Self-care doesn’t need to take up lots of time or money. The key to self-care practices that work is to stick with practical and simple self-care, focusing on self-care basics.
I was inspired by this article in Motherly to talk about how my concept of simple self-care, while in practice isn’t really revolutionary, has completely changed that I think about self-care. Instead of making big plans, let’s get back to self-care basics.
In Part 1 of this series on simple self-care and self-care basics, I talked you through my decision-making process and what it took for me to get to a place where I finally took my own self-care seriously. The thing about it was that I was in a place both physically and mentally where I couldn’t indulge in any fancy routines. Nope. That’s why this is basic. It’s self-care that is actually doable AND makes a difference in the long run.
The teeny and seemingly insignificant change that I decided to make, which would incorporate even just a token amount of self-care into my life was to start taking a vitamin first thing in the morning and drinking a glass of water.
Once this new little habit was part of my daily life, I started thinking about other small and practical things I could do every day to help my health and mood. So I made a list of what I knew would make me feel better on a physical and emotional level. Things that would help fuel me and fortify me for the draining and challenging task of… being a mom.
The list of additional habits I wanted to cultivate started to get pretty long, but I was able to widdle it down to a few things that were totally doable. These focused mostly on my sleep, exercise, diet, and mindset/spirituality.
But this basically narrowed down to two main buckets of topics that I needed to focus on to tend to my needs. My body and soul.
The first I decided to tackle was my body.
Ah, this body. Something I have had love and hatred for throughout my life. From loving my new and fairly large breasts as a teenager because of the attention they got me, to hating those same breasts as a teenager because there was only ONE kind of attention they got me.
Then being a 32-year-old mom whose current breasts are being fully used for their intended purpose in milk production, but don’t look quite as close to the societal standard of what breasts “should” look like anymore. (Hello sagginess.)
Not to mention the constant nagging voice in my head talking about how I’m not thin enough, and each bit of cellulite on my ass and thighs made me just a little bit less lovable and worthy as a human being.
When I first started thinking about self-care as a mom after I had my first child over four years ago, I had a much different approach. Back then I was mostly thinking of it as superfluous and something to add as a bonus to my life instead of something essential to fuel my life.
The idea of working out or eating better was about trying to mold my body into what I (society) thought was acceptable. This meant that exercising or dieting was a penance for my lack of perfection instead of something I did just for me no matter the external outcomes.
I decided it was time to change that. This time it would be about doing what is right for ME, not other people, not society, and not a partner.
This time I vowed to favor practicality in my decisionmaking, which is why I chose to focus on my sleep, exercise, and diet.
(Though I was specifically not interested in a “diet,” but rather just a focus on filling up with super good foods for as much energy as possible… if some cake or chips slipped in there, so be it.)
I did NOT come up with random and arbitrary goals. I created goals that I could create habits around, and I knew these choices would actually feel better based on my own personal experience mixed with science.
So let’s dive right into the first self-care basics goal I set for myself. Next time I’ll get into exercise and diet, but for now… let’s talk sleep! Something that isn’t super sexy or revolutionary, but incredibly necessary.
Let’s talk about the overtired elephant in the bedroom for moms. Sleep.
Eight hours of sleep is like the quest for the Holy Grail for moms, but I decided to take on the challenge anyway. As a mom whose twins still do not regularly sleep through the night I know it seemed like a Herculean task, but it turned out to be super simple and hinge on just one thing.
In order to get those eight hours of sleep, I needed to actually be in bed for around 10 hours every single night. Since my kids usually wake up between 6am-7pm, that meant I needed to be in bed by 9 pm every night.
Why 10 hours in bed? Because chances are I would have to be up for at least one cumulative hour each night. If I am in bed for 10 hours then I will likely end up getting 8-9 hours of sleep.
I know. This might sound extreme. It’s so tempting to get in your Netflix binges or other adulting during the late hours of the day/night, but I found that by ensuring I skipped those evening indulgences I could be better rested the next day.
Being more rested during the day meant I was more productive, got more done, and then had more energy to actually enjoy the adult indulgences I DID have, perhaps while my kids were napping or watching their own Disney Junior TV binges on rainy days.
While I do cherish this early bedtime for myself, I make exceptions because life happens.
For example, this a few Saturdays ago I stayed up until around 11 pm because my daughter was happily playing with the neighbor kids until late into the night as their mom and I drank wine. So I totally let that bedtime slip because summer fun sometimes takes precedence. But the fact that at least 6 of 7 days a week I stick pretty closely to my self-imposed bedtime, I can handle the occasional late night.
Then this last Saturday, my bestie cousin and I went to the Ren Faire (yes we are nerds and we totally dressed up). It was our mom night away. So we stayed up until the super late hours of around 11pm again. Yeah we are party animals.
I hope the point you get here is that you don’t have to be dogmatic or stuck in stone with the choices you make. You CAN have some flexibility. Rules were meant to be broken.
BUT if everyone broke the rules all the time our world would be chaos.
