Self Care is the key
The term self-care has been banded around the internet for a while and has grown immensely in popularity over recent years. With mental health issues such as depression and anxiety affecting one in four people in the UK each year; people are constantly searching for ways to keep those mental health demons at bay. As someone who has suffered over twenty years with episodes of depression, I can relate to the dark shadow that it can cast over a person and drain the life from them.
A BBC survey revealed that one-third of mothers experience mental health issues; showing that the job of parenting is not easy by any stretch of the imagination. Personally, I have suffered two major episodes of depression during the six years of being a parent; four years ago when I was temporarily promoted at work and two years ago when I suffered Post Natal Depression after my daughter was born. Trying to juggle all of the expectations of motherhood and doing the best for your children can be a tough balancing act.
Why should Mums practice self-care?
The answer to this is not just to improve your own mood, but to promote and model self-care to your children. It is a win, win situation where just five minutes of self-care a day can build the foundations for a confident and calm mother and show your children that they should take time for themselves to nourish their sense of well being.
But I have not got the time
You will be surprised what five to ten minutes a day can achieve. There are little ‘pockets of time’ that we have that can be utilised for self-care.
- Before you get the kids up in the morning.
- Before you go into work in the morning; I often do a five-minute meditation sat in my car before I go in for the day.
- While the children have their bath; they are happily playing so this is the perfect time to do some self-care.
- Instead of eating your lunch at your desk, you could go outside or to your car and indulge in five minutes away from the hectic stresses of work.
- After the children have gone to bed and I settle down to some TV; I often do my Bullet Journaling at this time which is a great strategy for self-care.
- After you have had a shower or a bath; adding just five minutes extra to your routine can make all the difference.
- Before you go to bed is another great time that can be utilised.
Self-care activities for the busy mum
Practising self-care does not have to be overly time consuming or expensive. We would all love to be able to go to a spa every week or to jet off on exotic holidays, but our wallet tells another story. I love a bargain and what I love about self-care is that you can do it for free or for very little cost.
Go for a walk
Regular exercise is a proven way of improving mental health; the more active you are, the less chance you have of developing depression. When you exercise, your body releases chemicals such as endorphins and serotonin which improve your mood.
Also, regular exercise and getting outdoors for fresh air can help you sleep better, another great reason to grab a coat and have a wander around the neighbourhood. This is also an activity that can be done with the whole family so it helps yourself and your children.
Listen to the birds in the morning
This might sound strange but listening to the sounds of nature can be very calming and therapeutic. Obviously, this trick works better in the spring and summer when the birds are chirping around the time you wake up although I have used a birdsong track as my alarm ringtone to simulate the feeling when it is winter. Just sit or lie back and listen to the different tones and tunes and do some deep breathing. While doing this try to let your body relax and release any tension you might be holding.
Read a book
Losing yourself in a good book is a great way to release stress and relax the mind. Since I was a child I have loved to spend time reading, perhaps due to not having much to watch on TV. In my twenties, my love for reading declined as I became too busy and exhausted to read a book. I was constantly reading emails and memos as part of my job so why would I want to do more of it? However, since having my children and reading with them, I have rediscovered the wonderful world of books.
I struggle to read small text due to my dyslexia so I use the Kindle app on my phone, I even read comics and plays on my kindle now as it is so easy. If I travel on public transport, I always get my phone out and read for a few minutes. Likewise, if I am waiting to pick up my son or waiting for an appointment, I will read. I also like to read in the mornings as that is the time I am the most alert, I love to eat my breakfast while reading.
Improve your diet/ drink more water
This might not sound like a form of self-care but nourishing your body will help to nourish your mind as well. Making small changes over time will help to improve things from the inside and have knock-on benefits. I have in the past had an unhealthy relationship with food and having realised this, I started to change habits gradually. I now eat more fruit and vegetables, reduce my portions and the amount of junk food I eat and also drink two litres of water on most days. I have noticed that I experience fewer sugar crashes and cravings for junk which makes me feel less guilty as I know that they are not good for my body.
Look after your feet
Your feet carry so much and should be respected and cared for, they are the only feet you have. According to reflexology, your feet are the link to the rest of your body and even a few minutes of pampering can help improve things. I wholeheartedly recommend reflexology if you have the fund for it; I used to go when I struggled to get pregnant and I was blown away by how it helped me.
Just the simple act of putting cream on your feet after your shower can improve your mood; focus on the feeling of your hands rubbing the cream in for just a few minutes. You could also do a pedicure if you have more time; using a foot scrub and a pumice stone to remove dead skin cells. Putting on a thick and creamy foot cream or foot mask to nourish them. Then finally pushing back the cuticles from your toenails, filing them and maybe putting some nail polish on.
