Inside: Tips for self-care for moms in collaboration with guest poster, Rocio Espinoza. Pandemic parenting is tough, taking time for yourself, even just a little bit isn’t selfish – it’s necessary.
During the pandemic, navigating through everyday life will, at times, feel like attempting to navigate a rudderless lifeboat in the middle of the ocean. Or to put it in very relatable terms, desperately searching Netflix for the show your child is crying for, “the one with the dog and the people! Nooooo, not that one. There were people, and they talked. You know, that one!”
Feelings of frustration, loneliness, distress, fear, and anxiety have thrown us all into a tailspin. Add in parenting, work from home with kids, and homeschooling, and wow…it’s in a word, exhausting.
That’s where self-care has to come in. And we know, we know, self-care? Who has time for self-care?
But taking care of yourself doesn’t need to take a big chunk of your day – 10, 20, or 30 minutes (the dream!) will do it, and in this time you can do the little things that help avoid burnout and recharge your body and mind. When you are caring for others, you can’t support them if you are exhausted and feeling stressed. You’ve heard it before but we’ll say it again, you can’t pour from an empty cup!
Self-care is caring for those you love too.
Why Self-Care Matters
Do you need a little more convincing that self-care is critical and not just a nice to have? Read on!
First of all, think about your mental health. Mental health impacts how we relate to others and how we manage stress. When we’re burnt to a crisp, it shows in how we parent, in our relationships, and with our coworkers. Short tempers, terse words, less empathy… It’s not a good look.
Keep in mind that neglecting mental health can manifest itself in physical symptoms too. You might experience symptoms like headaches, tiredness (yes, even more tiredness), insomnia, increases in blood pressure, and muscle tension. Yikes…
While it can be overwhelming, trying to invest in at least a few minutes of care for yourself each day is like eating an apple to keep the doctor away. (But if you need the doctor – do that too!)
10 Ideas for Realistic Self-Care for Moms
Lots of articles on self-care for moms will be telling you to go take a nice long bubble bath for self-care. There’s nothing wrong with that, but there has to be another option right? And do those people have MUCH nicer bathtubs than us?
Sitting in a bath that stays warm for about 5 minutes surrounded by rubber duckies, in a bathroom without a reliable lock, doesn’t sound super appealing. Neither does staring at the sink that we should have cleaned yesterday…
Yoga class and coffee with friends sounds nice, but that’s not really an option right now as we all stick close to home. A vacation sounds even better but again, time, money, and well (gestures around to everything in the world.)
So let’s get realistic. What can you do for self-care that fits into your regular routine, or during naptime, after the kids go to bed, or while the kids are on their screens. Pick an idea or two from this list and it will pay huge dividends in a small amount of time.
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1. Practice Healthy Habits
Treating your body well and incorporating healthy practices to avoid getting sick is a big part of self-care.
Start with the simple things like keeping the hand sanitizer stocked in your bag (this one has a great pocket for it!) and wearing a mask. Your family needs you healthy, YOU need you healthy.
Then think about your nutrition. High-fat, high-carb, high-sugar comfort foods are delicious, but not the fuel the body requires to function optimally. We’re not going to tell you to swear off sugar and carbs, because that’s not happening over here either, but subbing in the healthy stuff will make your body feel better.
Try a handful of blueberries instead of cookies. Substitute the soda with water. Same amount of time used, or less, and you’ve officially checked a self-care box.
2. Recognize Your Emotions
Taking the time to recognize your emotions is one simple step you can take to take care of your mental, physical, and emotional health. Your feelings are real and valid and we have lots of them right now.
Some folks find it helpful to track their moods so that they can identity triggers. For others, seeing a therapist as part of their self-care routine is the right way to go. A trained professional (in person or online) can make a huge difference in helping you to put language around your feelings, air them out, and find tools to manage stress.
Or your self-care routine could look like coming up with a strategy for when someone in your house is pushing your buttons. Walking away for five minutes and sitting in your bedroom pretending to fold laundry doesn’t look like glamorous self-care, but it counts.
3. Take a Break to Breathe
We know, “breathing” as a self-care? That’s just survival stuff. But deep breathing is a bit different.
