Are you looking after yourself? Children take up a lot of time and energy but the rewards of parenting are huge. We wouldn’t have it any other way. As mothers we love to spend time and energy on our children, but all too often we forget to spend time on ourselves.
You may think that your baby takes up a lot of your time and this is certainly true. But if you can find moments in each day to nurture yourself, you may find that you are a better mother because you feel fresh and you have had a chance to connect with the world outside of your baby. You cannot pour from an empty cup so you need to look after yourself too!
My kids are a little older now but the same principle applies – the challenges change to a degree but once a Mum always a Mum. I still try to fit in time each day to do things that contribute to my sense of well-being and my health too. We all have our moments but I find it’s helpful to be reminded and take stock of what I could be doing to help myself rather than hindering and sabotaging myself!
Here are some tips to help you to look after yourself:
Get a good night’s sleep and rest.
I know you’re thinking to yourself “Yeah right!!! I’ve got a baby, toddler, child that never sleeps”. This is my number one, I know when I’ve had a bad patch of sleepless nights – I feel like the whole world is going to collapse. Sleep restores both your body and mind leading to better mental health. Sleep is my passion and setting up good sleeping habits from the get-go is what Bubbaroo is all about!
Winding Down for Sleep
Go to bed at a regular time each day and practice good sleep hygiene. I’ve learnt the hard way to put my devices away after a certain time each night. I sometimes find it difficult to initiate sleep, when I have something that’s really bothering me. This year I’ve really focused on my sleep and when I have nights where I’m just laying there and my mind is travelling to places I don’t want it to go to, I listen to a bedtime meditation. I really enjoy this bedtime meditation – the guy’s voice is so dreamy.
Make your bedroom your sanctuary – no phones/devices, TV or reading – your bedroom is just for sleep and love making!
Regulating Your Wake Up Time
Get up out of bed at the same time each day – I know this is difficult with a little one but you could start to set the sleep routine for the whole family. 7am is still the get up time for my kids but I usually wake up before 6am. As a result you will find you have better mental health and focus when you wake up at the same time each day.
Resting during the day
Allow yourself some unfocused time each day to refresh, for example whilst your little one is sleeping or having quiet time you could have a power nap of no more than 20 minutes; meditate; let your mind wander, daydream or simply lay outside and watch nature around you!
Look after your body
Be active and eat healthy nutritious food – these help maintain a healthy body. Physical and mental health are so closely linked; it’s easier to feel good about life if your body feels great. You don’t need to join an expensive gym to exercise or pound it out at boot camp – walking, cycling, gardening, cleaning, dancing and swimming are all great. Combine physical activity with a balanced healthy diet to nourish your body and mind this will keep you feeling good, both inside and out. It may also help you get a good night’s sleep!
Take a moment to smell the roses. Simply ‘be’ in the moment – feel your baby’s beautiful soft skin, their tiny fingers and toes and notice the air you’re breathing. It’s too easy to get caught up thinking about the past or planning for the future instead of experiencing the here and now. Practicing mindfulness, by focusing your attention on being in the moment, is a good way to do this. Making a conscious effort to be aware of your inner and outer world is so important.
Connect with others
Develop and maintain strong positive relationships with supportive people that make you feel good about yourself. The quality of our personal relationships has a great effect on our well-being, therefore putting time and effort into building strong relationships can bring great rewards. Better mental health starts with positive interactions. In the same breath try to avoid people that are continually negative, manipulative, put you down or sap the life out of you.
Take time to enjoy
Looking after yourself means making time for activities, hobbies and projects you enjoy on a regular basis. Read a book, do a crossword puzzle; knit a scarf or a jumper; cook; take a walk around your local park or along the beach; go hiking; draw pictures with your kids; go on an adventure with your kids; play with your pets – do whatever YOU enjoy.
Participate and share interests
Join a club or group of people who share your interests. It’s a great way to meet new friends and participate in something you enjoy. Being part of a group of people with a common interest provides a sense of belonging. Join a Mother’s Group, Playgroup, sports club; a band; an exercise group; a dance class; a theatre or choir group; a book club.
Give back and contribute to your community
Volunteer your time for a cause or issue you care about because you will feel good helping others. It could be as simple as helping a neighbour or doing something nice for a family member or friend. Other ideas include volunteering to help out at your kids’ school or a charity you’re passionate about. There are many great ways to give back and helping others makes you feel good about yourself, it also sets a great example for your kids.
Learn a new skill or take on a challenge to meet a goal – it could be as simple as cooking a new recipe or at the other end of the spectrum competing in an Ironman. Eleanor Roosevelt once said ‘Do one thing every day that scares you”. So try to come up with small challenges for yourself to keep you motivated. Perhaps you could participate in a charity event such as City to Surf, Oxfam Trail Walk, The Weekend to End Women’s Cancers, Ride for Youth, A Walk in the Park for Parkinson’s, Big Walk for PMH there are so many to choose from. Also bear in mind that it’s a challenge so it’s not meant to be easy so don’t get disheartened – commit and try your hardest. I love participating in various charity events and have participated in a few over the years. Just recently my family took part in the Walk in the Park for Parkinson’s – a cause very close to my heart.
Try taking on a new opportunity at work; enrol in a photography course, an art class, cooking class, public speaking class – the choices are endless. Learning improves your mental fitness, while striving to meet your own goals builds skills, self-esteem and gives you a sense of progress and achievement.
Manage your stress
Don’t allow the stress to build up and then have a meltdown – I know we all do it. Be aware of what triggers your stress and how you react. Stress is a part of life and affects people in different ways. It only becomes a problem when it makes you feel overwhelmed or distressed. A balanced lifestyle can help you manage stress. If you’re like me and have trouble winding down, you may find that relaxation breathing, yoga, pilates or meditation can help. As previously mentioned, I regularly do a bedtime meditation to wind down after a busy day of mummy juggling. Sometimes taking a break and doing some relaxation breathing or going for a walk will help you calm down and see more clearly. Consequently, you may even solve that problem that’s been niggling at you when you step away and have a break.
Rather than focus on the negatives think of all the positives in your life – the glass is half full concept. One thing that we try to do as a family each night at the dinner table is share the one thing we were grateful for today. Practicing gratitude can increase your well-being.
Ask for help
The perfect life does not exist, everyone has stress and bumps in the road they must deal with. If you’re struggling with day-to-day life then you should seek help, please don’t suffer in silence – reach out to someone that you trust and ask for help. It could be as simple as asking a friend or family member to babysit while you have some time out. It takes courage to ask for help, but you need to do it for yourself and your family. Speak to your GP or other healthcare professional about where to find a counsellor/psychologist or community mental health service. If you don’t get the help you need please keep asking until you do. Better mental health starts with you so look after yourself.
It’s really important for Mums to take care of themselves and enjoy some “me” time. If you feel good, the positive effect will flow on to the whole family. Enjoy!