Wednesday, January 31, 2018

My best piece of self-care advice





I've got some words to say about self-care. And quite possibly my number one tip when it comes to self-care. The number one, easiest, most impactful piece of advice! My life changing piece of advice. Because I think we tend to talk about "self-care" as some vague term that means only big things and not simple daily practices that better our mental health. I want to stick to the simple and practical. But first, walk with me back in time. (insert wavy lines across the screen now)

I had 5 kids in less than six years. I had a brief couple months in between all five where I wasn't pregnant and/or nursing. There were constant diapers, bottles, naps, diapers, messes, and diapers. It was a constant barrage of needs to be met and lots of crying from kids and myself. Those days are really blurry and as difficult as they were, I really learnt a heck of a lot about myself and my husband in those difficult times. I had patches of postpartum depression and anxiety, and at times felt positively drowning and that my life would only and forever be overwhelming. It's not a great mental space. But this is what happens when human beings are in stressful situations, and raising five mini-humans is a stressful situation.

Because our life felt like it was hurtling along at 100 mph with babies coming every year my husband and I talked about our mental health often, if only to check in to make sure our heads were above water. But we learned very quickly that neither of us could handle the stress by ourselves, without talking it through with each other, and asking for support from each other. A couple of kids in when I felt like all I did was change diapers, feed, and soothe babies my husband realized that for the sake of my sanity we had to plan time for me to get out of the house. He realized the need and firmly told me that was what was happening even when I made excuse after excuse about babies needing me and being exhausted. So I would leave the house every week if I could for an afternoon, and sometimes every two weeks, but it was a standing thing that had to happen. Because it happened and I made it through a stressful, and very demanding time without completely losing my mind or myself.

It wasn't every day, it was every so often, sometimes for longer, sometimes for shorter. But I'm telling you, getting time for yourself is the biggest and best thing you can do for your mental health. Right now. Today. No matter what season you're in.

We've all been in times of survival mode where self care can't happen for whatever reason, but the first step to getting out of survival mode is to carve time for yourself to be alone. You can't get a mental break when someone is asking for something every five minutes. You don't recharge your own batteries by hiding in the bathroom while the kids watch Paw Patrol. You can't realize what would truly be live giving self-care if you don't even have time to realize what you personally need because you're always on baby duty.

Sometimes you don't know how much you need time alone if you've gone too long without it. 

If you're feeling at lose ends, like you don't know how to fix issues with your marriage or family or how to reignite the passions you had prior to having kids, it may be because you never have time alone to even fully ruminate on these very important things. Having that time for yourself creates space where you can begin to figure these things out. It allows you to listen to what your own needs might be, how to best meet them, what areas of your life need work and addressing, and maybe more opportunities to look at your life a bit more objectively rather than in the emotional throes of witching hour when the whole world feels like it's falling down around you.

I know some moms feel that in order to be a "super mom" or even a "good mom" that that means being available to their children all. the. time. But would we ask any other person of any other profession or vocation to never have time alone? Would we ask our parish priest to not even take an hour out of his daily schedule for himself? Do we think that people who work full time should come home from dinner and immediately get back to work with only intermittent breaks for sleep during the night? Then why as moms who are truly working 24/7, being completely emotionally and physically available to their babies and children think that they don't need time alone? We need to recognize that that mindset is deeply unhealthy and detrimental not only to our own mental health, but to our children, to our marriage, to the way we live our lives.

I want this advice to be simple. Find alone time for yourself. It may be before the kids wake up if you have an extremely active lifestyle or are blessed to be a morning person. It may be when kids nap simultaneously. It may be after your husband gets home from work before the kids go to bed. It may be after the kids go to bed. Find what time best works for you and your family. If your husband really and truly can't give you half an hour to an hour kid free because he's superman or some equivalent, don't feel guilty about asking for some babysitting time from family and friends, or just a regular ol' paid one, and spending that time not on errands and grocery shopping, but yourself. (Unless grocery shopping is deeply restoring for you, in which case you're probably a hero who doesn't need any of my advice!)

Also, this time you spend alone has to be spent doing what you want. Not what you need to do, not what you "should" do. Spend it blissfully bingeing The Crown. Spend it with a book. Spend it running or taking a gym class. Spend it alone at a coffee shop with tea, or strolling the aisles of Target. Don't forget to give yourself the gift of going out for lunch by yourself - that can change your damn life!

It can be out of the home or can be in your home. Just make it uninterrupted time, alone. It doesn't have to happen every day, but it does have to happen consistently and as often as possible. I think the most important step in trying to make big life changes like crawling out of survival mode begins with committing to small changes in our routine. Especially as moms, I think one of the biggest aspects of our lives for better or worse is our routines and how we utilize them. We aren't out of control of our lives just because we have small kids, we're still in control but change comes in little steps.

Just humour me if you don't think this one step will change your life. Commit to it for a week or two and see if you notice changes in how you feel, in how you think, in how happy you are. Let me be your life coach!





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13 comments:

  1. Absolutely! Since last summer, I have been going to Jazzercise classes 4-5x a week. Those hours spent exercising and jamming out to awesome music without kids interrupting me is AMAZING. As the months have went along, my husband has made several comments about how much calmer and patient and happier I seem, which is SO TRUE. I'm so thankful he is willing to budget for the membership and rush home to watch the kids so I can do that.

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  2. Your thoughts on this are spot-on! When I feel like my world is spinning out of control, chances are that I just need a little mental break and some quiet time to myself to recharge.

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  3. Yes! When my husband travels, I utilize every minute of the two hour YMCA daycare limit for self time - workout, shower, reading, all of it. Without this in my schedule with three kids under 6, I get to my stressd and frazzled spot real fast.

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    1. You are not alone! I do the same. My husband used to travel almost every week. And even if he isn't traveling, he works a ton. But yes, I totally and completely get this. You've gotta pull whatever resources you've got!

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  4. Awesome post! Completely, totally agree!

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  5. It’s like life with kids is so loud, you can’t even hear what you need in your own head until you get away and can slow down enough to think.

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  6. Great post, Christy! I don't know what I'm going to do when my kids grow out of naps. No, actually, I do, I'm going to demand they stay in their rooms for quiet time. I so desperately need the break in the afternoons. Also, I'm one of those freaks who does enjoy grocery shopping, because I dawdle getting there and back and listen to NPR in the car. As long as I'm by myself, it's a vacation. :)

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    1. Yep yep yep!! I am the SAME about those blessed afternoon hour(s) alone. I will most likely insist any and all children who aren't of napping age still do quiet time in a separate room. I need that, even if naps only align for 45 minutes. And I also prefer shopping alone...I just think about how much worse it is with kids and then suddenly it feels like a luxury!

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  7. I appreciate this post a lot! First-time mom; Minnesota winter; I will do what you say!!! Hahaha!

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  8. So so SO true. I had been neglecting this recently and rediscovered its beauty and it's like a mental breath of fresh air that I was drowning for. I don't think I've ever felt guilty for taking it, but sometimes it just slips my mind and I need to pencil it back in to my mental schedule and make sure it happens so I don't fall apart.

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  9. This isn’t getting out of the house, and now I have a 2 month old sharing it with me, but my kids have “nap” every day. Even the 9 year old. I sleep, i read, I don’t do housework. It’s the reason I can homeschool, I’m sure. A couple hours of break.

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  10. Yes! Alone time is SO crucial- otherwise I am sneaking off and trying to take it in ways that a. aren't appropriate and b. aren't really recharging. I do need to be vigilant when I have it- it's easy to do something like read blogs on the computer that is much easier than pulling out a novel... but doesn't quite get me the same mental space.

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