More and more people are finally starting to realize that self-care isn’t selfish. This is good news, because self-care is indeed a critical part of any wellness routine. But what exactly is self-care, why is it so important, and how can busy moms get started?
I think of self-care as being holistic; it cuts across all aspects of our life, from the practical to the physical to the spiritual. I also believe that because each of us is unique, it’s important that we define self-care for ourselves. For some women, self-care is a high-adventure getaway, while for others, it’s a hot bath on a cold night.
In this regard, self-care requires an element of experimentation: try different practices and then notice how you feel. If you’re more relaxed and feel more fully yourself, add it to your self-care list. If not, try something else until you find what works for you.
Self Care Practices for Busy Moms
For moms, creating time for self-care can be especially challenging. Notice that I said “creating time” rather than “finding time.” We moms need to get creative about making time for ourselves. Maybe you can use that 15 minutes waiting in the car during school pickup for self-care. Perhaps you can negotiate with your partner and find a 30-minute break everyday when you’ll each get to do something nice for yourself. Don’t wait for that time to appear on its own because it rarely will. Instead, create it.
Ready to get started? Here are some of my favorite, simple, self-care practices that are designed to take only a few minutes. So if a few minutes is all you have today, don’t let that hold you back. Small and consistent routines can have a powerful impact.
1. Heels Over Head
Image credit: Kate Swarm
Inverting our bodies from their natural, upright stance is a great way to shift energy and release stress by activating our parasympathetic nervous system (PNS), also known as the rest and digest response. When the PNS is turned on, the sympathetic nervous system (SNS), also known as the fight or flight response, turns off.
Come to the floor next to your bed, a chair, or a couch. Lay on your back and swing your legs up to rest on whatever furniture you’ve chosen. Open your hands at your side, palms facing up. Stay here for five minutes, allowing your body to come into a state of balance.
2. Belly Breathing
Another way to activate the PNS is through belly breathing. While we can’t actually breathe into our stomach, by moving our belly in and out with intention, we’ll draw the diaphragm, the primary muscle of breathing, lower. This will, in turn, deepen our breath. This type of breathing has been found to increase relaxation and decrease stress.
To begin, find a comfortable seated position. Close your eyes and place your hands on your belly. Inhale through your nose and feel the belly expand like a balloon. Exhale and feel your belly draw toward your spine. Repeat several times, feeling each breath cycle get longer and deeper. Aim to do three round of belly breaths, which will only take you a minute, several times throughout your day. You might even want to set a reminder on your phone.
3. Tense and Release
Image credit: Yogo Girls
Humans, especially moms, are often so strong that we manage to adapt to very high levels of stress without realizing how much we are carrying. That can lead to a buildup of tension in our bodies. This practice will help you to notice and release that tension.
Find a comfortable seat and take a deep breath. First, squeeze your hands into tight fists. Hold here for about three seconds and then release with your next exhale. Next, draw your shoulders up close to your ears. Hold here for about three seconds and then release with your next exhale. Finally, tighten your belly. Hold here for about three seconds and then release with your next exhale. Take another deep breath.
What did you notice? How did it feel to tense these muscles? How did it feel to let go? Did your body impact your mind and your breath? By intentionally tensing, we can start to notice how it feels to hold tension and how different it feels to relax. Once you bring this into your day, you’ll be better able to notice when you’re holding tension in your body. When you do, take a deep breath and let it go.
4. Hot Tea
Making myself a cup of tea is one of my favorite daily rituals. I have a drawerful of teas that I call upon depending on what I need in that moment. Look for tea with lavender or chamomile to deepen the experience of relaxation. Try drinking your tea without doing anything else. Just drink and be. With each sip, breathe and sit. By focusing on only one thing at a time, you create a mindfulness practice that will help to relieve stress long-term.
5. Essential Oils
Essential oils are growing in popularity for a reason; they offer a powerful path to self-healing and self-care. My favorite combination for stress relief is to diffuse a few drops of lavender with a drop of cedarwood. You can also use these oils by adding them to a hot bath. Always read the labels and make sure you’re choosing a reputable brand that only uses high-quality oils. Play with different combinations until you find mixes that work with your needs and body chemistry.
6. Stop, Drop, and Meditate
Image credit: Alissa
I once sat at my son’s swim practice and felt the urge to meditate. I didn’t though, because I was afraid people would think I was strange. In that moment I decided not to meditate, I looked around and noticed that most of the other parents were staring at their phones. Isn’t it interesting what society deems normal and strange?
While I’m not sure that I’m ready to come into a Lotus pose in public, I do often close my eyes and take a minute or two to focus on my breath. I call this, “Stop, Drop, and Meditate.” Even just one minute spent focusing inward can make a huge shift in your mindset and energy.
Like anything else, the trick of self-care is to make the decision to include it in your daily life. Try one of these practices that feels right for you and commit to making five minutes to try it today. Notice how you feel before and after. When you find the self-care practices that are right for you, they will be self-reinforcing. In other words, the goal is to enjoy how they feel so much that you can’t imagine your day without them. Remember, that might mean experimenting a bit until you find what works for you.
Image credit: Alissa