Self-care has been the buzzword of the last two years, with tons of books, websites and experts offering up their best advice. Just google self-care and you’ll get more than 2 billion results! And a survey by wellness company Shine found that 91 percent of millennial women said self-care is more important now than it was two years ago.
But let’s face it, when you’re a busy mom, self-care usually falls to the bottom of your list. In fact, according to a survey by HealthyWomen and Working Mother magazine, a whopping 78 percent of women said they often put off taking care of themselves or making their own doctors’ appointments because they’re so busy taking care of their other family members’ health.
I’ll admit that when I feel anxious, stressed out and stretched thin—which is the way I feel most of the time with generalized anxiety disorder—my mom, friends and my therapist have talked to me about self-care.
“Go get your nails done.”
“Take a weekend getaway—alone.”
They all meant well of course, but between work, this blog, a husband who works long hours, a special needs child, and everything else that’s required to keep the wheels turning, every single time I’ve thought to myself, Self-care? Who has time for that?!
I mean, I eat healthy, workout 5 to 6 days a week, get enough sleep, and make time for God: isn’t that enough?
I also struggle with the feeling that self-care means being selfish. Maybe it was because when we were kids, self-care wasn’t a thing anyone talked about.
But in recent months, I’m realizing it’s something I need. I must make space in my life for self-care and things that bring me happiness and peace.
Self-care may be a foreign concept to you too, and it may be challenging to carve out the time for yourself. Still, it’s important to take the first step. So today, I’ve got 10 tips for self-care for you to consider.
What is self care? Self care definition
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the definition of self-care is:
“the ability of individuals, families and communities to promote health, prevent disease, maintain health, and to cope with illness and disability with or without the support of a healthcare provider.”
They go on to say that self-care is a broad concept that also includes things like hygiene (does getting your nails done count?), eating healthy, exercise, leisure activities, as well as things like the place we live and how much money we earn.
Self-care can be a host of different things and it’s completely individual.
For one mom, it may mean finding simple meal plan hacks in order to make healthy meals or finding the time to work out. For another mom it might mean asking their supervisor for a more flexible work schedule, or getting to bed earlier, asking a spouse to do more, or simply meditating for 5 minutes instead of watching Netflix.
10 Tips for Self Care
Self-care doesn’t have to take a lot of time or cost anything. There are small changes you can make in your life that can make a big difference in your physical, mental and emotional health.
1. Eat healthy…yes, it is possible!
The single best thing you can do when it comes to self-care is to make eating healthy a priority. It’s not just something you should do, but something that can give you more energy, help you think more clearly, have less anxiety and help you feel like the rockstar you are.
Of course, focusing on real, whole foods can also help you lose weight and fuel your workouts.
On the flip side, if you often skip meals, eat on the run, or find yourself binging at night, these are things that are important to address.
Another benefit of eating healthy is that when you model healthy eating habits for your kids, they’ll be more likely to follow suit, which can cut down on picky eating and mealtime battles.
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 ahead of time and sticking to the basics for example, there are easy, healthy ways to eat healthy.
2. Give yourself a time-out
Just like kids need time to calm down when their behavior is out of control, we also need quiet time to sit still and gain perspective when everything seems to be crashing down around us.
If you’re a type-A mom like I am, sitting for 2 minutes can feel like torture. But challenging yourself to carve out time each and every day just for you can help you de-compress.
This could mean getting up 20 minutes before everyone else to read, use a meditation app, pray, watch an inspirational video or do a visualization exercise. Or if you can swing it, it could be carving out 2 hours every Saturday to meet a friend for coffee, or take your favorite Yoga class while your partner shuttles the kids to activities.
3. One of the best tips for self care is to get moving
Whether it’s running, lifting weights or my favorite BODYCOMBAT class, a sweat session at the gym makes me feel energetic, optimistic, confident and more calm.
The benefits of exercise are endless: a lower risk for chronic health conditions and cancer, improved brain health, better sleep and a longer life. But exercise also releases endorphins, the feel-good chemicals that make you feel happy and prepared to face the day.
The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans say 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 you can only make time for a 15-minute workout a few days a week, 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 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 during your lunch hour are the best times. Whenever it is, find what works for you.
4. Re-think your life
Whether you work full-time, part-time, or not at all, we all have too much on our plates. No surprise here, but a recent survey by Motherly found 62 percent of moms say in the last day, they had less than hour to themselves without work or family obligations.
This is a big problem with no easy solution. Most days, I come up short with a solution of how to slow down. In recent months however, I have been getting better at saying no:
“No, I can’t take the lead on this volunteer project anymore—can you step up?”
“No, we can’t attend Johnny’s birthday party, but we hope he has a blast!”
“No, I won’t research this for you, even though I’m always the one who does it.”
Think about the obligations you can bow out of, events you don’t have to go to, and extras you can so “no” to, no matter how worthy of a cause they may be. Instead, think about what matters now in this season of your life and make those a priority.
5. Tips for self care include making sleep non-negotiable
We live in a society that says sleeping 5 hours a night and burning the midnight oil are good things. We’re efficient, can get things done and we’ve managed to handle it all, but have we really?
According to the National Sleep Foundation, only 10 percent of people prioritize sleep even though we all should be getting between 7 and 9 hours a night. What’s more, a September 2019 study in the Journal of Community Health found that people who get less than 7 hours of sleep each night increased from 30.9% in 2010 to 35.6% in 2018.
It’s important to consider how much sleep you really need to function and feel like yourself and then figure out ways to make it happen. Maybe it means putting off the laundry another day, paying bills on the weekends, or closing out social media an hour earlier and hitting the sack.
6. Re-think work
When you become a mom everything changes, especially when it comes to career and work. In fact, more than half of millennial women said they made changes to their work status once they became moms, the same survey by Motherly found. While some women can “lean in,” others don’t have the financial means or the desire to do so.
Yet practicing self-care also applies to work. Depending on your family’s financial situation, it may not be feasible to quit your job for example, but there are other ways to make work and self-care work for you. Maybe your boss will allow you to work a more flexible schedule, transition to a more flexible role or work from home.
Opening up a business may also be an option or if you already have one, it could mean getting an intern or hiring a virtual assistant to help out.
7. Be intentional
The only way to ensure that you have time for self-care is to put you on your schedule. Like I said before, if I don’t go to the gym first thing in the morning, it’s not going to happen.
Schedule your workouts, carve out time to make individual portions of smoothie ingredients for the week, or schedule one night a month to meet friends for dinner.
8. Stay connected
Regardless of how busy we are, being a mom can be very isolating especially if you’re stay at home mom or work from home. It’s important therefore, to find ways to forge friendships and stay connected with other like-minded moms or “mom mentors,” who are older.
For me, that means meeting with “My Crew,” a group of friends from church at least once a month. But it could also be signing up for a dance or art class, volunteering for a cause that’s near to your heart, or organizing a mom’s night out with moms from your kid’s class.
The key isn’t to add one more thing to your to do list, but to do something that makes you feel connected with women who get it.
9. Download self care apps
When it comes to tips for self care, it can be as easy as downloading an app. When you’re short on time, there are self-care apps like Headspace, the Calm app or Stop, Breathe and Think. For workouts, I recommend Love Sweat Fitness, Les Mills or Every Mother.
10. Get self care books
My journey to more intentional self-care started this year after I read Present Over Perfect, by Shauna Niequist. I also enjoyed Girl, Wash Your Face, by Rachel Hollis. If you like to reflect and write, you might want to try Choose You: A Guided Self-Care Journal Made Just for You!, by Sara Robinson.