk of heart disease and hypertension, less headaches, improved sleep, better brain health, less stress, better self-esteem and a longer life.
10. Recognize when you need help
Postpartum depression affects approximately 1 in 10 women nationwide but it often goes unrecognized and is not always an easy, clear-cut diagnosis, especially because the signs can be subtle.
While there’s a big focus on postpartum depression, what you should know is that moms also suffer with depression and anxiety when they’re pregnant or years after they’ve given birth.
If you’ve been feeling anxious, depressed or just not like yourself, there’s nothing wrong with getting help, or at the very least, talking to a friend. To find resources in your area, reach out to Postpartum Support International.