4 Steps to Making Self-Care Work For You

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Louise East - More to Mum - Self-Care for Mums
Louise East – More to Mum

“I just don’t have time”
“I can’t afford it”
“There are more important things I need to do”
“I’m lucky if I just get to shower every day!”
“I tried and it didn’t work for me, so I gave up”
“I’m never alone!”

These are the kinds of things that mums say to me when we talk about how they’re struggling to invest in their self-care.

Can you relate to any of these?

As mums, our days are filled with the relentless, all consuming needs of our children, plus managing our homes, paid work and other responsibilities. Life is full! I know that it’s challenging to even find the headspace to think about self-care, let alone do it.

But, I also believe that self-care is possible if you choose the right activities for you. There are self-care activities that will fit in with your life, responsibilities, schedule and budget. There are self-care activities that you will want to stick with and that will make a positive difference in your life.

Lovely mum, self-care is all about you being physically, mentally and emotionally well, both now and in the longer term.

Do you believe that you deserve to be well?

You absolutely do!

Not only do you deserve it, but your family deserves it, because a happier, healthier mumma, makes for a happier, healthier family!

When we look after ourselves we are:

  • More resilient
  • Calmer
  • Healthier
  • More patient and tolerant
  • More present
  • Happier
  • More fun
  • Able to deal with challenges, changes and stress better.

When we look after ourselves, our relationships with our children and partner improve. We can keep on giving them our best.

It’s easy to push self-care aside in the short term because other things seem more important, but over the longer term, a lack of self-care is a recipe for stress, overwhelm and, potentially, burnout.

4 steps to making self-care work for you

So, how do you actually make self-care work for you?

1. Identify your greatest needs

Our limited time and attention is precious, so we need to spend it wisely. The best way to do this is to get really clear on your top one or two greatest needs, right now.

Questions like these can help you identify your greatest needs:

  • What’s causing you stress, anxiety or pain?
  • What isn’t serving you well?
  • What keeps you awake at night?
  • What’s missing from your life right now?
  • What could create more happiness in your life?
  • What do you need more or less of right now?
  • What do you really need?

Perhaps you need to address your feelings of isolation, do something to stimulate your mind, get help with recurrent physical pain, lessen your load so you feel less overwhelmed, or find ways to boost your energy. Whatever your greatest needs are right now, identifying them will help you be purposeful with your self-care.

2. Find self-care activities that address your greatest needs

Once you know your greatest needs, you can then find self-care activities that address them. By doing this, you will see the maximum impact from your investment in self-care.

For example, if your greatest need is to find a way to fix your recurrent back pain, reading the latest best-selling novel is probably not the best use of your limited time and attention (although it could be a wonderful self-care option for another time!). Better options could be going to see a medical professional, doing some stretching or other movements that help alleviate the pain or changing any factors that contribute to your pain, for example, the way you sit or what you sit on, the amount you carry and the way you lift.

If you’re completely exhausted and you need to find ways to get more rest, then bingeing on Netflix way past midnight is not your best self-care option right now. Changing your routine to get to bed earlier is going to be much more effective. Taking action to improve the quality of your sleep might also be valuable.

Remember, address your greatest needs, for the biggest positive impact on your wellbeing.

3. Keep it realistic and manageable

What makes self-care really stick, is that it is realistic and manageable for you. That means that it fits with your situation, preferences and current season of life, including the amount of time you have available, your budget and whether you have children with you or not.

There are plenty of self-care activities that are completely free, take only minutes, or that can be incorporated into the things you already do in your daily routine. Another option is to improve something that you already do to have a better impact on your wellbeing.

If you’re struggling to maintain your energy through your day, perhaps you could change your breakfast, to give you more, longer lasting energy. You’re eating breakfast already, so you can just improve what you eat. Or pop some energising essential oils in the diffuser mid-afternoon to give you a boost while you go about your normal activities.

Here’s one of my favourite examples of self-care that doesn’t take any extra time (in fact it returns time to you). If you’re feeling overwhelmed, take ONE thing OFF your to-do list. Delegate it, defer it until a much later date or drop it altogether if you can.

If you need to improve your mindset in a particular area, you might start by selecting a couple of affirmations that will help you focus your thoughts and displaying them in places that you frequent. For example, on the bathroom mirror, fridge or on your phone’s lock screen.

The results of self-care are cumulative, so every little action adds up. That means that it doesn’t matter if you don’t have an hour to invest in yourself. Even if you take up to 5 mins most days, you will still start to see a difference. And, the more you engage in self-care, the more you will find opportunities to do it and the easier it will feel.

4. Be flexible

Lastly, be flexible with your self-care. Because, well, mumlife. Things don’t always go to plan and children can be unpredictable.

So, if you miss your opportunity to get to the gym for an hour, go for a 10 min walk around the block.

If you don’t have time to do that meditation, sit still for 5 mins while your children play and do some deep breathing.

If you didn’t manage to get any time out today, but need a mental break, do something mindfully (that means focusing all your attention on that one thing, noticing what you can see, hear, feel, taste and smell). You can even do one of your normal chores mindfully, such as cooking dinner, hanging washing or tidying up.

When things don’t go to plan (which of course they won’t sometimes), try to avoid beating yourself up and definitely don’t give up on self-care altogether! Just do what you can and then move on to the next opportunity to invest in your wellbeing. There’s always another opportunity!

Remember to review your self-care regularly, because as your situation and needs change, so should your self-care!

Don’t worry about what everyone else is doing

I want to leave you with something that’s so important to remember – there’s no point comparing your self-care activities to those of others. Our needs, lives, routines, preferences and families are not all the same, so our self-care will not be the same either. We can put a lot of pressure on ourselves to do the “right” self-care activities, or the popular ones, but they might not be the right fit for us at this time.

Every mum has the right to decide what sort of self-care works for her in each season of her life. You know what you need better than anyone else.

If you’d like some extra encouragement and inspiration while you navigate motherhood, check out my newly released set of 32 Affirmation Cards for Mums. I’d love to offer you a 20% discount on these cards, by using the code MAKETIMEFORMUM.

Affirmation cards - self-care activities for busy mums - More to Mum

Louise East is a wife, mum of a spunky 4-year-old and step mum of 3 fantastic young adults. She loves strong black tea, travelling, running and personal development. Louise founded More to Mum, through which she helps mums live happier and more confident lives by developing a helpful mindset, realistic self-care habits and by making the practical things in life easier.

You can find Louise on Facebook,  Instagram and at www.moretomum.com.au

Loved this post? Check out 5 Simple Self-Care Tips for Busy Mums for more awesome info on how to make self-care work for you.