To raise the healthy oxygen levels in your muscles and brain, block out 5 or 10 minutes and breathe deeply. As you’re breathing in through your nose out through your mouth, try slowly counting your exhales counting up to 20 and then repeating. Or try to bring the attention to the center of your body, focusing on a place somewhere between your neck and lower belly. As you get distracted by all the thoughts in your brain, keep bringing the focus back there as you breathe.
The uncertainty of your day will still be there when you get back (hooray?) so breathe now, save the worries for later.
4. Plan a “Date Night” at Home
In the turmoil of a pandemic, romantic relationships might be taking a backseat. It’s not like we’re getting out on the town much nowadays.
Instead, try to schedule a simple date night at home. Order takeout from your favorite restaurant, take a walk, or play a game. Backgammon anyone? Home date night does not need to be fancy, just take the time to reconnect when you can.
Also, do not be afraid to ask your partner for help. This is a team sport!
5. Take a Walk
Find ways to get your body moving, even if it’s just for a short walk around the block with your dog to get some sunshine and Vitamin D.
Combine the walk with mindfulness and you’ll have an extra winning combination. Begin to note everything around you as you walk, including your breathing and the sound of each step. Listen to any sound and remember the scent and the leaves in the air. Can you feel the breeze on your skin? Focus on the now and give your mind a break by setting aside all those “what-if” thoughts.
The weather isn’t always walk-friendly though, so to keep your body going search online for at-home exercise routines you can work into your day.
6. Screen Time
A daily schedule for your kids is great, but there’s no need to fill up every hour of every day. Enter one of our go-to self-care for moms tips, screen time!
There’s nothing wrong with letting your kids play video games or watch a movie while you take a break. We repeat, nothing is wrong with this! It might just save the day when you and your kids all need a break.
Often just half an hour of downtime is enough for all of you to recharge, but if you need more take it. Please take it!
(The Amazon Kindles have been lifesavers around here, highly recommend!)
7. Quiet Morning Coffee
Sleep is so important and we’re hesitant to suggest you get up any earlier in the morning, BUT setting your alarm just a bit earlier can help you squeeze in some of that self-care you’re hearing is so important.
Try for just 20 minutes. This could give you enough time to quietly enjoy a cup of coffee before the hustle and bustle of the day.
In those 20 minutes, you could practice those mindfulness exercises, grab a journal, or seriously, just sit there! Stare out the window! Sometimes that quiet time is perfect just like it is.
8. Come Up with “Safe Word”
It’s clear parents are having a tough time, but we know we aren’t the only ones. The pandemic has been traumatic for children whose routines have been interrupted and who miss hanging out with their friends. Many kids are feeling exhausted and need a break too.
To give everyone the no questions asked break they need, come up with a “safe word” for the whole family. When spoken, this word signals that everyone else gives space to that person, leaving them alone for an agreed-upon time.
Put that word on the refrigerator so anyone can see it and remember it too. Look at you, self-care and teaching your kids how to read. You’re a rock star!
9. Chat with Family or Friends
We all need our people, now more than ever. Chat with a friend for 10 minutes on the phone and it can feel like your stress bubble is deflating. Friends and family have a way of making us feel like ourselves when things are out of control, so make that connection!
Want to double up on the tips? Schedule your phone call for a lunch break or a time when your partner has the kids covered. Then take your call on the road/trail with you as you get a walk in. Double self-care!
Other friend based options – a group text chain for check-ins, virtual game night, or watching a move simultaneously with friends from a distance. There’s always that movie no one but our friends will see with us!
10. Say a Daily Mantra
We all need to hear from someone that we are doing our best and that things eventually will get better, but that someone doesn’t have to be anyone but you.
Every day make a habit of waking up, taking a deep breath, and telling yourself: “I’m a good parent, I’m doing the best I can right now.” It can help you focus on what’s important and move forward through the day.
See – self-care for moms doesn’t have to be complicated. It can just be a little of self-directed love!
Remember: Self-Care Isn’t Selfish
It’s not a selfish decision to commit a small portion of your day to self-care; it’s the opposite.
By giving yourself time to take care of you, you will find yourself better able to deal with all the changes and frustrations this pandemic has created by prioritizing both your physical and mental health. In turn, you’ll be better equipped to be the best parent, friend, caretaker, colleague, business owner, and partner you can be.
And remember: You are doing it the best you can! You’ve got this.