Ah self-care… sounds so nice, right? Way easier said than done in the middle of a global pandemic in the throws of parenthood. I feel ya. It can be hard to find a time to go to the bathroom, let alone schedule some self-care. But as a seasoned postpartum doula, I’m here to remind you it’s important.
Not only does self-care benefit your mental health, but it also can help you be a better parent, partner, employee, and friend. Not to mention, you’re worth it. You deserve the break and you’re worth investing in.
Remember this friend, you can’t pour from an empty cup. If you’re feeling depleted, worn out, bitter, and grouchy, it’s probably because you’re not taking the time to invest in yourself. I know this feeling all too well.
I know, I know what you’re thinking. Julianne, I just can’t right now. Things are too hard and I don’t have time. But I’m here to remind you, self-care is important, you can have the time if you choose to make the time. It’s crucial that you make time for it.
No, I’m not talking about some glorious solo trip to the beach (although that would be fantastic). I’m talking about finding a few minutes a day to give your mind and body the attention, rest, and refueling it likely needs.
As a postpartum doula, I see this all the time – parents, in particular, don’t make time for themselves until it’s too late. Either they get sick, they get totally burnt out, or they snap. And it’s because they haven’t listened to their body in far too long. I want to encourage you to take a look around your life and see how you’re doing. No, how you’re really doing. Do you need a break? Are you at the end of your rope? Do you find it hard to focus? Do you feel like you’re about to snap?
If you answered yes to those questions, or if you’re struggling with fitting self-care into your life, here are the top 20 things I want you to know about self-care:
- Decide you’re worth it. No really, I mean it. The very first step is making up your mind that you deserve self-care and that you’re worth it. And let me be clear – you are worth it. We all are.
- Commit to taking care of yourself. It’s not enough to just believe it. You also have to do it. Schedule time for taking care of yourself like you schedule your kids’ activities and your work stuff. Put a block in your calendar once a day, or once a week for your own time. Get up early if you have to or leave your kids at daycare just a bit longer sometimes, but make it happen.
- Self-care doesn’t have to be grandiose or expensive. Simply taking a minute to breathe, do yoga, or meditate can be a great start. Schedule some alone time and make it happen. Don’t feel like you have to go to some high-end spa or get your hair done, it can just be taking a moment out of your busy life to have a minute to think.
- Ask for help! It can be hard to fit it in, I get it – especially if you have little kids. But self-care won’t happen unless you’re intentional about it. Ask your partner or parents for a little bit of time so you can take care of yourself. Be specific about your needs and speak up for yourself.
- Prioritize yourself! I think this one might be hard for moms especially, but really. Make sure you’re making your own body and mental health a priority. Don’t let it slip down the list past to-do lists, chores, and your kid’s activities. Do your best to keep yourself at the top of the list too.
- Try something new. No really! I hear from parents all the time that they don’t even know what they’d do with themselves if they had the time anyways. But it’s a great time to try out that hobby you’ve been waiting to experience. Or get better at something. Or join a friend at whatever they do. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there!
- Don’t feel guilty about it. I should put this one on the list twice, but I mean it. You deserve to take care of yourself. And it will make you a better parent and friend. Just do it and don’t feel guilty about it one bit.
- Drink water! It sounds so simple but it’s true. Your body needs the proper fuels to keep going. We all drink plenty of coffee (and maybe wine!) but did you have some water today?
- Decompress sometimes. All of our brains are constantly full of work stuff, kid stuff, relationship stuff, and it’s a lot. Take some time and decompress. That might look like yoga or meditation, or running. Or journaling. Whatever it is – get it outta there so you can breathe and think a bit more.
- Dance in the kitchen! Being silly and spontaneous is a great way to relieve stress. Put on a good tune and dance while you cook dinner. Throw a dance party with your kids. Pull your sweetie in for a little slow dance. You’ll be amazed by how happy and freeing it feels.
- Move your body! As your postpartum doula, I think I’m obligated to tell you this one. Be grateful for your health and reward your body by doing some movement. This doesn’t have to be some big run or workout, just stretch, walk outside for a bit, dance. You’ll be so glad you did.
- Get some sleep. I know it’s easier said than done for people with little kids, but it’s true. Sleep is incredibly important for our bodies. If you’re still struggling with nighttime sleep, take a nap during the day! The laundry and dishes can wait. Your mind and body cannot. Prioritize sleep and take turns with your partner if you have to. But don’t be a martyr. Get some rest.
- Enjoy the outdoors. A bit of fresh air and sunshine is one of the best things you could ever do for yourself. Take a walk. Sit on the patio. Soak up some rays. It will help you feel better and will go a long way to calm your nerves.
- Volunteer/Pay it Forward. It sounds cliche, but really. Doing something for others is a great way to give back and improve your mental health. Studies have shown that those who volunteer are happier than they were before they started.
- Take a phone break. The constant barrage of perfect families on social media is especially hard on our mental health when our families don’t feel so perfect. First, remember there’s a whole story behind everyone’s squares. And second, you don’t have to compare yourself. If you’re feeling like you’re on a hamster wheel of social media BS, turn it off for a while. Delete the apps. Put your phone on the counter. It’s hard to break the habit but it’s worth it.
- Eat good food. As parents, we’re often fueled by half-eaten dinners and handfuls of leftover snacks, but that’s not enough to keep us going for long. Make a good meal and take the time to actually eat it. Give your body the nourishment it needs.
- Do something for yourself. Even if it’s simple, a great way to practice self-care is to do something you love. Color, paint, go for a walk, read that book. Whatever makes you happy, you deserve it. You do stuff for other people all day long, it’s time you did something for yourself.
- It’s okay to say no. Write this down and tape it to your calendar, whatever it takes. Sometimes self-care looks like turning things down. Your kids don’t have to be in every sport. You don’t have to go to every birthday. And you can tell your book club that you’ll catch them next month. Especially as things open back up, let’s be careful not to over-schedule ourselves.
- Ask for help. You might have already read this one up above, but it’s important so I’m saying it again. ASK FOR HELP! We have a culture of people doing it all, all the time but that’s not realistic or sustainable. Maybe you need a good postpartum doula, or a babysitter, or just for your spouse to step up and do more, but either way, get help so you can take care of yourself too.
- Model good self-care. And finally, let me leave you with this. We don’t want to raise another generation of kids who think it’s normal to be busy, burnt out, and stressed all the time. Let’s not glamourize that or give them unrealistic expectations. Let’s show them that slowing down and taking care of us is important too.
And friend, I don’t want this to come off as lecturing you. I was once in the throes of motherhood too, in fact, I was a teen mom who went to school and worked three jobs at the same time. It took me years to realize that I needed to take care of myself, too. And sometimes I still forget. I want you to be happy, healthy, and feel loved. Part of that is taking care of yourself.
And one of the reasons I became a postpartum doula is so I could help new parents figure out how to adjust to this new role AND take care of themselves in the process.
Whether you’re about to have your first child or you’ve already had three, I’m here for you – rooting for you and encouraging you to prioritize yourself, too.
Contact me with any questions about my postpartum doula services or if there’s any way I can help.