It’s not just the girls’ weekends. It’s not just another bubble bath or brunch. The truth about self-care is that the way moms need to be thinking about this issue is on a much more basic level. It’s all about simple self-care for moms.
Self-care has been a hot topic for years now. Everyone says we need to take it seriously, and moms deserve to put ourselves first or even that it is necessary to put ourselves first… because happy mom = happy kids. But when you get down to the nitty-gritty of self-care, I feel like we aren’t having serious discussions of what it ACTUALLY looks like, and instead just talk about the flashy and fun aspects.
This is about ensuring you are in peak condition to do one of the toughest jobs on the planet, many times in addition to a job outside of the home.
Moms get made fun of for our little obsession with yoga pants and activewear even when we haven’t been to the yoga studio or gym in years. But let’s be real. Mommin’ is a full-contact sport, and I challenge you to get as good of a workout from CrossFit as chasing my twins around every single day.
I am one of them. I have had PPD and depression/anxiety off and on throughout my life. While I can’t say I am “cured,” I also have found that there is something so simple and basic I can do to stop the depression, it’s almost embarrassing I didn’t do it before.
Practice super easy, basic and simple self-care.
Being a mom is so freakin’ hard, and I am obsessed with this story in Motherly all about how “‘Self-care’ is not enough to fix how much moms are burnt out.” (https://www.mother.ly/life/self-care-is-not-enough-to-fix-how-much-moms-are-burnt-out)
And the truth is that the things we have been considering self-care really don’t even begin to make a dent in the sleep and energy deficit we tend to find ourselves in. But I knew that after I had a bit of a depressive episode/mental breakdown/three-day anxiety attack a few months ago, I could NOT go on as I did before. I was overwhelmed and exhausted physically and emotionally.
Although I have struggled with anxiety and depression for all of my adult life, I had been able to manage it. 99% of the time I can keep myself in check with things like meditation and mindfulness plus countless hours reading personal development books and therapy as needed. Occasionally I have also tried medication which has worked and not worked to varying degrees.
But earlier this year, I had a few different factors come together to give me a pretty rough week that had been brewing for months.
Just to give you taste of those factors, it was the middle of winter and I had been cooped up with a 4-year-old and twin one-year-olds for months. I wasn’t getting any fresh air or sunlight. I wasn’t able to exercise or get my body really moving at all. The soundtrack of my life was a mix of kids cartoons. And I was processing through a bunch of small traumas that had come up from my past, plus finally dealing with some grief that had been hiding in the shadows for years.
Not to mention I was struggling with the typical exhaustion and stress that comes from having three kids ages four and under.
These things and more came together to make my anxiety and depression skyrocket.
All the thoughts going through my mind about myself were negative. I felt stuck. It was the first time in my life that I was REALLY worried about myself and whether I could do this. Not just be a mom, but could I really live? Could I have a good life? Or was I doomed to this depression and anxiety forever?
While I do think that I’ll have to be on guard against depression and anxiety forever, I realized at some point that there were some super basic things I could do to help myself.
The truth is that at the time I didn’t really know how to take care of myself at all.
I could identify hand-foot-and-mouth disease with my eyes closed. I could tell what my kids needed before they even opened their mouths just by the way they moved. I could use my spidey senses to tell if something bad happened with my husband’s work that day without him saying a word.
But did I know how to really take care of this 32-year-old body and soul I have? Nope.
I posted on Facebook detailing how I was depressed because I am all about transparency and perhaps even oversharing. Reading stories from other moms and women helps me tremendously. Some of the responses I got took me back.
At first, I felt kind of offended that people thought I was so stupid to have not thought of their ideas, but then I realized… I hadn’t.
The most simple things like drinking water, taking vitamins, and getting some vitamin D by getting in the sun every day were super basic acts of self-care that I had completely neglected for months.
This realization made me feel like kind of a dope for not thinking of them.
I mean, I *know* how important these things are… I just kind of forgot about them when it came to actually ensuring they were included in my life. (and not just my kids’ lives)
But this wasn’t the first time I totally neglected my own health.
I ended up needing not one, but TWO root canals last year because I just kept delaying on going to the dentist. I knew I had lost a filling in one tooth and the other felt a little odd, but because I wasn’t in total agony I figured I could just let it go.
If I would have just been diligent about getting my routine dental exams, I probably would have been able to get away with just a few little fillings.
