Take a moment and think about all the questions you ask yourself as you care for your children.
Are they hungry or thirsty?
Is he cold?
Does she need a hug?
Do they need some quiet time?
Do they need to run around outside?
Is she scared or overwhelmed?
Will they enjoy this?
Is this too much for him?
These are only a few of the many, many questions that run through our minds, sometimes answered so quickly that we barely detect that they came up at all.
But what do YOU need?
As mothers, we’re great at asking what our children need right now. But how often do we ask “what do I need right now?”.
One morning, my son was particularly emotional. I was frustrated because he wasn’t doing anything I needed him to do, and my head was starting to hurt from the constant whinging. He was alternating between pushing me away and throwing himself at me. My heart rate was up and my breathing shallow. I was tired, stressed, frustrated and about to lose it.
At that moment, a question popped into my head; “what do I need right now?”.
I looked at my little boy, and all I wanted was to be connected with rather than opposed to him.
That’s what I needed. And conveniently that’s what he needed too.
That hug stopped the unhelpful cycle we’d been stuck in. We chatted. We connected. I felt much calmer and was better equipped to deal with the rest of the morning. Mums need connection just as much as our children do.
The most important question for practicing self care in the moment
When was the last time you asked yourself the question “What do I need right now?”
This question is the key to practicing self care in the moment.
It took me a long time to make this question a normal part of how I look after myself. Now, it’s more of a habit, rather than a struggle to remember. It takes just a minute and it can totally change what happens next.
In less than a minute, you might uncover a need that would have otherwise gone unnoticed and unmet. For example, maybe you need:
- A quiet moment to think
- Something to eat or drink
- To get outside for some fresh air
- A hug or connection
- To sleep or rest
- A change of scenery
- To talk to someone
- Some help
- To take a few deep breaths
- A different perspective
- To change your approach.
The power of daily self care habits
Motherhood is challenging in a way that no other role is. It’s relentless, exhausting, constantly changing, intensely personal and the stakes are so high. It’s no wonder that we find ourselves consumed by caring for our children, leaving little time to care for ourselves.
When we think of self care, we often think of planned activities that may cost money or require a significant amount of time. We might feel that we need to plan for it, or prepare in some way. But self care can happen in just minutes, wherever you are, without any preparation or planning.
In fact, it’s the little daily self care routines and actions that we take, that have the biggest impact on our wellbeing, simply because they are more regular. Their frequency can also make them preventative, rather than waiting until we are really desperate for some self care, to do anything for ourselves. And, when we do things daily, they quickly become a normal part of our life, which, in this case, makes self care less effortful and more natural.
Self awareness is the key
Answering the question “what do I need right now?, requires self awareness. You might find that the first few times you ask yourself this question, you can’t come up with a clear answer. When you’ve been ignoring your own needs for a long time, you need to re-learn how to tune into them again.
Learning to be self aware is, in itself, a valuable form of self care. The more self aware we are, the better we can manage ourselves and cope with situations. The more self aware we are, the quicker we can meet our needs and the more of our needs we can meet.
Asking yourself “what do I need right now?” is simple and powerful way to improve your self-awareness so you can recognise your needs and see the opportunities for self care in the moment that already exist in your life every day.
When what you need is unrealistic or not possible straight away
Perhaps your answer to the question “what do I need right now?” is complicated, unrealistic or not possible straight away.
For example, let’s say you’re in the middle of the supermarket with two cranky kids in tow and feeling completely overwhelmed. The answer that comes rushing into your mind is that you need a weekend to yourself. You can hardly abandon your trolley and the kids there and then, and drive out to the countryside!
However, don’t dismiss that answer. File it away to be revisited at the next best time (when you’re not in the supermarket), and bring yourself back to the present moment. What do you need right now, here in the supermarket, with two cranky kids in tow? What would make this moment less overwhelming for you? That’s what makes it “in the moment” self care. It can be done right now, when you need it.
That longing for a weekend away, shouldn’t be ignored. Nor should you dismiss your other needs that could be met in the moment, just because you can’t have that weekend away right now. We all need a range of different self care practices, big and small, immediate and planned, to support our wellbeing.
Regular, in the moment self care forms a habit of looking after your wellbeing in a really manageable, practical way. So, if you’re struggling to find time to look after yourself, just start small and in the moment.
I have two actions for you today, lovely. I don’t think they’ll be a surprise.
- Take a moment to answer this question: What do you need right now?
- Whatever the answer is: do that (or at least a part of it that is realistic and manageable)