What do you picture when you hear “self-care”?
Do images of beautiful and relaxed models sitting on a window bench sipping a foamy cup of some fancy drink, reading a thought-provoking book come to mind? Maybe a TV commercial of a ridiculously physically fit 3-week postpartum mom at the beach somehow not weighed down by the monstrous pad that the rest of us are still wearing? No matter what comes to mind, many times the idea of self-care can seem unattainable. We don’t have time for it, there is so much to get done, and it’s unrealistic to have time to just sit and pamper
Wrong. Yes, with our new roles as MamaBear, we are busy in different ways than before. We have diapers to change, a baby to soothe, bottles to clean, breastfeeding to constantly do, food to cook, traffic to sit in, clothes to wash, doctor appointments to attend…the list never ends. (Are you feeling yourself tense up as you read that list?) So, there is no way…right?
Wrong. I’m giving that answer as a MamaBear who is dealing with all the same stuff. I am not privileged with a night nurse or a village of family who can just drop on by and take over mommy duties for me. And despite
the exhausting list of things to do, I find ways to sneak in some self-care. Sometimes I can spend an hour or two with it, and other times it’s a burst of five to ten minutes, but I must make it happen.
How To Self-Care When You Don’t Have the Time
In the previous post I went through the reasons why it’s important and essential to have self-care as a first-time MamaBear. To expand on that, because it is so important, you’ve got to prioritize taking care of yourself.
A long-time friend of mine told me something that at the time cut me deep. I think it hurt because essentially it was true: You’ll make time for what is important to you.
I’m not sure why I took such offense to this. Possibly because it was true; my friendship with him wasn’t my priority. I wasn’t investing time into it and would spend time with him if we happened to run into each other. Anyway, we must see our care and ourselves as important, as priority. So often in our lives as women, our needs come second. Beginning with the Golden Rule, we are taught we are not a priority. As we experienced pregnancy, comments like “You might be nauseous, vomiting, exhausted, and swollen, but it’s all for your baby” reaffirm that our needs come second…or third. And though it’s unlikely for us to change a societal mindset; we need to switch our internal dialogue. We need to set our needs as a priority. Our physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, financial, occupational, and social well-being is equally as important, and we need to prioritize it as such .
We Have the Time for Self-Care
We’ve all heard it said and have said it many times ourselves; “I don’t have time”. With all the things we to jam within the 1440 minutes each day, it truly can truly seem like there just isn’t time. Truth is we may not have the time every day. But each thing we spend our time on isn’t vital each day. Can we be real for just a minute? Take another look at those tasks and point out if they are all super vital. I did that and realized I was getting caught up on things that weren’t necessary. I was obsessively cleaning everything every day because if I didn’t, everything would fall apart. After examining my time spent cleaning, I organized a new cleaning system so that I was doing a little bit each day. As a result, I was able to give more time to myself.
And while there is nothing wrong with taking the time to scroll through the made up faced and beautiful filtered smiles on Facebook (heck this may be your version of stuff care), we can find ourselves passing time unintentionally. I can find myself mindlessly watching Netflix until it judgmentally asks”Are you still watching?”
As I said before, there is nothing won’t with this. But it does myself a disservice when I later say “I just didn’t have time to do self-care”. My point is, we have time, we have many little or big pockets of time. It just depends on what we decide to do with that time.
Take It As It Is
The way we imagine self-care can different for each person. Not only that, but the reality of what it can be can differ as well. It doesn’t always have to be that picturesque bubbly bubble bath with a bottle of wine. It won’t always be taking the time to get your nails done. Sometimes it is taking a moment to mindlessly scroll through Facebook or watch that show you’ve been putting off. It can look like a drive down to Dairy Queen and enjoying that ice cream cone in the middle of winter. If it brings you joy, relaxes you, feeds your spirit, or helps your recharge, it can look like whatever it needs to look like.
