Getting Real About Self-Care

Self-Care Is Not Impossible When You Understand What It Truly Is

Benjamin Franklin once said:

“When the well’s dry, we know the worth of water”

When self-care is absent in your life, you can feel overwhelmed, exhausted and unappreciated by the people around you. Your sense of self-worth disintegrates, and before long you start to realise the need and value in reinvesting in your own wellbeing.

Practicing self-care restores the internal balance that is often disrupted as a result of endless giving; to your children, your partner, your work… and the list can go on. It’s absolutely vital to learn how to consider your own needs against the needs of others, and how to feel good about caring for yourself as a mum.

To function and thrive, we need to feel well, do well and be well, and a fundamental part of this is self-care. Simply put, self-care is about nurturing your mind and thoughts, your body and physical health, and your emotions. But the concept of ‘self-care’ has become a bit of a buzz word on social media these days, with many misconceptions about what it truly is and what it looks like.

Defining Self-Care

It is very important to understand that self-care is essentially made up of two different categories of activities.

Firstly, there are your ‘basic needs’; things that are important predominantly to your physical wellbeing, such as bathing, eating, brushing your teeth and hair, and being clothed.

Secondly, there are your ‘cup-fillers’; activities that you enjoy, that you consider fun, make you feel happy, fulfilled and inspired.

Sometimes these self-care activities can cross-over — a long hot shower can be extremely enjoyable and is also important for our health. With that said, it is perfectly ok if some days all you can manage is your basic needs.

Finding opportunities for deeper self-care activities from the second category, however, is a critical part of achieving and maintaining wellness. It’s about treating yourself like you love yourself and acting like your needs and enjoyment matter just as much as anyone else’s. Ultimately, taking the time to give yourself what you need leads to greater happiness, calm, emotional resilience, clarity, motivation, and energy.

What Does Self-Care Look Like?

Self-care activities that fill your cup look different from mum to mum, and they don’t always need to be done alone or without your kids. In addition, if scented bubble baths and meditation bring on a major case of the eye-rolls, then you probably won’t feel replenished by doing them. Don’t like yoga? Don’t do it! There is no wrong or right way to ‘do’ self-care.

Remember the old K.I.S.S. principle (Keep It Simple, Stupid)? It applies to your self-care choices too. Acts of self-care could include anything from taking a nap to exercising, spending time with friends, catching up on a favourite TV show, getting your hair done, taking a bubble bath, watching a sunset or reading a book.

Regular, small pockets of time for self-care, however, are far better for a mum than occasional big actions such as a massage or even a weekend away. This is the notion of ‘Sustainable Self-Care’.

Sustainable Self-Care

Firstly, sustainable self-care is scheduled. Have a weekly planner on your fridge that marks out self-care time for either you or you and your partner. Use it to also map out regular weekly commitments for the kids.

Secondly, it is short but sweet. Fifteen minutes to yourself every day is, in fact, more beneficial than an hour to yourself once a month. With 15-20 minutes totally for yourself, you can meditate, take a short walk, drink a cup of tea that is still hot, sing or dance to a couple of your favourite songs or read a chapter of a book in the garden. All of these things can replenish your sense of wellbeing.

Lastly, sustainable self-care is a commitment to constant work in progress. It is so easy to let the madness of motherhood get the better of you. There are always so many things to juggle, and it is incredibly easy to let self-care be the first ball that gets dropped. As long as you honour your commitment to regular, sustainable action, you will feel like a much happier woman.

In The Moment Self-Care

When was the last time you asked yourself “What do I need right now?”

This question can help you practice ‘in the moment’ self-care, which is essentially a brief re-connection with yourself to quickly identify and satisfy a need that is going unnoticed and unmet.

It’s extra important to practice self-care when you have lots of outside stressors, you feel unwell or run down, you are feeling overwhelmed or you notice your inner voice is putting your down. If you can take less than a minute to ask yourself this question in these situations, you might uncover the need for:

  • – a quiet moment to think
  • – something to eat or drink
  • – getting outside for some fresh air
  • – a hug or physical connection
  • – sleep or rest
  • – a change of scenery
  • – someone to talk to
  • – some help
  • – a few deep breaths
  • – a change in perspective 

This is a highly practical, easy-to-do strategy that, over time, gets easier to integrate into your busy life as a mum, and can have a huge effect on your approach to self-care.

Despite being such an important thing to do every day, nurturing yourself is also one of the easiest things to forget. Looking after yourself often gets pushed more and more to the side, until you become chronically stressed, you’ve gained weight, you’re completely burnt out or you’ve developed even more serious health issues, such as depression, diabetes or obesity. The ironic part is that we usually sacrifice our self-care so we can get more things done, however all this does is leave you feeling frazzled, resentful and overwhelmed with less capacity and resilience to get everything done due to running on an ‘empty cup’.

Caring for yourself is one of the most important things you can do for yourself, and for those around you. It helps give us the energy to give and give and give to our children. It helps preserve our patience and sanity.  It helps us feel valued in the world and creates a deeper sense of connection and joy within our family unit.

If that’s not enough, remember that your kids are watching everything you do. The only way your children are going to learn about their own self-care is from your actions. When it comes to how you treat yourself, children learn how to look after themselves, treat themselves, spend money on themselves and love themselves from what they see you, and other adults they love and admire, do.

So start shifting the way you see self-care; what it is, what it looks like and what it means to you and your family. Looking after yourself and regularly refilling your cup is the most critical step to living a happier, balanced life as a woman with children.