We often spend so much time inside our own mind that we forget about our body. Your body is the only one you have and treating it with respect is the ultimate in self-care. One simple way of doing this is to massage your body with a body butter or cream after your bath or shower. Enjoy the feeling of the cream on the skin and the pleasant smell it might have, you are a goddess and deserve these five minutes of luxury that a cheap tub of body cream can give. If you are in a real rush you can invest in a spray moisturiser which is quick and convenient; your body will feel softer and smoother and help improve your mood.
Try some Yoga
The ancient art of Yoga can be a mystery for some people but it is not just for super flexible, new age types. Due to sites like YouTube, you can access a whole library of Yoga lessons that are suitable for every age and ability, all you need is a mat and some time. Doing even a five minutes sun salutation exercise can awaken the body, relax you and prepare you for the day ahead.
I would recommend that you head over to Yoga with Adriene on YouTube, she has a multitude of classes for beginners to experts with a variety of different lengths and health concerns. I need to practice what I preach and invest some time in doing some more Yoga.
Meditation is another great technique that can be used to help deal with the stress and strains of everyday life. Having trained as an actor, I am well aware of the benefits of relaxation activities on the body and mind. It was only when I took an eight-week mindfulness course that I found the true benefits of meditation.
Although I do not practice meditating daily, I do use some quick techniques I have picked up from learning to teach mindfulness in schools throughout the day. Breathing techniques are especially useful when dealing with my children; breathing out for one second longer than you breath in will automatically release chemicals to calm the body.
You might not see it, but you have much to be grateful for. Take five minutes at the end of the day to note down three things you are grateful for that day; it could be being able to drink your coffee while it’s still hot, or something yourchild does that fills you with joy. Focusing on the positive can help improve your outlook on things when harder periods of time appear. Today I am grateful for my Costa coffee, having an afternoon nap and having time to write this post as Mr T watches the football.
Listen to music
This can easily be done on the drive to and from work. Nothing feels better than driving while one of your favourite tunes blasts out of the stereo. I am one of those people that has an emotional connection to music and various songs will evoke strong memories and emotions within me. I was the queen of the CD compilations and my love of playlists has been enabled further through Spotify.
I have a large array of playlists on Spotify, each of them catering for different moods that I find myself in. The playlists are mostly filled with upbeat music or music that I fondly remember from my past. The power of music to set the tone of the day is immense and I find if I listen to some great tunes on my drive to work my day is generally better. Likewise, if I have had a difficult day at work, I can rely on my music to put me in a better state of mind when I go home.
Doodle or colour
Being an artistic person my whole life, I have known of the benefits of drawing and colouring on helping relax and focus the mind. I used to have a whole room dedicated to creating art projects that I would retreat to for hours when I needed some self-care. Since I had my beautiful children I have reduced my crafting and taken up Bullet Journaling which combines planning and artistic creation in one handy book.
I have included two articles that explain the benefits of creating artwork or picking up a colouring book; they explain the positives far better than I can.
Play a board game
I had never considered playing a board game as a way of relieving stress; it was more likely to make me more competitive. However, when Mr T developed an interest in collecting board games, I was introduced to a whole newworld of possibilities. However, when Mr T developed an interest in collecting board games, I was introduced to a whole new world of possibilities and even though I act like I am bothered, I do not mind losing as these games challenge my brain in ways that I do not get through other self-care activities.
There are lots of different games to suit everyone; whether you want a quick dice-rolling game or a massive game that has you running countries and trying to take over the world. These games, as opposed to computer games, do not have the risk of eye-strain and screen dependency that is attributed to consoles and PC counterparts.
Even if you get a deck of cards or a pack of Top Trumps; playing physical games can not only provide some stress relief after a hectic day, but it can be embraced as self-care for the whole family.
Ditch the phone/technology for a while
This is not an easy option for many people, myself included. As a society, we rely heavily on technology for both logistical and leisure reasons. I read my books on my phone, I listen to Spotify on my phone so ditching the phone contradicts some of my own self-care habits. However, I pride myself in my ability to lock my phone away in my work cupboard and not want to constantly check up on social media. I rarely check my phone, once I did not realise my son had chicken pox until I got home, despite Mr T messaging me hours before to tell me.
The constant exposure to impossible expectations and comparison can be the biggest mental drain of people in our society, so why not ditch the phone for a day? This will help you reconnect with the real world around you and make you appreciate that there is more to life than endless scrolling through your phone.
Are there any self-care activities I have missed off? Let me know what you think in the comments.
Ciao for now beauties xx