Your days are full. You’ve got a toddler or three afoot. Some days, you feel incredibly overwhelmed. Some days, you find yourself struggling. A lot.
Maybe you have a full-time or part-time job outside the home. Maybe you work from home. You miss the days when you could lounge around after work or on the weekends after giving everything you had to a project or your clients or your boss. Maybe you’re a stay-at-home mom, and some days just feel so long.
Having kids is a beautiful thing, and it’s also exhausting, emotionally, mentally, and physically. Ironically, it requires taking tender, compassionate care of yourself during a time when doing so feels incredibly impossible.
And you think, Ughh, self-care. Just another thing to do, and add to the already overflowing list. Ughh, just another thing I’m not doing. Ughh, just another thing to beat myself up about.
Self-care is multilayered. It is many different things. It’s both pampering and doing the hard stuff. It’s saying no, and seeing a therapist. It’s sitting with our sadness, and not seeking solace in social media (and forgiving ourselves when we do). It’s facing a difficult situation, even though we’re anxious.
Self-care is a perspective—I am worthy of care, I choose what works well for me—and a collection of practices—participating in physical activities you genuinely enjoy, sleeping in (or getting up early), responding to your needs, which might include everything from being thirsty to needing rest.
In the book Self-Care for Moms: 150+ Real Ways to Care for Yourself While Caring for Everyone Else, author Sara Robinson, MA, shares a variety of valuable suggestions and activities we can do that take anywhere from just 5 minutes to an hour or more. Robinson is a mom to two young boys and creator of the website GetMomBalanced.com.
Below are five small and brief yet significant ways (and insights) to care for yourself from Self-Care for Moms. Because if you’re currently really busy, you can still prioritize yourself. This might look very different from your pre-kid days, or from last year or last week. But you can care for yourself, and these are some of the practices you might try.
- Diffuse essential oils. “Individual oils and different blends can create emotional and mental benefits,” Robinson writes. For instance, frankincense, bergamot, and lavender help us to feel calmer and more grounded. Orange, grapefruit, and peppermint energize and uplift us. Rosemary, eucalyptus, and lemongrass help to relieve stress. Think about what you need in the moment, and add those oils to your diffuser. You also can practice deep breathing as you breathe in the aroma.
- Sit outside for 5 minutes. Maybe you simply sit, and notice your surroundings, using your senses to savor the moment. Maybe you also read or stretch. Maybe you repeat empowering affirmations, or pray, or focus your mind on a quote that’s meaningful to you. Maybe you sip your coffee or tea on the porch on most mornings.
- Freewrite. This is especially helpful for clearing your mind. Don’t worry about grammar or spelling or complete sentences. “Write about your feelings, make lists of what you’re thinking about, or take note of what you see, smell, and hear around you,” Robinson writes. Or use prompts like: “My highlight from yesterday was…” “Something I’m struggling with is…” Or write about your dreams and wants and wishes. Write about what you’d like to remove from your life (stuff, obligations). Write about anything that’s on your mind.
- Add self-care to a chore. Maybe you watch TV while folding laundry. Maybe you call a friend while unloading and reloading the dishwasher. Maybe you listen to a podcast, audiobook, or your favorite playlist while cleaning the kitchen. Consider the chores you dread, or the chores that are especially time-consuming, and what self-care activities you can pair them with.
- Create a bedtime routine. Think about what usually happens at the end of your day, how you’re feeling as you go to bed, and how long it takes you to fall asleep. Then consider what mental and emotional self-care activities you’d like to include—activities that “put you in a relaxed frame of mind and a positive mood before bed,” Robinson writes. This might be anything from listening to soft music or a guided meditation to practicing several restorative yoga poses. (You can learn more in this piece, which features additional tips from Robinson.)
We can practice self-care during small pockets of time. And even though these activities may be tiny, they also can be transformative. Because these small gestures appeal to our senses. Because they give us a refreshing break. Because they help us to exhale.
Think about what you love to do, what makes you smile, and what relaxes you. Then think about how you can break that down into smaller and smaller slices of your day (and your week).
Sometimes, we don’t do things because we think it’s not worth it. If we can’t carve out 30 minutes for a walk, why take a 10-minute one? Or even a 5-minute one? Isn’t that silly and pointless?
Because those 5 or 10 minutes of prioritizing ourselves tells us: I matter, too.
And you do.