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As busy mums, we all know that self care can often be bumped down to the bottom of our never-ending to-do lists. Not only is it hard to find the time to indulge in a little me-time, but when we finally do, the old mum guilt can rear its ugly head. Well, I’m here to encourage you to stop and REALLY reconsider this. Having a healthy and balanced self care routine often doesn’t come naturally, but it is an integral part of a satisfied, healthy, happy life. It takes a commitment and understanding that you need to prioritise your own wellbeing above other tasks, even if this starts to flare up the mum guilt. It means acknowledging that regular self care actually makes you a BETTER mum, a more relaxed, whole, and sane mum.
So, what can you do to prioritise your own self care, when you don’t have much time? SIMPLIFY. Self care is any activity that you do voluntarily, that helps to maintain your physical, mental, or emotional health. Here are some simple tips to help you improve your self care this year.
Tip 1 – Rethink what self care is
Often when I speak to people about self care and why they aren’t implementing it, they are falling into the trap of all-or-nothing thinking, e.g. I really need some self care and would LOVE a Bali trip or day at the spa. But I don’t have the time or the money, and a bath just isn’t going to cut it. I’ll just power through! If this is you, rethink what self care really means. It’s not just the big, indulgent things (although that is lovely)—it’s actually the little things you do each day to prioritise your emotional, physical, social, mental, and spiritual health. Yeah, a bath with candles may not take away all your problems (wouldn’t that be amazing), but it’s better than nothing. Stop just “powering through” your stress and busy life. I often see the consequences of this, and prevention is always better than treatment.
Tip 2 – Recognise your barriers
While you’re reading that above or thinking about adding more self care to your routine, what thoughts are running through your mind? If you notice negative thoughts like “Oh that won’t work for me” or “I still just don’t have time” then these may be real mental barriers that are getting in the way of you changing habits. Try to go a little bit deeper and consider WHY.
Perhaps you don’t think you are worth the priority? How come? That signals a low self esteem and tells me that you really should be working more on your confidence and self worth.
Maybe you feel guilty spending time on yourself each day? Are you a parent who feels the guilt every time you do something for yourself? Remind yourself that a calm, happy, fulfilled parent is a GOOD parent. And self care = a calm and happy mum that is showing her kids that taking care of our health in all aspects is a good thing.
Or maybe you are stuck in the ‘busy’ trap and think that being busy means you must be being productive? (hint, it doesn’t!) Do yourself a favour and read Arianna Huffington’s book ‘Thrive’ and change the way you view ‘busy vs productive’.
Tip 3 – Understand your stress style
Stress is a normal, common emotion that we all have. It is a natural response to threatening or overwhelming tasks, but when experienced over and over again without relief it can have very serious consequences to physical, emotional, and mental health. Not everyone responds to stress in the same way, and understanding your stress response and triggers can go a long way in setting self care intentions.
Are you someone that gets angry and irritable when stressed? You’re in FIGHT mode and self care needs to include relaxation, especially of the muscles.
Do you become sad, withdrawn, overwhelmed or lose focus when stressed? You’re in FLIGHT and FREEZE mode and self care needs to energise you and get you moving.
Is one of your first signs of stress the physical ailments that come on? You need physical pampering and self care that activates the 5 senses.
I go into deeper detail with some exercises around understanding your stress and self care styles in my Complete Self Care Workbook.
Tip 4 – Schedule it in
As a busy mum, I’m sure you are well-versed in the benefits of calendars, lists, and schedules. If it is scheduled in, it is mentally much easier to remember and complete. Whether its exercise, a work deadline, your to-do list, anything in life that is schedule in is more likely to be completed.
So, do the same with your self care activities. The people who are really successful at this are really good at scheduling in self care as they would any other appointments. They have little breaks of self care during the day. 10 minutes of meditation, a 15 minutes tea break, 20 minutes of reading, etc. Don’t wait until you have the time to engage in self care. Because let’s face it, not many of us suddenly have lots of time to indulge!
Tip 5 – Combine tasks
We’re all great at multitasking right? Well, why not use that to your advantage! Now, this goes against a lot of the benefits of slowing down and practicing more mindfulness in our lives. And I am a big fan of slowing down more and being more present. BUT, sometimes the reality is that we just don’t have the time that we wish we could devote to things. So instead of getting rid of any self care, try combining tasks. Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Listen to an uplifting podcast while cleaning
- Put on a face mask while drinking your morning coffee
- Take your lunch break outside and listen to music
- Message friends while in a nice bath
- Teach your kids mindfulness and do it together (Smiling Mind has great child programs)
Tip 6 – Say no
Finally, one of the best things that you can add to your self care routine is to say NO more often. Self care isn’t just face masks (remember, it is the activities that helps to maintain your physical, mental, or emotional health) and saying no to unnecessary tasks, obligations, and even relationships that drain us, can do wonders for your wellbeing.
I hope some of this has resonated with you, and that with these simple tips you can start adding more self care to your day. Because you are worth it and deserving! I’ve included a free download 50+ resources for self care, which includes a long list of apps, websites, books to help you on your self care journey.
Jess McCallum is a Clinical Psychologist and owner of Confident Life, an online community for people to become more self accepting, learn how to think more positively, engage in more self care, and improve their confidence. She is passionate about helping people realise their potential and provides psychological and wellbeing resources to do so.
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