Motherhood is not easy. That shouldn’t be a controversial statement, since mothers are at least partially responsible for raising small humans. And yet there are some people who will try to say that mothers don’t have it that rough.
Mothers around the world know the truth, though. We understand that even when we’re not with our children, they’re on our minds.
When you’re always worried about the wellbeing of your children, it’s hard to focus on your own. But maintaining your own mental health is important—for you and for the little ones in your care.
Self-care is a great way to make sure that you take the time for yourself that you need.
Your acts of self-care don’t need to be extravagant. They actually mean more when they are small, everyday things.
However, you have to make sure that you make time for them. And with the five suggestions on this list, you should be able to do that more easily.
1) Let Go of Guilt
Before you can make self-care part of your routine, you need to address the reason it’s hard for you. If you’re like most mothers, it’s because you feel guilty about taking time for yourself.
Every day, we’re hit with images of ‘perfect mothers’—mommy bloggers and celebrities who talk about how much time they spend on their kids.
But most moms can’t make a career out of motherhood. With the economy structured as it currently is, few households can survive without two incomes.
That means that, unless you’re part of a financial minority, you can’t spend all day with your kids and afford the kind of enrichment activities that celebrity moms do. So, how do you measure up to the standards you see every day?
The simple answer is that you don’t. Living up to them is sort of like trying to look red carpet regal all day, every day. It’s just not possible.
All you can do is the best with what you have. That means taking time throughout the day—as often as you can, really—to appreciate the things you can do and the ways that your life makes you happy.
From there, you can start to leave that guilt behind.
2) Remember Self-Care Is a State of Mind
If you look up self-care online—whether it’s through a search engine or social media—the most common result will probably be spa days… all-out events of relaxation and recreation that’s meant to pamper the person involved.
There’s nothing wrong with big days off! But self-care isn’t always about absolute indulgence.
At its core, self-care is a state of mind. It is about showing yourself compassion and doing small things to make your life easier.
With this in mind, it’s a little bit easier to make self-care a priority and fit more of it into your daily schedule. Even something as simple as learning some easy healthy recipes and making weekly meal plans can be a form of self-care.
After all, weekly meal plans take the pressure off when it’s time to make dinner. Plus, you can always plan ahead so that leftovers from one meal can be used in the next. This takes a little more stress off your plate, while the healthy food keeps your body (and your family) going strong.
Meal planning and grocery shopping aren’t as fun as an all-out spa day. But over time, it will do much more for your mental health.
3) Celebrate the Small Stuff
When you approach self-care as a daily state of mind rather than a huge blowout that has to be saved up for or earned, you give yourself permission to celebrate the small things. When you do that, you’re more likely to find spots of joy in your life.
As important as working through negativity is for your mental health, taking time to appreciate good things is just as vital.
There is usually some small good in each day, if you look for it. It might be as small as making it to a gas station when you’re sure your tank is too empty for it. Or maybe your local grocery store has all the things on your list and you don’t have to make any last-minute alterations.
You may even find that your small celebration is that everything went smoothly in your day. Nothing specifically good happened, but nothing specifically bad happened, either.
Remembering these sorts of small victories is easiest if you keep a simple daily gratitude journal. You just need a few minutes a day to record the small things that made you happy (or at least didn’t add to your stress level).
Then, when you’re having a bad day and struggling to find a bright spot, you can go back and read previous entries. It’s a good way to remind yourself that there is almost always something good. Your mental health will only benefit as a result.
4) Limit and Adjust Social Media Habits
Most of us use social media to keep up with loved ones. In fact, when it was first launched, that was the whole purpose of social media.
But over the last fifteen years or so, something has changed. Social media is now where we air grievances, fight over just about everything, and judge ourselves against images that are often heavily edited and staged. Put simply, it’s become toxic to our mental health.
However, social media has still become integral to our current culture. This means that quitting it entirely can leave you feeling cut off from social circles and major events.
For this reason, many people find that walking a middle ground is their best bet. This means locking down their profiles so that only people they know offline can see what they post. Or it means avoiding public groups where interactions often boil down to trolling or bullying to provoke a response.
It may also mean limiting how much social media you use. You could choose to avoid some forms of social media, while only engaging in one or two others. Or you might limit the amount of time you spend on social media sites or apps.
While this might not seem like self-care, it is, in fact, one of its truest forms. You are putting your own needs first and closing down avenues through which people you don’t even know can negatively impact your mood, family, and mental health.
5) Double Up Your Personal Time
When you do make time for larger acts of self-care, such as a spa day, a bubble bath at home, or taking time specifically for you in another way, you’re going to want to make it count. Even if you had all the time in the world, it’s hard to imagine wasting such precious and dedicated personal time.
Many of us—and particularly mothers—are told that taking time for ourselves is selfish. And in some cases, maybe it is.
But that is not inherently a bad thing, particularly when this small selfish act is for your greater good and, by extension, the greater good of the people around you. So, if dedicated alone time is what you need, making it a priority is the healthy choice.
When you get that alone time, you can double up the kindness you show yourself to get even more out of it.
If you’re spending some time doing yoga, light a favorite candle or incense so that you’re surrounded by scents you love. Put on comfortable clothes rather than something skin-tight like you’d wear if anyone were watching. And let yourself be comfortable with silly poses and funny faces.
It’s a time for you, not the audience we all tend to feel like we’re in front of.
Mothers often struggle with self-care because we’re taught that our job is not to care for ourselves, but for people. This ultimately leads us to put our own needs on the back burner.
But the longer we do this, the more likely we are to burn out. So remember that it’s okay to take care of yourself and take time to recharge.
Think of self-care as a state of mind rather than a reward you have to earn. Take time to notice the small bright spots in each day.
All of this will help you make self-care the integral part of your life that you deserve it to be.