The same goes for our own worlds. We can bend or break rules we create for our own well-being from time to time, but if we totally ignore self-care basics forever… we’re gonna be on the fast track to a hot mess express.
Our bodies are how we navigate this world.
They are our home. They are the place we reside. They are also our car. The vehicle that gets us to where we need to go.
Just like your car, you need to make sure it has gas and periodically the oil is changed, tires rotated, inspected, etc. Let’s at least take as good a care of our bodies as we do with our car. We can’t trade it in when we want a new one, unfortunately.
I have had to accept that this is the body I am stuck with. There are some awesome part and some not so awesome parts. Like being short… It’s cute and all, but reaching the top shelves is a bitch…
In the next installment of this series on self-care basics I get deeper into how and why I have (at least somewhat) learned to accept my body and truly become body positive when it comes to how I feel about myself and my body.
But for now, let’s just accept on face value that our body deserves the same, if not more attention, than a car or even our home?
Like our car or our home, we CAN delay or ignore the general maintenance that is needed for some time. We can skip cleaning the kitchen and doing the dishes for a night because we are running late for a hot date with our partner. Maybe we can delay our oil change for a couple of weeks because life is really busy right now.
Eventually, those delays will catch up with us. (Take it from someone who forgot to get an oil change for like 6 months then had to drop $3k on an entirely new engine the good ole Kia. Yep. It was me.)
So it is from this angle that I have approached not just my sleep situation, but my entire view of my body. There IS an aspect of my body that I view as beautiful, sexy, hot, voluptuous, and more.
But this view of my body is a new perspective, and it is one of utility.
That is why we are starting with a discussion of sleep. This is the place it all seems to begin for us moms. All our poor decisions and lack of self-care begin and end with our lack of sleep.
Like it says in that Motherly article I mentioned before, the deficit we have in terms of missing sleep is often so huge that we could sleep for years and never catch up.
The advice I am trying to fulfill is one as old as parenting it seems, and that is the “sleep when the baby sleeps.”
As I mentioned earlier, I try to be in bed by 9 pm because that is what ensures that I get a solid 8 hours of sleep in. This has been the case since my kids were newborns, especially my twins! Imagine getting up double in the night. It was surprisingly easier than I anticipated because of the fact that when it was bedtime, I literally went to bed with them.
Side Note: Discussions on bedsharing are a whole other topic, but suffice to say that after consistently falling asleep with my first child during night time feedings in a rocking chair, which is statistically less safe than bedsharing, I brought her to bed (with some safety precautions). I never looked back, and then decided to just have a family bed with all kids cuddling me each night.
Whether you literally go to bed WITH your children, or you just go to your own separate bed at the same time as your children is not really the point.
The point is that you are in a bed for a pretty large chunk of time.
With my twins, I went to bed with them at around 7 pm in the early days. My then 3-year-old came along too. We would eat snacks in bed and watch TV for an hour or so until we drifted off to sleep too.
Then I would usually be up around 10pm, 12am, 2pm, 4am, and 6am, or something like that. But as I said before, I would usually get a cumulative 8 hours of sleep or more.
There were, of course, days then and days now when I wake up exhausted, but they are few and far between. In fact, I wake up with more energy now that I did before I was a mom going to bed at 11 pm-12 am each night and not waking up until 8-9 am.
This isn’t going to be equally easy for everyone. Some moms don’t have a partner to lean on like I do. All those nights when I went to be at 7pm? My husband was up cleaning. I have a cushy situation here where I have a partner, and he actually helps me co-parent plus take care of the home.
Some moms work night shift and then take over childcare as soon as they get off. Life is tough sometimes, and more sleep is a luxury that literally isn’t available to some moms. Even focusing on self-care basics is hard for some moms.
But I will challenge most of you to look at your time in the evenings and see if you go to bed just a *little* earlier. Is that extra 15 minutes (or 2 hours) of scrolling Facebook really worth it?
And if you have hobbies or valuable time you spend in the evening with your partner, how can you optimize that time? Like instead of hanging with your partner for an hour watching TV every night, can you go to bed earlier and then have a legit date one night a week?
Just think about it. See how you can actually do that old and tired, but still true, saying about sleeping when the baby (or kids) sleep.
When we talk about our body and what it needs, besides sleep, we need to feed it and exercise it, focusing on self-care basics.
So in the next edition of this little series, I’ll talk about the diet and exercise changes I made that have helped me stop GAINING weight and lose almost 10 pounds so far without really trying.
But this isn’t about weight in terms of feeling crappy about my belly being a little too chubby according to unattainable beauty standards. Which of course is always something I’m working on. The feeling happy and loving with the body I have… not trying to reach unattainable and useless societal standards.
This is about losing that extra bit of weight that just mades you feel uncomfortable and bloaty. Ya know when you can still fit in all your clothes, but they just feel pinchy and weird? That’s what I mean here.
There were just a few simple self-care changes I made to the way I eat and move my body that have had a huge impact! Can’t wait to share more self-care basics.
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