I talk to a lot of mums about self-care and while it’s a very popular topic these days, so many mums still struggle with making it work for them in a realistic and practical way.
There’s no doubt that mums are very busy and juggling more demands than one person can reasonably handle. That makes incorporating self-care into your life much more challenging. But it’s so critical that we tackle that challenge.
What is self-care?
First, let’s be clear on what self-care is and isn’t.
Self-care is not doing anything that feels good or soothes you, even if it’s actually damaging to you. For example, drinking too much alcohol because it helps you relax, is not self-care.
Self-care is any activity that you deliberately do to nourish your mind, body or spirit. It can involve things that make your life easier to manage or improve your healthy connections with others. Over time, these deliberate actions can become habitual, making them less effortful but still so effective.
With regular self-care, you’ll be more present, patient and tolerant with your family. You’ll feel calmer and happier. You’ll be able to think more clearly and keep on going, without collapsing in an exhausted heap (as often!). Self-care helps to keep you healthy and resilient.
I think most of us know that we should be looking after ourselves. Sometimes we believe that we don’t deserve it or that we have to put ourselves last to be a “good” mum. Sometimes we’re just so overwhelmed, that we struggle to find the headspace for it at all.
Lovely mum, if you continue to ignore what your body, mind and spirit need, over time you’ll become overwhelmed, and unable to look after anyone well, including yourself.
You deserve to be well. You shouldn’t be last priority because your family needs you to be well.
Self-care is an investment in you and your family.
5 self care myths busted
With the definition of self-care clear, I really wanted to focus on 5 self-care myths that I keep hearing. These myths are stopping mums from looking after themselves. So, let’s bust these myths!
1. Self-care requires a lot of time
Isn’t it strange that a day at the spa or salon is the first thing so many of us think about when someone mentions self-care!? Sometimes we think that if we aren’t investing a significant amount of time into our self-care, then it’s not worth it.
Self-care doesn’t have to take a long time. Weekends away with the girls or whole days of pampering are lovely every now and again, but it’s not realistic to have these all the time.
Even the smallest moments can have a big impact.
You could take just 2 minutes to have a glass of water, 3 minutes to reflect on your day before you go to bed, 5 mins to write in a gratitude journal or do some deep breathing. Hiring a cleaner takes no time at all once you’ve actually chosen one (unless you like to clean the house before the cleaner arrives!).
You can even just modify something that you do already, to make it more nourishing, without necessarily adding extra time. For example, buy a luxurious body wash to use in the shower or better quality coffee. Have a nutrient dense smoothie for breakfast instead of your usual slice of buttered toast.
Look for opportunities to add small self-care moments into your daily routine. They all add up.
2. Self-care requires you to be alone
So many examples of self-care require alone time. Some people need to be alone to feel refreshed. Some people don’t enjoy it so much.
When my son was little, my husband used to constantly suggest that I go to a cafe and have a cup of tea by myself for an hour. That idea was far from appealing to me. I would much rather have someone to chat to and honestly, at that stage, I really wanted to be with my family.
Sometimes being alone isn’t really possible. My son has always been very attached to me and for quite awhile it was a real struggle to leave him with anyone else. At that stage, I wanted to be with my family but have someone share the load so I could do less.
Self-care can also mean connecting with someone else; your partner, a friend or your mum. We need connection. Our brains are wired that way.
So, you don’t have to be alone to look after yourself. You can practice self-care while you’re with your children. You just need to find what works for you and for them. Maybe you could do a short child-friendly meditation or yoga session together, or sit together on the lounge reading your own books. Take the kids for a walk or have a picnic in the sunshine. Think about how you can include them in the things that nourish you. This is still self-care.
3. There’s a right way to do self-care
What is nourishing for one person is unhelpful or pointless to another. You don’t need to like the same things as anyone else. Feeling like you need to get self-care right, creates unnecessary stress and defeats the point of it all! Some mums may give up without even trying, to avoid getting it wrong.
I often tell people that I don’t like to take baths. I find them boring and feel cold quickly. Taking a long bath is one of the most common self-care suggestions out there!
I also find that tidying up can be great for my wellbeing. Cleaning doesn’t seem like it should be self-care, but it can be! Creating physical space and order, creates mental space and order.
The best self-care practices are the ones that are meaningful to you. Only you know what these are.
And if you’re not sure what’s meaningful to you, then be willing to try new things and you’ll discover them!
4. Self-care should always feel amazing
By definition, self-care should be nourishing and restoring for you. It shouldn’t take from you.
However, there are a number of reasons why you might not immediately feel amazing when you practice self-care.
Self care can involve routine, unexciting things that are necessary for our wellbeing. For example, medical check ups and drinking an extra glass of water.
You might also start a new self-care activity that is not enjoyable yet. For example, you may really want a burger and chips, but you’ve decided to eat salad for lunch. Right now, you’re wishing those cherry tomatoes were a little more like salty fried potatoes. But over time, new habits become easier and more enjoyable and you’ll feel good for looking after your wellbeing.
Sometimes, we’re overcome by guilt when we prioritise ourselves. We feel like we shouldn’t be doing something for ourselves. This detracts from our enjoyment. Lovely mum, you deserve self-care.
And lastly, when self-care involves someone else stepping in to look after the children, you might find that all the preparations that are required for you to step away for a little while, make it all just seem like hard work. Maybe you’re doing more preparation than is really necessary, or maybe you could choose a different form of self-care for this season of life.
The benefits of self-care are cumulative. Keep investing in small self-care moments, even when it doesn’t always feel amazing at first. Later, you’ll feel the overall effect.
5. Self-care is selfish and indulgent
Self-care isn’t a luxury, it’s a daily necessity for you to function well in life. It needs to be regular and ongoing, rather than sporadic and one-off special treats.
It’s not selfish because you need to look after yourself so that you can continue to give your best to your family. Take it from someone who has run themselves into the ground, through overcommitment and lack of self-care, a number of times in her life (that’s me!). If you don’t tune into and look after your own wellbeing, eventually you won’t be able to look after anyone else either.
So many mums believe that they can’t afford self-care, but it doesn’t have to cost anything. Sitting in the sun, playing your favourite music, using daily affirmations or doing absolutely nothing for 5 minutes, are all free. So is sleeping, reflecting, saying no, dancing in your kitchen, doing lunges at the park, self-compassion, getting a hug and booking your morning appointments a little later to give you extra time to get ready. There are lots of cost-free options.
Have these myths been holding you back from looking after yourself, lovely mum?
Here’s your opportunity to change that.
You are important and you deserve to be looked after. Your family need you to be healthy and resilient.
Find the self-care practices that are realistic and meaningful to you in your current circumstances. The options are limited only by your creativity and your self-awareness.
Why don’t you start with this:
- What’s 1 thing you can do TODAY, to look after yourself?
- What’s 1 thing you can do TOMORROW, to look after yourself?
- What’s 1 thing you can do DAILY, to look after yourself?