Disconnecting, scheduling alone time, and practicing self-compassion are healthy habits moms can use prioritize their wellness, writes Jessica Milicevic.
Prioritizing alone time is key for working moms to de-stress.
By Jessica Milicevic The term self-care has become one of those buzzwords so overused by bloggers, marketers, and influencers that it almost has no authentic meaning left. Everyone from major brands to the mommy bloggers encourage us to use self-care, usually by partaking in one of their products that promises to bring us calm, peace, and mindfulness. Rarely do we get true serenity from a candle or a cookie, but the idea that we need to practice self-care still pushes us to do whatever we can to attain it. Self-care in its most basic form are things you do to take care of yourself. As working moms, we’ve become conditioned to do everything for others, so the idea that we should do something for ourselves can seem entirely selfish and foreign. But the practice of self-care for working moms is easier said than done. Besides, what is self-care anyway, if not a way to escape? Time and finances are often factors in any working mom’s decision to take time for herself When we think of recharging using the self-care method, we often talk ourselves out of it because we don’t have the time or the money to take a spa day, or any other luxury image that’s become synonymous with self-care. And because the meaning of the term has become so trite, we often dismiss the practice entirely. In an effort to redefine self-care for the working mom, I’ve created a list of ways that we can all practice true love for ourselves, without sacrificing major amounts of time or money. These practices can be incorporated into your everyday life so you can easily take the time to reset your mind, body, and soul, and refill that empty cup.
1. Breathe I know I’m not inspiring a ton of confidence by starting with something so simple, but stay with me. There was a time in my life when a maternal mental breakdown sent me to the hospital for a week. In the midst of the chaotic moment, I began to have a panic attack as I contemplated what was really happening to me. The thing that saved me from completely melting down was breathing. In yoga, I’d learned to block out the rest of the world and simply count my breaths as I inhaled and exhaled, and when it mattered the most, I was able to use that practice to calm my entire body. In the middle of an intense day at work, when your coworkers are being difficult and the boss is being stubborn, or when your kids are all yelling and your partner is wanting your attention, simply take a moment to stop. Choose a place where you can be alone (when I’m home, that often means hiding in my closet) and sit down. Put a timer on your phone for five minutes. Close your eyes and breathe in to the count of six, and out to the count of six. Count out loud if you need to, to give yourself a noise to focus on. Give yourself permission to push all other thoughts away (after all, it’s just for five minutes) and just listen to your breathing. Notice the rise and fall of your chest and focus on keeping your breath consistent. If you practice this often enough, the breathing will automatically kick in when you feel tense and stressed, like it did for me. 2. Connect This may be specific to extroverts like myself, but I’ve found that having a conversation helps me take a break from my stress and indulge in some informal talk therapy. Some of the best connections I’ve made have started online in a Facebook group for working moms. Instead of just using the platform to just vent (which is totally OK to do!) try using it to connect with other moms. I’ve asked for advice, or shared an interesting article, or even shared a photo of my kids and invited others to share as well. The great thing about being a member of a group for working moms is that they get what you’re going through. Everything you’re struggling with or take joy in, they likely do too. Connecting with other women in this way can help us make friends, which is definitely a part of taking care of ourselves. 3. Disconnect Most days after taking care of my four kids and running my own business, I need time to disconnect. Instead of watching TV or scrolling through social media, I’ve established a form of self-care that truly helps me reset: silence. I sit on my couch and I don’t talk to anyone, and ask that my husband not talk to me, for one hour. Every working mom deserves time to reset your mind and rest your brain before bed. Make an arrangement with your partner and kids to take one hour to not talk to anyone and then choose an activity that brings you joy. Try to pick an activity that doesn’t overstimulate your brain, like listening to a podcast or reading a book, and give yourself permission to push everything else aside and enjoy it. If you can, hop in the bath and allow yourself to just melt away for an hour. 4. Sleep I can see many of you rolling your eyes at this suggestion. How is sleep self-care if it’s also a part of simple human existence? But ask yourself: What quality of sleep are you getting? After eight hours at the office and four hours of homework, dinner, and bedtime routines, working moms often find themselves sprawled out on the couch, mindlessly watching TV or scrolling through social media before we drag ourselves into bed. We get to bed only to run through the mental load we carry, keeping us even later and often leaving us to fall asleep in an anxious manner. Try instead to give yourself the gift of true rest. Research shows that getting adequate sleep can help you have the energy to manage anxiety, and can increase the positive consolidation of thoughts and memories while we sleep that allows us to be in a sharper, better mood when we’re awake. Make a commitment to yourself that you will be in bed, sans screen, by 10 or 11 p.m. each night. If true self-care comes from taking care of ourselves, getting adequate sleep should be high on the priority list. 5. Permission and forgiveness As working moms, we carry so much on our minds and hearts. From our colleagues to our kids, we want everyone in our lives to feel taken care of and happy. Along with the need to make everyone else happy, is ultimately the feeling of guilt when we are unable to achieve this impossible task. Mommy guilt is a burden we all carry, but how it manifests in our lives is different for everyone. For me, I allowed the guilt to dictate my happiness. I never gave myself permission to be imperfect, or to allow others in my life to feel unsatisfied or disappointed, and my mental health began to deteriorate. In order to tackle any of the self-care items listed above, you need to allow yourself the time and space to do so. Give yourself permission to take care of yourself and be happy and healthy. When you’re planning your day, you have the option to choose to do something for yourself. While doing things for your friends and family is generous and kind, you must also be kind and generous with yourself. This can be as simple as choosing to take a shower instead of cooking an extra time-consuming meal for your kids or partner. Give yourself permission to take 30 minutes to be alone, do something you need to do, and just be. This often requires us to also forgive ourselves for whatever we feel like we’re failing at (which we are often not doing, but again, mommy guilt) and know that we’re doing the best we can. Forgive yourself for whatever negative thoughts you have and give yourself permission to be a human being with needs and the ability to be imperfect. Self-care doesn’t have to be complicated or intricate. It can be as simple as doing things to maintain your emotional and mental health so you feel balanced in your everyday life. While treating yourself is definitely needed, true self-care is something we must do regularly to be able to give 100% to our family, friends, and coworkers. It’s a cliche but it’s also true: You can’t give from an empty cup. So fill yours up, and know it’s in the service of not just others, but also in the service of