I’m sharing the following because the topic of self-care and prioritizing myself is something I’m passionate about understanding better. I am not a self care guru, nor do I consider myself a master at this skill at all.
I found myself severely burnt out a few months back. Dealing with constant heart palpitations, anxiety and severe sleep deprivation. As I lay in the emergency room bed, it became so clear to me that I wasn’t putting myself first, at all.
It was then and there that I stood up for myself in the ways of requesting more daily support from my husband. Lessening my high expectations of myself and learning how to say “no” to things.
Below, I share a bit about what I’m learning on this journey of being kinder to myself. Sometimes it takes a scary experience to really bring an important point home.
Things That Have Been Working For Me:
Learning it is OK to say “no” to things
Letting go of the guilt that comes with saying “no” or not being able to commit to things is very freeing. It is also really hard to do, at first. Just like most things in life, the more you practice it the easier it is.
I’m the person who naturally wants to say “yes!” but I’ve learned that just giving myself a bit of time to think things over before committing is very beneficial to my well-being. “Let me think about it and get back to you tomorrow” is something I’m getting so much better at saying.
This one is a tough one for me. There are some fabulous posts and memes out there currently, reminding us Mamas that we were someone before we became a Mother. I often find myself expecting the same work output that I used to be able to accomplish before children.
I can easily find myself frustrated and overwhelmed when I can’t get a project completed in my mind’s timeline. Now I make sure to give myself extra time for things I commit to AND ask for help. Even if it is something I used to be able to do quickly.
The most important thing I’ve committed to, in terms of expectations, is not to beat myself up with negative self-talk. If something hasn’t worked out as it has in the past. People are understanding. People are empathetic and patient. It isn’t the end of the world. Everything is fixable.
When a friend tells you, “don’t worry about it” “no need to rush” or “I totally understand”, I’ve learned to believe those messages. Take a breath, let go of any guilt and believe that you can do it.
Create easy, morning habits
I’ve always been envious of people who shared their strategy for time to themselves as, “just wake up an hour before your child!”. For me, having a child that has no predictable wake time, and frequently wakes numerous times in the night, waking an hour before has sadly, never been an option for me. I still remain positive that I will have this option in the future though!
I focus on what I can accomplish ahead of time for easier morning habits. Simple things can make the biggest difference.
Setting up the coffee maker the night before and having a sensory bin ready for the kids helped greatly.
Getting our “stroller basket” stocked with snacks/diapers for an easy, early morning walk is another habit we make sure happens the night before too.
Other ideas may be setting out everyone’s clothes the night before or prepping meals in advance.
I try hard not to let a bad night of sleep dictate how the next day unfolds.
Evaluate what can be changed/controlled vs. what cannot
A big component of me not having time for myself was having a child who struggled with sleep in an extreme way. It was something that we recognized very early on and tried a multitude of strategies to support independent naps and nighttime sleep.
Side note, the emergency room staff were floored when I shared the type and amount of sleep I’d been getting since she was born. They strongly urged I look into sleep training our baby boy, which I did take to heart.
Our second child was quite different and was able to sleep without much trouble. When we reassessed what could be changed, we realized our son would do well with some gentle sleep training.
Unsurprisingly, he took to it so well. This turned out to be a huge factor in my recovery from feeling burnt out. A predictable sleeper and a predictable bedtime supported my self-care efforts.
When I bumped into anything that fell under the “what cannot change” category, I acknowledged it and made it a priority to control my attitude about that subject. A change in attitude and perspective can be life-altering.
Creating a list of concrete self-care “things”
These must be attainable. I think it is okay to have lofty goals for self-care and work towards them, but it is crucial to have a handful of tangible options at the ready.
For example, after taking part in a NNM Mom’s Night Out at Prude and Boujee, I came to an epiphany about self-care. It could come in the form of a 10-20 minute “alone time” with a sheet mask, for instance. It would force me to sit or lay for a moment, focus on slowing down my breathing and just “be”.
This was a huge step in the right direction for me. I arranged my sheet masks in a beautiful way at home, lending itself to giving me a feeling of respite and calm.
Other concrete things I pull from:
Quick workout: I’ll jump rope for a few minutes, find a workout on youtube to follow or if someone’s available to watch the kids, go on a run! What I’ve found is that I don’t go into the workout with any expectations related to time or I can easily be disappointed. I just go into the workout or movement thinking, I’m gifting my body a bit of time to move and be healthy.
Books: I may put a timer on for 5-10 minutes, grab a beverage and read for a little bit.
Water: Water resets me. Whether it’s taking a bath, shower, jumping in the sprinklers or playing in the rain. It also includes me drinking more water and making sure I’m hydrated. On non-nap days, where alone time is impossible, I’ll grab all the swimsuits and we turn the day into a water play afternoon. Then we all feel a bit better!
Self-care and prioritizing yourself comes in many forms.
While we may automatically think it has to do with our bodies, it also includes our mind and internal work. Self-care also includes more difficult subjects like, addressing personal issues, familial problems or creating boundaries with others.
This can feel overwhelming at first, but making sure you acknowledge and work through these things (alone or with a professional) is extremely important in self-care. We’d love to hear about what types of self-care you practice that might support another Mother’s goals in prioritizing themselves.
Angie Waltz is an Early Childhood Educator with over 10 years of experience in Reggio-inspired, play-based classrooms. Her undergraduate degree is in Child Development and she holds a Masters in Human Development. Angie is enthusiastic about sharing ideas, activities, and materials that support a play-based, child-led learning approach. She also loves helping families create developmentally appropriate, thoughtful, rich learning spaces for their children.