As a mama, it’s so easy to put yourself on the bottom of your list of priorities.
We are made to feel ‘guilty’ if we think of ourselves or dare do something that is just for us, not for our family. But what happens when you neglect your needs? When you spend all of your time caring for others, but not yourself?
As I've discovered, it can set you up for postnatal depletion, exhaustion, and feelings of resentment towards your partner and your children can start to emerge.
I’ve been there, in fact, there are times that I still find myself there, even though I am always encouraging mamas to practice self-care. And what happens when I neglect my own well-being? When I ignore the signs that things are out of balance? I become impatient with my family. I begin to feel exhausted and overwhelmed. I find it hard to sleep and my physical health starts to suffer. It’s then that I need to stop. I need to take a moment and reconnect with my own needs. I have to put myself first.
When you aren’t feeling cared for, when you feel like your needs aren’t being met, not only does this impact on your wellbeing, but also that of your family and your relationship.
Being a mama is amazing, but it’s a constant challenge to balance your own needs, with the needs of those that you care for. Your emotions can swing from joy and happiness one moment, to feelings of overwhelm and exhaustion the next. You often feel pressure trying to juggle your many responsibilities, whilst fulfilling a range of expectations – from both yourself and others. A lot of days you may be functioning on little sleep, whilst adjusting to your every-changing role as a mama, and in some ways grieving the loss of your former self. Motherhood can be a really tough gig sometimes!
Here are my 7 simple self-care ideas:
Make YOU a priority
Make the time each and every morning to think about you. What makes you feel good? How can you bring more happiness into your day? I love the statement ‘put your own life jacket on before saving others’ – that they tell you on the plane before take-off. Your wellbeing is just as important as the rest of your families. You can’t help others if you don’t help yourself first. Give yourself permission to focus on your happiness too, without the feeling of guilt.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help
There are always others that are willing to help. We are raised in a culture that values ‘being able to do it on one’s own’. But the journey of motherhood is much easier when the load is shared.
Learn to say no
It is completely okay not to say yes to everyone and everything. Allow yourself to say no to requests or invitations, without feeling guilty or without feeling the need to make excuses. The more you practice, the easier it will get.
Apart from day-to-day self-care, schedule something in each week that is just for you. Now this doesn’t have to be a massage or beauty treatment (but
hey if that is doable then I’m all for that).
Arrange for your partner or a trusted family member or friend to look after your little one so you can catch up for a coffee with a friend, go for a walk along the beach, or attend a yoga class. Having something you can look forward to when you are having those tough motherhood moments can really help pull you through! Anything that you enjoy, that makes you feel good and gives you some time out.
Make sure that you are eating well and drinking lots of water. When you aren’t looking after your physical wellbeing, your mental wellbeing suffers too. Being a mama is a demanding job, and looking after the needs of our families and not your own will only end up in exhaustion and overwhelm. Instead of snacking on leftovers from your child’s meal, or grabbing something on the run to fill your belly, make a commitment to nourish yourself with real, wholesome food. Food that not only tasted delicious, but helps you feel good too.
Here is my favourite Pumpkin and Spinach Dahl Recipe, easy to prepare and great as a ‘heat and eat’ lunch leftover.
Ingredients: 1 large onion, chopped 3 cloves garlic 1 tsp chopped ginger 1 tsp black mustard seeds 1 bay leaf 1 tbsp olive oil (or ghee) 1 cup red lentils or mung dahl 2 tsp curry powder 1 tsp turmeric 1 tsp cardamon 1 cup vegetable stock 1 tin of chopped tomatoes 1.5 – 2 cups chopped pumpkin 1 tin coconut milk/cream, 2 cups baby spinach Basmati or brown rice
Method: Fry onion, garlic, ginger, mustard seeds and bay leaf in olive oil or ghee until onions are soft. Add lentils and curry powder and fry for 2 minutes, stirring continuously. Poor in stock, tomatoes, coconut milk and pumpkin. Cook for 40 minutes on a low heat, making sure the dahl doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan. Add chopped baby spinach and stir through for 2 minutes. Serve with rice. You can also add a spoonful of ghee before serving for added goodness.
Mindfulness is a powerful practice that can help you navigate this rollercoaster of a journey that is motherhood. Mindfulness is described as a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations. Allowing yourself to let go, to be fully present in the moment. There isn’t a lot of benefit in practicing self-care by going out for a relaxing walk, but you don’t enjoy it because you spend the whole time feeling guilty about not being with your family. You can learn more about mindfulness in motherhood here.
Be gentle with yourself
Are you aware of your negative self-talk? Do you notice when you judge yourself for doing something you might see as less than perfect? Maybe you’ve run late for an appointment, or you haven’t got the washing folded. Maybe you are putting yourself down about the way you look. It’s time to start practicing self-love, and self-compassion. It’s time to change how you speak to yourself.
Positive affirmations can be a wonderful way to help reinforce messages and help train your mind so that they become a habit. You might like to stick some post-it notes in different places you frequent throughout your home, or even in your car. Messages such as “You are loved”, “Be kind to you”, or “What have you done for you today?”. When you are feeling good about yourself, you will also be kinder to your family.
Commit yourself to begin by making just one small change. It might be that tonight you will run yourself a nice hot bath after your little one has gone to bed, or that you will go to bed that bit earlier, rather than staying up to get things done, or that tomorrow you will allow yourself to sit down during nap time and enjoy a cup of tea. Maybe it will be that you will start to practice more self-compassion, to be more gentle with your inner self talk.
“Mothers cannot give from a depleted source. Every mother needs emotional, mental, physical and spiritual validation, nourishment and support. When a mother is respected and well cared for, she, and her whole family, will benefit.” A Motherwoman principle.
As mamas in this busy world, we must give back to ourselves when are constantly giving so much to others. Self-care isn’t negotiable, it’s a necessity!
Briony Goodsell is an Illawarra Mum of three, a trained Doula, yoga teacher and nutritionist and she specialises in supporting mamas-to-be and new
mums! Click to visit her website The Nesting Place here for more
inspiration and support...