Self-Care: Is it on your agenda?
“How are you doing, Mama?”
You don’t have to answer right away; I’ll give you a minute to think about it.
I believe that we are fortunate enough to live in an era of women seeking and claiming more empowerment in all areas of life, often hustling both in the workplace and at home. Modern day motherhood can certainly be liberating in some aspects, but it can also be completely overwhelming, too, right? It sometimes feels as though there is pressure from every side, and it seems that there aren’t enough hours in the day to accomplish the ever-growing to-do list, let alone make self-care a priority. It’s not surprising that current statistics show that one out of five women will experience mental health challenges either during pregnancy or after giving birth.
We are so busy doing all the things that we forget that we are responsible not only for taking care of those around us, but of ourselves as well. So I’ll ask again: “How are you doing, Mama — really?”
It’s true that you can’t pour from an empty cup, so here are three free, quick, and easy ways in which to be more intentional about self-care every day.
Breathe. This is what I consider one of the most important, basic tools that I go over with birth clients. It’s strange to think of breathing as something we can use as a wellness practice since our body does it automatically. But there is a difference between just instinctively breathing and intentionally breathing. Go ahead, right where you are: close your eyes, relax your whole body, take a large deep breath in through your nose to the count of four, and exhale slowly out of your mouth to the count of four. Haven’t done it in a while, right?
Practicing breathing techniques has benefits like improving focus, relieving pain, releasing tension, stimulating the lymphatic system, improving blood flow, and increasing energy levels to name a few. And there isn’t just one way to do it; there are several techniques to try, from the sleep breathing technique (my personal favorite) to simple deep breathing. It just takes a few minutes for potentially huge benefits.
Redirecting my focus from current circumstances to the bigger picture is something I personally have to practice every day. I get so busy that I become solely focused on what is in front of me, mindlessly running on autopilot to get as much done as possible while stressing about the other things piling up. Two things that have helped me alleviate some of that mental stress are practicing affirmations and making a point to stop and acknowledge small blessings tucked in my day.
I used to think affirmations were a little (uh, okay, really) awkward. I wasn’t used to saying positive things about myself, so it was definitely a slow start. But the more I have encouraged clients to practice it from pregnancy through motherhood, the more I realize that our minds are so incredibly powerful. What we allow in has the ability to embolden us or imprison us. Purposefully feed it good things! Every day, even if it’s just once, identify something positive about yourself and something you are thankful for. Even if it’s just, “My outfit is clean AND my legs are shaved” or, “I am so thankful that when I tucked my dress in my underwear, that nice lady stood behind me to let me know before I walked around the room” (true story).
I just want to stop a second to offer this truth to you: You are smart. You are beautiful. You are strong. You are able. You are created for a purpose. You are loved. So, if you ever draw a blank on something positive to say or something to be thankful for, you can take one of those.
What feeds your soul? My personal “soul goal” is based on the saying “love God, love people.” That sounds super easy when I type it out, but the truth is that living in this world of busyness, I ashamedly sometimes forget to be intentional with my relationships. I often allow my agenda to dictate my day, rather than putting what actually matters first.
I honestly think that this “social age” is robbing us of soul-filled living. I’m in the age group where we got through our college years without much electronic interaction, but we have had to adapt to that type of connectivity for work purposes. It’s disheartening to see relationships diminished to “likes” and “follows,” but sometimes it has become just that. There is often no real substance or sincere connection, leaving space for only emptiness.
One way to combat it is to simply disconnect to reconnect. Whether you choose to have a no-phone-zone at home or simply make a point to look a stranger in the eye and smile, taking a few minutes each day to fully engage with those closest to you or to just show someone genuine kindness has the power to restore your soul.
But I have, like, zero “extra” time . . .
I totally feel that. But just like a friend told me once, if you don’t have it, make it. Get up a few minutes earlier; you can knock out all three of the suggestions above in ten minutes. Or maybe right before bed, block off a little time for yourself to re-center. I personally use my lunch break; whether 15 minutes or an hour, I am able to go sit in a spot away from my computer, take some cleansing breaths, read a quick devotion, and consciously take in my surroundings to name something I am thankful for. (Sidenote: I feel like I answer my work e-mails more professionally and kindly after lunch. Insert awkward smiling emoji.)
If motherhood has taught me anything, it’s that self-care is pertinent to overall wellness. We are only one of the many moving parts in our family, at work, and in our relationships — and just as our car won’t run without fuel, we can’t thrive when we are burned out. Making time for ourselves isn’t selfish; it’s sensible. It’s vital. So consider taking a few minutes today (and tomorrow, and the next day . . .) to breathe, refocus, and throw some positivity into the universe. I’d love to know how it impacts you!