When you hear the words self-care, what comes to mind? Maybe it’s a spa day, a luxurious bubble bath, or a night out with friends. While these are all great examples of self-care, they aren’t the only ways you can prioritize yourself. In fact, sometimes viewing self-care only as extravagant activities makes it feel unattainable in the day-to-day.
Self-care could use a rebrand. When we shift from thinking of it as something we engage in only when we have extra time to something that we build into our daily lives, from a luxury to a necessity, self-care becomes more approachable. Here are some ideas of what self-care is and isn’t to help you find ways to show yourself love no matter what season of life you are in.
What It Is
You’ve probably heard the saying “you can’t pour from an empty cup”, which is popular for a reason. Being a Mom requires a lot of time, energy, and sacrifice, and no one can do it all. Self-care, whatever that may look like for you, is actually a necessary facet of motherhood. It allows you to continue to connect to yourself as an individual outside of your role as a parent, which is essential to avoiding burnout. It also allows you to show up in a more present way for your children, partner, work, or any other people or priorities in your life. So, instead of thinking of self-care as the thing you get to treat yourself with when all of the other “to-do’s” are complete, think of it as a non-negotiable on your list. This shift ensures you have something in your cup to pour from, and that you can be the best version of yourself in your many roles.
Letting others help you
The phrase “mother knows best” exists for a reason. Moms are great at solving problems, soothing crying babies, knowing which socks are a toddler’s favorite on any given day, and so on. While you might be the one who can get a task done the quickest, that doesn’t mean that it should fall on you to take care of everything. Letting others step in, whether that’s a partner, a friend, a family member, or someone you’ve hired to help, gives you the space you need to rest, take a break, and take care of yourself.
Some ideas to ask someone else to help you with are:
- Asking for someone to clean any dishes, bottles, etc. in the sink so that you can nap while the baby naps
- Suggesting a friend drop off a meal when someone asks if you need anything
- Creating a schedule for a partner to take over bath time or bedtime on certain days
- Allowing a trusted person to watch the baby so you can take a shower, go for a walk, or get some personal time
An additional benefit to letting others help you, especially a partner, is that it builds trust between another caregiver and the baby. Though it may take a little bit longer for someone else to learn the baby’s cues at the beginning, continuing to let others help you will allow you and your baby to trust that you aren’t the only one that can meet their needs.
Finding ways to feel joy
Self-care doesn’t have to just look like exercise or time alone. An important antidote to feeling burned out is to connect with activities, hobbies, or experiences that make you feel like yourself and bring you joy. Think about what makes you feel most inspired, invigorated, or makes you laugh, and follow that feeling. Get creative! One thing to remember, if you are struggling to feel any joy or find any moments of happiness in your days, it may be time to reach out to your doctor or a mental health professional to get some extra support.
Being compassionate towards yourself
Self-care is not only what you do, but how you think. Many Moms struggle with being harsh and critical towards themselves, which makes it hard to feel pride, joy, or a sense of satisfaction. Notice the thoughts you are having throughout the day, and if you are speaking to yourself in a kind and loving way. Try to replace harsh or critical messages you send yourself with more compassionate words, and notice the difference it can make in how you feel.
What It Is Not
Meeting only your basic needs
While getting sleep, eating, drinking water, and taking showers are technically taking care of yourself, meeting only your basic needs and nothing beyond that is not true self-care. Sometimes, meeting only our basic needs is the best we can do that day, and that’s ok! But when thinking of a self-care plan, try to go beyond just your basic needs, and think about things that are going to really help you to make a positive change in your mood. If you are struggling to meet your basic needs, enlist the support of a partner, family members, friends, or a mental health professional to discuss options for support.
Isolating yourself from your supports
Saying “no” can absolutely be a part of self-care. Sometimes, you need to say no to things in order to have the time and space you need to prioritize yourself. While this is true, having rigid boundaries can keep you disconnected from support and people in your life who care about you. Connecting with your community is an important and often overlooked part of taking care of yourself. If you are weighing whether or not to engage in an activity, think about who is going to be there and if that connection might be beneficial to you, even if you might not feel like going at first. If getting out of the house to do something isn’t possible right now, find other ways to connect with community like talking on the phone with a friend or joining a drop-in support group through Postpartum Support International.
Forcing yourself to do something that doesn’t feel right
What works for someone else might not work for you. While meditation is a great self-care practice, it isn’t for everyone. Similarly, not every type of exercise feels good or is safe for different bodies. Forcing yourself to do something that you don’t want to do or that doesn’t feel right for you takes you further away from the feeling you are looking for, and can discourage you from engaging in self-care to begin with. Instead of comparing yourself to others or writing off self-care, experiment with different types of self-care and find what feels right for you.
Self-care doesn’t have to be expensive or time-consuming. There are plenty of ways to take care of yourself that are completely free and take minimal time. Examples include:
- 5 minutes of deep breathing
- Listening to a few songs that you like
- Going for a 10-minute walk around the block, with or without your baby
- Doing a short exercise or yoga video on YouTube
- Sitting down and savoring your coffee or meal
As you move through different phases of Motherhood, self-care will change. It may be much more challenging when you have a newborn than it is when your kids are older. Remember to be compassionate with yourself as you figure out what works best for you. The bottom line is to remember that you deserve and need time to yourself, and making that a priority can help you connect with your happiest self.
This site is intended for informational purposes only and does not provide medical advice. Please consult your physician or other health-care professional.