Hey May, Back Off!
In the past few months, I’ve seen a number of moms fall off the radar, including clients, friends in real life and on social media, and colleagues. The onslaught of activities, work demands, kid and school needs, and events has buried even the most social or resilient among us.
Curiously enough, in the midst of Maycember (as I recently heard it called, because the month is so packed it resembles December but without the cookies) falls Mother’s Day. This holiday is meant to recognize us moms for our hard work, but can mean even more to do, especially if you live near multiple generations, or you are the planner, or your kids are too young to make much more than a mess in the kitchen.
So, what’s a busy, hurried mom to do to get a little self-care in order to maintain her sanity?
Well, of course one Sunday of giving up breakfast duties or sleeping in isn’t going to make up for years of burnout, whether from an extended job scope or managing kids and a household, or the combination of both. If you were dragging a bit the Monday after Mother’s Day, it’s likely you have been craving this kind self-care and your body wasn’t quite ready to give it up and jump back into the grind so readily.
While focused work like identifying your values or developing a system to create more equity in the tasks at home will create the long term change you may need, I’ve found that there are levels to providing stress relief for moms to offer short term relief.
One of the first questions I ask clients when they are telling me about their struggles is how much they are sleeping, and this makes a huge difference in their outlook of the world. Sometimes it’s because their kids are young and others it’s because work is stressful, but either way it’s important to address. Without taking care of our basic functions like sleep and eating well no amount of bubble baths or spa days will feel good until you do.
The base level: Sleep + food
Are you getting enough sleep and eating enough good healthy calories for you?
Outcome: This is what allows us to function, not be in a fog, and be aware of our emotions.
Once your sleep is more or less in order (regressions and hiccups aside) and you are feeding your body what it needs, the next step is to scan your body, both on the inside and the outside. Does your body need to move? Maybe a walk or stretching can be added to your day. Are you having mood swings, or feeling irritable? Taking a moment to look inward can help address the ‘why’ behind some of those feelings. And the added benefit of both of these is that they can also help with sleep!
The second level: Stillness and movement
At this next level of self-care is checking in with yourself in stillness (meditation or quiet time) and movement (exercise, walk, stretching).
Outcome: This mid-level allows us to make better decisions, and we are able to manage our emotions.
After your physical and mental self-care is in check, it’s time to check in with your heart. This is where those bubble baths, manicure or learning a new language will come in and offer you the most benefit. There are huge opportunities that can be found at the top of the pyramid, but without the foundation it can have the reverse effect and feel like another thing on your to-do list.
The Top Level: Time For YOU
At the top level of the pyramid is making time to do things we love- reading, spending time with friends, painting, etc.
The Outcome: At this top level we can have compassion for ourselves and others and it gives us the mental space to make leaps.
One of the reasons I like this framework is that it makes clear that you don’t need to conquer all of the areas of self-care at once; it’s a step-by-step process. Have a newborn and sleep isn’t happening? Then don’t stress yourself trying to work-out. Sure, take a walk if it feels good, but getting in 30 minutes of a HiiT session every day shouldn’t be your priority, but rather resting when you can and feeding your body the calories it needs to be awake for 20 hours. If you are sleeping but not checking-in with yourself physically and mentally, then it might be fun to have a spa day, but the impact will be greater on your wallet than it will be on your mind or body.
As we move through the end of May and into the summer months, take a moment to consider which level you are at, and what level you want to be. Is this summer a perfect time for a reset? Maybe in these last days of school drop off/pick up lines, take a moment to reflect on these self-care tips for moms and see if you can build a basis for taking care of yourself. Maybe we will be ready for Mother’s Day next year, and our one day of rest. 🙂