I thought this root canal situation was a wake-up call for me to finally commit to practicing the most BASIC self-care. Nothing fancy, just generally assuring I get to the medical appointments I need to attend.
However, while I did a better job of making and keeping those appointments, I did basically nothing for myself in between. At least until this most recent mental crisis.
I decided it was finally time to do something I had been pondering for a while and even wrote a blog post about.
And not just in the touchy/feely way. It’s not just about learning to love myself unconditionally, and actually care about myself enough to take care of me, but to also learn to discipline myself.
Now, I am not one for hardcore strict discipline full of time outs with my children. They will never be spanked, and I have yet to reach the age where I need to even think about grounding them… but I do hope to teach them to discipline themselves. To be able to set goals and achieve them.
I hope they will have the diligence to keep their rooms at least somewhat tidy, brush (and floss!) their teeth twice a day, complete homework assignments on time, etc.
And so I realized that at the ripe old age of 32, I had to start treating myself like one of my own children. No more letting myself off the hook. I had to be my own authority and start learning to be disciplined in my own life.
(Side note: this isn’t JUST about my own self-care and health, but I also realized I needed to set an example for my kids, especially my daughter, on how to live and care for yourself.)
So with this new resolve, my knee-jerk reaction was to overhaul my entire life. Start from scratch. Get on a schedule, a workout routine, and be hardcore with my health.
But… I had luckily just had an interview on the MomUp Show with Dana Skoglund all about how to create healthy habits. I knew I needed to start fairly small and make a plan around it. For me, the more simple the better.
If I was honest with myself, I knew that I was a novice at this whole healthy habit and good discipline thing.
Side note: the reason discipline and habits were hard for me was that I never needed them. I had gotten by in school and life until this point with just natural abilities, which has turned out to be a blessing and a curse.
The whole work hard on a daily basis to make incremental progress instead of skipping class all semester and cramming the night before the final wouldn’t work.
To make this work, I needed to keep it simple and (gasp!) EASY and regimented.
I decided to start with one super basic thing that I would start every single day that would herald in a new routine. A way to kind of short circuit my old norm and quickly swap it out for something new.
I would simply wake up every day, quickly get the kids settled, then grab a glass of water and my multivitamin.
I would make that one small change of starting my day by drinking a glass of water and taking my vitamin.
This small change is what I landed on for a few reasons.
On a very practical level I knew I was probably at a constant low key level of dehydration, AND since I was still breastfeeding my twins staying hydrated and taking a multivitamin were essential and would probably help me not feel so physically depleted all the time. (I, like most women nowadays, tend to have lower levels of vitamin-D, which can impact mood.)
But also, this was such an easy change to make. It took me less than 60 seconds a day but making sure that the first real thing I did every day was something for myself and my own health injected a new mindset into my life.
It’s not some self-indulgent idea of making sure I always come first no matter what, which let’s be honest would not work as a mom of three small kids. It shifted my mindset around my self-care from something that I needed to fight for or work for to something I just did. It just happened. It was just part of the routine. Nothing special, just a necessity.
I feel like the way I thought about self-care also changed from CARING for to more like… TENDING to my body. I stopped viewing my body and a lot of being as some delicate little thing that needed to be cared for to a vehicle that needed to do a lot of demanding work and needed to be maintained… just like the family car. (That dear old Kia has seen better days but it’s still kickin’)
Through beginning with this simple act that isn’t even close to being revolutionary or difficult, I was able to just take my first step on the path.
And you know what? I saw actual real benefits from this.
Not only do I believe the added water intake and vitamins helped my physical body feel better on a daily basis, but just having completed this minor task every single day for a period of time gave the sense of accomplishment needed to continue to search for ways to improve my body and mind so that I could be a better person and a better mom.
I was ready to stop feeling like I was barely holding onto life, and to finally flourish.
Just typing that word “flourish” makes me realize I never have. In all of my life, I have never felt like I have reached my full potential as a human being because of a lack of really understand myself as a physical and emotional being, which sounds bizarre, but is true.
And this teeny step forward of making a 60-second tweak to my morning is what began an entirely new path in life for me.
I’m going to be sharing even more on this topic through additional posts on how to begin a very simple self-care practice for moms. Next week I’m going to dive into the next steps I took, and I how I started taking even better care of my body, and even learned to love my body.