Thank you for taking the time to listen/ read some of what I’ve experienced and studied regarding self-care. There are many approaches to this topic, but we’re going to be taking the angle of “self-care for the busy or exhausted mommy.” I’m sure many of you can only wish to know this topic intimately, but hopefully this discussion will be able to give you some pointers to begin regularly practicing self-care.
Let me start by saying we all have a cup at the beginning of the day/ week/ month of which we choose what will go in or come out of it…. Sometimes it overfills and it spills over and we feel in control and on the ball. Other times the cup is so drained and empty we need to collapse in a ball in the corner, or the opposite, we may burst. Neither of the latter is ideal. These symptoms are an effect of triggering our adrenal glands. The adrenal glands have the ability to produce the “fight or flight” reaction when set off by a stressful situation (or event), or when coddled, allow for the “rest and digest” mode which is preferable. If we consistently run our lives in the “fight or flight” we will soon find our cups empty and hard to fill. The adrenals crave consistency, regularity and schedule. There are certain foods, activities, and supplements that can aid in the repair of adrenals, but your adrenals work 24-7 and require you care for them daily, lest they fail you when young rather than elderly.
So WHY do we need to think about caring for ourselves?
As mothers, we’re seen as “the caregivers”, and generally we don’t think of ourselves as “care receivers.” This is an unfortunate oversight considering as much as we want to care for our family endlessly, we ourselves are not bottomless, and any well-meaning mother will run herself to the bone, but eventually run out of time, patience, and energy…etc, to continue effectively. At some point, mom has to turn her “care-giving” skills inward and *gasp* think about herself first! Remind yourself… if I’m not renewing myself, I can’t be of use to others.
You have your children, husbands, pets and households depending on you, how can just you be enough?
What are the FIRST STEPS to begin care for myself?
The first piece I encourage you to attend to is a schedule or routine. If you’re not doing this already, it will get easier with time. Soon enough, kids will have school schedules or sporting events/ practices, and extracurricular activities, until then, you must create your own schedule for the purpose of family harmony and function.
The skeleton of your schedule should be made up of ‘bedtimes’, ‘waking time’, ‘nap time’, ‘meal time’ and ‘chores’. You know the necessities for your particular family. Then, you add events that make life easier such as ‘meal-prep’, ‘must-do’s’ such as pay bills or specific meal ideas or menus. Soon you’ll have a functional weekly schedule at your fingertips. This takes a lot of stress off you in running the household because as your kids grow, you’ll refer to this schedule often and they will know that is the first place to check rather than catching you’re ear when you’re in the middle of changing a diaper and cooking dinner to ask if they can go to Bobby’s birthday party this Friday….. “Check the schedule dear”
As far as ‘self-care’, one of the most important slots on your schedule should be labeled “me-time” daily, during which you choose something to do that will fill up your empty cup. This is immensely important that you PLAN for this time AND stick to the schedule, assuring that it happens.
Another step in ‘self-care’ is the physical aspect. Most mothers can do a thorough examination of themselves in the mirror or in their mind and find themselves wanting. I’d encourage you to see these so-called deficiencies in a different light. You may have a war-torn state from a difficult birth (or two) or from fighting the terrible two’s or from reaching time and time again for that comfort food you know you shouldn’t, but all for a reason. You wouldn’t be the strong woman you are without these experiences behind you. These “faults” are quietly shaping you into the perfect mother for your children.
I talk to my patients day-in & day-out about nutrition and lifestyle (notice I did not say ‘diet’, but nutrition). If we don’t feed our bodies the correct nutrients, we then lack the building blocks for important hormones, brain chemicals, and repair molecules. Your body REQUIRES fats, proteins, and non-starchy vegetables along with water. Many popular ‘diets’ are framed around this concept including Paleo and Whole30 (to name a few), but the key to any dietary change success is preparation….. Which brings us back to the schedule. Create space in your schedule TWICE a week to meal plan and prep!! There can be no success without preparation.
We all know exercise is good for us, but what, how and when?
I’d like to encourage anyone who is struggling against time or possibly physical injury and can’t do intense exercise: Physique is 80% made in the kitchen and 20% made in the gym!
Don’t set yourself up for failure with excessive expectations. First off, it has to FIT in the schedule. Second, it has to be accessible. We’re learning that exercise as simple as 10 minutes twice a day can be as effective OR MORE effective than a longer 45-60 minute work-out once a day.
KEEP IT SIMPLE! No need to buy fancy equipment or purchase training sessions…. Simply start by MOVING your body. Calisthenics work amazingly well for beginners, as does yoga, pilates or a Youtube video at home (low budget too!). For the more advanced athlete, look at stepping into community events like a 5k or 10 k that motivate you and allow you to coach your children up into as well!
One piece of Golden advice is Accountability is king!! If you’re the only one dedicated to your health and wellness, you’re less likely to stick to it for the long-haul…. Get someone else involved!
What are ways to engage in your “me time”?
Some of you may be so far displaced from the idea of having time to yourself that you can’t even fathom what to do with it… Here’s some ideas.
USE ALL 5 OF YOUR SENSES.
||Aromatherapy, oils or candles
||I love the company ‘Young Living oils’ and I’m constantly diffusing their oils in my home. Whether there’s sickness in the house or just for pleasure.
||Toes in the sand/ dirt or massage
||I can’t recommend massage highly enough. It’s therapeutic and it allows for a release (muscular and emotional) without any work on your part. Allowing yourself to be vulnerable and letting someone to take care of YOU!!
||Listen to music or nothing at all!
||Listening to music that “brings you back” to a pleasant event or memory works well to let your body relax. I wouldn’t recommend any ‘death metal’ as it might produce the opposite effect.
||Grab a good book you can lose yourself in… nothing technical or related to your career or for learning purposes. This can hit the reset button perfectly.
||Bake, spice, tea, etc
||This one comes with a caution; Don’t let food become your comfort, which can bring a whole new world of troubles. Create something delicious, even if it’s to give it away. One of my favorite ‘go-to’s’ is Good Earth Sweet and Spicy tea. A flavorful treat!
Other considerations: Adrenal support supplements, Fish oil, Vitamin D (consult your health practitioner), quality / quantity of sleep, tracking female cycles, counseling and FRIENDSHIPS!!
Hopefully this has given you a starting point to begin thinking about and caring for yourself! I wish you the best and welcome any questions or visits: DrMcQuinn@gmail.com or McQuinn Naturopathic in Everett.
The Well Behaved Child. – John Rosemond
Making Children Mind without Losing yours. – Dr. Kevin Leman
The Birth Order book. – Dr. Kevin Leman
The Miracle Morning. – Hal Elrod
The 5 love languages for children – Dr. Gary Chapman
Natural Hormone balance for Women. – Dr. Uzzi Reiss.