Some days it can feel as though you're on repeat. Same old, same old. I have been feeling as though I'm going a little crazy lately with the repetition, and struggling to find time for myself. This past year has been absolutely crazy in a number of different areas in my life, and I'm starting to feel like my emotional fuel tank is nearing empty. Time to re-invest in self care to fill it back up!
The problem is that I've been prioritising everything else in my life (and there has been a LOT going on this year), and not taking the time out to refuel. I find it really hard to put everything on hold, or let things go, and create time for myself, but it is SO important. When I'm feeling like this I really need to make a list of things that I need to focus on going forward. Just one thing at a time, and make little changes to how I spend my energy and attention.
Here are a few of the areas I am planning to work on for 2018, along with my specific to do list item. A recent Happier podcast suggested making a list of 18 items to do in 2018, which I really like the concept of, so these will also be a start for my list of 18. The more specific your to do item is, the more likely you are to do it, so I've tried to keep them specific and do-able. Let me know if you're working on similar areas or if you have other ideas for self care for mothers!
1. Prioritise spending time with friends
As gorgeous as our children are, it is so important to spend time with friends... with one caveat. They have to be friends that you feel GOOD after visiting. We have all encountered people that drag us down, that can create feelings of insecurity or anxiousness after visiting. These are NOT the friends to spend time with. When you have limited energy and resources you need to be careful who you spend your time with. It is not your responsibility to make other people feel good about themselves, unless you have energy and resources to spare.
Check in with yourself after spending time with people to find out how you feel. You may discover that you prefer to catch up with some friends one-on-one, or without children in tow (particularly if you have different parenting styles). You may prefer to catch up with some people in a group situation. Listen to your intuition and follow it to help optimise your relationships and to really nourish yourself and your own energy.
To do for 2018: schedule in regular CHILD-FREE time with one or 2 good friends, or maybe take up a new hobby with someone.
2. Get outside
Study after study tells us how important spending time in nature is. When we're spending our time indoors or in the city it can be hard to find a green space to spend time in, but it is really important. If you can find time to go for a walk outdoors in a green space it can be deeply nourishing. Sometimes I find it is good to schedule time by myself, or with a girlfriend to go for a walk in nature, child-free, so I can really relax and recharge.
Obviously our children also benefit from spending time in nature though, so including time in your daily or weekly routine for nature play is fabulous for the whole family.
To do for 2018: Schedule in fortnightly bushwalks for our family to start with - this is something we all enjoy doing on a Saturday or Sunday morning, and fortnightly is more achievable to start with. We also enjoy doing this with family friends, so it could be a great way to spend time with friends as well.
3. Take your mind off it
The routine monotony of raising children can be a shock to the system, especially if you're coming from a career where you were solving puzzles, building relationships and GETTING STUFF DONE every day. Unfortunately there are no gold stars or promotions available when you accomplish getting the laundry done, or changing yet another nappy, and it can feel repetitive. In addition, we are raising children in a culture that doesn't value care-taking or child raising in any meaningful way, which adds to the feeling of never getting anything meaningful done when you are a parent, regardless of how important you believe child raising to be.
It can be helpful to find small ways to add something extra to your day by listening to podcasts while you're walking around with a sleeping baby for example (your baby might enjoy listening to other voices too!). Or just making time to read books that you love. Switch off the TV at night and do something creative, like painting, drawing or writing, to help stimulate a completely different part of your brain.
If you're not sure where to start with Podcasts, here are some of the podcasts I'm enjoying at the moment:
The podcast by New York Times bestselling author Gretchen Rubin, I enjoy the accent and the thought provoking conversation about how to live a happier life.
Ideas for self improvement and a simpler life. It's always fun listening to these two chatting together!
Interesting discussions with interesting people! I tune into episodes that sound interesting and always end the podcast learning something new!
The latest science based information on you and your baby. This is so relevant when you have a baby, and useful for keeping up to date with what science says about raising babies!
Beautiful music for relaxation and yoga sequences to practice when you get a moment. You and your children might enjoy listening to this together!
Each episode is an hour long conversation with someone doing really interesting things in the world! This is a great way to gain perspective and really take your mind elsewhere.
To do in 2018: get a bluetooth speaker for my kitchen so I can easily listen to podcasts while cooking or preparing food. The kitchen is the one place in the house I feel really claustrophobic or bored, cooking isn't something that brings me joy, so it's a great place to add some mental stimulation to take my mind off it!
4. Look after your body - sleep and exercise!
When you have a new baby sleep is hard to come by, but should absolutely be a priority... however it comes! If you need to get into a routine of napping during the day, or asking someone to mind the baby while you sleep then DO IT! Lack of sleep causes all sorts of problems, including anxiety, depression & weight gain or loss. You are, of course, still going to be sleep deprived, but the more you can minimise this the better.
Exercise is also important for regulating your mood and keeping yourself healthy. Even if you're just going for a walk around the block, or doing some yoga in the lounge room while your baby is playing next to you, it all adds up!
To do in 2018: aim to take the kids for a walk down to the park at least 3 mornings a week before school so we can all be calmer during the day, and sleepier at bedtime
5. Put together some playlists you love
Music is one of the quickest ways to lift your mood, so it is well worth putting together some playlists that you can bop along to whenever you want! You might find your kids dancing along with you as they get older, and cleaning up is so much more fun when you're dancing while you do it!
If you're on a music sharing app like Spotify you can connect with your friends and share playlists or songs you love as well to keep things fresh.
To do in 2018: spend a couple of hours putting together some new playlists or refreshing old ones that I can use for exercise, dancing at home, times when I want to feel calm and road trip lists. Also, connect with a couple of my friends whose music I love listening to on Spotify.
6. Finally, fake it till you make it
Even if you don't feel like it, standing up straight and putting a smile on your face can help lift your mood. Studies have shown that straightening your back, and smiling can help boost your mood, even when you don't feel like it. It's like your body connects those movements with happy feelings.
I've been noticing that my sholders are either slumped forward when I'm sitting, or tensed up when I'm trying to do something, so am trying to check in with my body regularly to physically straighten up and relax my shoulders and face. It's a great way to also bring more awareness and mindfulness to how I'm feeling.
To do in 2018: continue to check in with my posture and create a space at home to do yoga more regularly.
If you're feeling anxious or sad all the time then we recommend calling Beyond Blue to chat with someone about how you're feeling.
How are you taking care of yourself in 2018?
Here are some other related blogs you might enjoy:
and of course, you can always join our beautiful Milk and Love Mum group on facebook and reach out to like-minded friends.