What is Self Care and Why is it Important for Moms to Prioritize?
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Looking for the remedy to feeling burned out and overwhelmed with all your many responsibilities as a mom? Don’t worry we’re going to fix that. Consider this your crash course on self care.
Today, we’re going to cover a few basic questions: What is self care and why is it important? How could I possibly fit it into my busy life? What if my significant other doesn’t understand why I need “me time”? We’ll get to all that.
Although I’m a huge fan of self care, I’m not a formally trained on the topic in any way. But if anyone knows the hows, whats, and whys of self care, it’s Kristi Yeh.
As a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and elementary school Wellness Coordinator, it’s a main focus for her work with parents and educators. She says, “The better the adults take care of themselves, the healthier our children are at home and school.”
I’m with you so far, Kristi. Because parents who take care of themselves have more patience, model self love and respect, aren’t so burned out or overwhelmed, and are calmer. That definitely sounds like the recipe to happy family dynamic to me.
In fact, Kristi is so passionate about self care, she started a side project to create awareness of its importance and provide accessibility with helpful tips about how to practice it in your life. It’s called Parent Self Care. With a blog, podcast, and booming Instagram account, she really is pulling out all the stops to reach as many mamas (and dads) as possible.
So what is self care all about? In other words, when someone mentions it, what immediately comes to mind?
Is it bubble baths and fancy clay face masks? If so, no shame, those are two of my favorites. And yes, those definitely count. But Kristi teaches that self care really goes a lot deeper than occasionally pampering yourself or spending lots of money. In fact, it actually involves nine different areas. And it should be a monthly, weekly, even daily practice. Gasp!
I know, I know. Sounds like way too much to wrap your head around, right? Before you get any further, Kristi reminds us she’s not suggesting you take on all these 9 areas at once. Instead, she recommends picking a couple of areas that align with your current values and needs in whatever season of life you’re in. That way, this new goal to care for yourself better is a lot more manageable. And the areas you focus on can change as you change.
Here’s what those nine areas are and some easy ways to fill your bucket in each.
1. Emotional: Find healthy ways to manage stress and other difficult emotions. Try spending time in nature, doing crafts, asking for help, or unplugging for a while. Set healthy boundaries.
2. Physical: Move your body on a regular basis. Eat balanced meals with proper nutrition. Get 7-9 hours of sleep. Stay hydrated. Here’s a huge one: Follow up when needed with your health care providers. Have you been evaluated by a Physical Therapist since giving birth, mama? You need to.
3. Spiritual: Participate in religion. Say a prayer. Try mediation (I love the free app, Insight Timer, for a short daily practice). Read a meaningful quote or poem. Spend time in nature.
4. Social: Connect with family and friends in person, via text, phone call, zoom, or my personal favorite: voice memo. Be part of a in-person or online community group. Or attend a local event.
5. Intellectual: Do something for your mental growth. Read. Listen to a podcast. Take a class. Learn a new skill. Catch up on your favorite TV show.
6. Occupational: Create a healthy work environment inside or outside of the home. Set up boundaries for work/life balance. Make a to-do list. Get organized. Prioritize what needs to be accomplished next to feel less stressed and overwhelmed.
7. Cultural: Take advantage of what your local community has to offer including concerts, movies, museums, restaurants, or day trips. Volunteer with an organization that aligns with your values.
8. Environmental: Declutter to create calming and inviting spaces to live, play, and work. Light a candle, try a diffuser, donate things you don’t need.
9. Financial: Create a budget and set financial goals that balance spending and saving.
Coming off the heels of budget talks might be a good time to mention: self care isn’t always “fun.” Sometimes, it may be doing something today to better set you up for later. Boundary setting can fall into this same category. Not always comfortable to do in the short term, but extremely rewarding long term.
Hopefully some of Kristi’s ideas have sparked your interest. But do you still have nagging doubts about how you’re going to pull off even a couple of these a week? Good news: Kristi has advice for overcoming some common barriers that can get in the way of self care.
Feel like you can you barely get a second to yourself?
Try a “self care snack,” where you fit in small practices for yourself when you’re with your kids. Your baby can nap on you while you listen to a podcast or watch a favorite show. Or you could get outside with your toddlers for some fresh air while they run around the park.
Do you have great intentions, but never seem to get around to doing the things you want?
The best way to make self care a lasting habit is by making it sustainable. Don’t promise yourself you’ll work out for an hour every day if that’s not realistic. Instead, start with a walk three days a week and build from there. And if you didn’t meet your goal for the week? No worries. You have a fresh start every Monday.
Build new practices into your life by anchoring them to things you already do every day. Kristi likes this example from the author of “Tiny Habits,” BJ Fogg. She paraphrases: “If you’re new to meditation, open your curtains in the morning like you always do and take two deep breaths. Then, celebrate yourself with a positive acknowledgement. This gets into the brain’s reward system. So literally give yourself a round of applause, cheer, or find another way to trigger the brain into believing something positive happened.”
Do you not have support from your significant other to take time to yourself?
Remind them that “me time” is something both of you need. Explain it in a way your partner will be open to receive. You can share something written by a neutral 3rd party, like a podcast, or book. Or this article explaining the importance of taking time to prioritize male-to-male friendships. Then, you could mention how getting time to do things you want is just as important to you.
If that doesn’t work, you can always get more support through couples therapy. It can be extremely helpful to have an objective party facilitate this discussion. It may seem scary, but according to research, it’s the most effective to go before your relationship is in crisis.
Feeling mom guilt for taking time to yourself?
Validating info alert: You do NOT need to entertain or be teaching your kids something every single second of the day.
As Kristi puts it, “Kids learn great skills when they play on their own. So independent learning is beneficial for both kids and for you. Moms who work out of the home often feel like we are missing important milestones. So when we’re with our kids we intensely parent to the point of burnout. But statistically, we spend more time with our kids than stay at home moms did in the 60s.”
The bottom line is? Every relationship is a balance. The important part is that you put yourself at the top of the list some of the time. Again, work with your significant other–if you have one–to cover for each other so you can both get the time you need. The only other alternative is that never-ending burnout loop for both of you.
Want more incredible tips and info from Kristi? Here are all the places you can find her.
Check out her incredibly insightful eBook: Self-Care 101 for Busy Parents
Get the latest from her blog: Parent Self-Care
Tune in to the podcast: The Mental Mile
Follow her on Instagram for quick tips and fun illustrations: @parentselfcare
Snag some fun merch: @ParentSelfCare on Teespring
Dive into the Educator Shop: Kristi’s Wellness Shop
So now that you’ve heard Kristi’s ideas: What is self care to you? Share your favorite tip to recharge in the comments below.
You can also check out this Mama Reset Self Care Retreat At Home I did recently that I got a ton out of and highly recommend every mother checks out. It’s put on by another self care expert and pediatrician, Modern Mommy Doc.
And feel free to visit my little self care gift shop if you want to treat yourself (or pamper a friend) with something special today while supporting mama-owned businesses!
Psst… if you enjoyed this article, share it with another current or future mama! You can also save it for future reference on your “Motherhood Inspiration” Pinterest board.