• Dr Missy Wolfman

The self-care secrets for mums

Self-care can feel like another thing on the never ending to do list, but mums who don't prioritize their wellbeing are at a very high risk of burnout.

Burnout is when you feel emotionally and physically exhausted, and this increases the chance of physical and mental health issues. Mum burnout is real! What other job requires you to be available 24/7/365, with no sick days, or holidays to be seen? What other job is as physically and emotionally demanding as being a mother?

Being a mum means that your happiness and 'peace' often relies on the whims of your children. As a mum of three once said, "my happiness is always based on my least happiest child," and unfortunately for all of us, there's always something going on with our kids...sickness, scrapes, squabbles with siblings or other kids...there's always something.

Self-care is so crucial for the wellbeing of yourself and your family. When you are emotionally and physically well you are more able to 'respond' rather than 'react.' You're more able to be patient, to be emotionally available and responsive to your children's needs. You're more able to be the best mum you can be, and therefore bring out the best in your kids.

Children need mothers, not martyrs. I've seen many mothers put themselves last, and because of this they're unfortunately more likely to fall into unhealthy patterns of behaviour with their kids, their partner or with themselves.

Here's something you probably haven't thought of before, but you need to role model self-care to your children. It's crucial to their development. Just like how our kids are more likely to eat vegetables if we eat vegetables ourselves, they're also more likely to take care of themselves and be emotionally resilient if we take care of ourselves as well. Lead by example. Do you need any more reasons to practice self-care? I should think not!

So what can we do to take care of ourselves properly, quickly and easily? Always start with the basics first.

1. Sleep. Sleep is so crucial, yet so elusive for new mothers especially. Try to nap as much as possible, especially when your night sleep is disrupted by your baby. The old adage, 'sleep when the baby sleeps,' can be so annoying to hear especially when you have a whole list of chores to do! Most babies sleep in 45 minute-1 hour cycles, so you can try fit a 20 minute nap in here or there. Sleep first, then chores. For a power nap, try listening to 'yoga nidra' which is a guided 15-20 minute meditation to help you relax and sleep. If you can't sleep, just resting your body, lying down and closing your eyes can be beneficial.

2. After sleep, focus on getting some sun, fresh air and some movement in your day. This will also help you sleep better at night.

3. Then think about what you're eating, ensuring you're eating well and frequently throughout the day...especially if you're breastfeeding.

4. After the basics of sleep, sun, fresh air, movement and food, then focus on your relationships and connections with other adults. This is crucial for your mental health. As mums, we can often be surrounded by people but feel 'invisible.' It's important to interact with people that make you feel seen and heard. Being a mother can be incredibly rewarding but isolating at times, and we all need to feel connected to others, a sense of belonging. This can be done in so many ways, catching up with fellow mothers, seeing your friends, your parents etc. I remember a mum telling me that I need to go to these playgroups not for the sake of my babies, but for myself - that I need to be supported by, and feel connections with other adults. She was so right!

5. Lastly, I always encourage mums to plan, schedule and do one activity they enjoy and that they can do by themselves. It's important to have some child free time to remember who you are beyond your identity and role as a mother. Eve Rodsky wrote in, 'Fair Play,' that as parents we all need to reclaim our 'unicorn space.' This is time to do an activity you are passionate about, and is just for YOU! It could be mushroom growing, photography, crocheting, pickle-balling (it's a real sport! I promise!), whatever it is that makes you feel alive! Reclaim your right to be interesting and interested in something. It doesn't have to be time-consuming and could be something you spend just 10-15 minutes on after the kids are in bed. Mothers often get into a trap of 'perfectionism' when it comes to self-care. They think if they're not doing yoga, or a 60 minute class of something, then it's not worthy. Not true. What's important to remember is that something is better than nothing, and five minutes of stretching in the kitchen while you're waiting for food to defrost in the microwave still counts! Think 'mini-habits' of self-care that you can do everyday to fill your cup. For example; one minute of yoga, or one minute of mindfulness/meditation or napping for five minutes.

No matter how busy you are, you can still make time for yourself, and these 'mini-habits' can be sprinkled throughout your day so you're constantly replenishing yourself.

Do you feel burned-out? Do you feel overwhelmed and just don't know where to start with taking care of yourself as a mum? I can help! Book your 15 minute chat with me below or book a 60 minute session with me by emailing me at EmpowermumsNZ@gmail.com

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