For me it is going to a local coffee shop to write a poem that’s been bubbling up on my brain and going out to an open mic poetry night to bathe in other people’s creativity as well as sharing my own. And other times it’s organizing that dang sock drawer that been bothering me for weeks now; it mentally puts me at ease. It’s not always Instagramable moments. Sometimes it’s just taking a minute to finally lotion your dry feet.
Be Flexible with Self-Care
Being flexible is a lesson we learn super quick when becoming a first-time MamaBear. In a book I am reading titled Mommy Time: 90 Devotions for New Moms, Sarah Arthur perfectly describes how something we thought would work out one way with a baby in tote turns into another adventure. It’s an early lesson, but also one we need to apply to ourselves. I don’t know about you, but I can be a very black and white thinker when it comes to myself. If I’m planning to go Barnes and Noble to spend an hour sipping on a Chai Tea Latte and write a blog at 11:30 am, Carter will certainly make his own plans. One full belly, poopy diaper, quick bath, second outfit change because of spit up, and a cleaned up snotty nose later, it’s 1:15 pm.
My typical rigid self would cancel the plan, forget it, it didn’t work out. But when it comes to taking the time for yourself, you must be flexible and still persist with the plan. Timing may not work out, that exact hair appointment time might not be available, you may have to change dates, but you still owe it to yourself to see your plan through. A little inconvenience shouldn’t stop you. If you can help it, go through with what you planned.
Self-Care in Bursts.
My husband is notorious for saying “real quick”. As in ” I’m going to grab a couple things from the store real quick and… “. I sometimes jokingly reply with ” you can go medium speed; we aren’t in a hurry”. But sometimes we are, right? Sometimes we only have time to be ” real quick”. So, in that case, I made a list of Bursts that you can do to still get your self-care in during the day… real quick.
Try putting your favor essential oil in a diffuser and taking in deep breathes. Science is very instant that scent is the strongest sense linked to memory. If you are needing a mental getaway, taking the second or few minutes you have available to sniff up some good memories may be helpful. I have an essential oil station set up in Carter’s nursery, our kitchen, and one of our guest bedrooms where I also have a small meditation area set up.
Essential oil station may sound fancier than what’s there; I just have the little container to add water to the diffuser, a bamboo oil diffuser machine plugged in and ready to go, and four of my favorite oils.Having it pre-prepped increases the likelihood of me using it. My favorite scent is peppermint and vanilla mixed. Another quick tip: I turn this on while feeding Carter a bottle. While he is sipping away at a bottle, I get to take
that time to sit and breath.
Even quicker, make some essential oil rollers and roll it on your neck, wrists, arm, wherever is most comfortable. You can buy the bottles anywhere (mine are from Amazon), and you can mix and match whatever scents. Use fractionated coconut oil, vegetable oil or olive oil as you “carrier oil” and mix in a few drops of whatever scent you choose. Be mindful of where you put it in case it gets in contact with baby. In a way, having the scent on you directly makes you a walking relaxation station.
For those who enjoy exercising as your self-care method, here’s a 2-for-1. Toss that crying baby in the car seat and get those arms and back burning. Firmly grab that car seat handle and start swinging him back and forth. Use an arm pumping motion to increase the resistance. This motion helps can baby and gives you time to burn some energy.
While on the car seat subject, if you are in need of a shower (which ironically we all need more, now that we have LESS TIME), place your BabyCub in the car seat and take that dang shower. I go through Carter’s list of needs (diaper changes, feed, burped, comfortable clothing), and then strap him in. I place him within view of where I’m standing in the shower. And, without guilt or rushing, I take that much needed shower. Luckily Carter likes his car seat, so it usually doesn’t turn into a crying fit. But if it does, I remind myself he is safe and it’s not an emergency. Throw on some music while you’re at it.
Just make sure to also lock all the doors in case you have a dog who suddenly learns to open the back door all by himself and runs out and jumps the fence… just saying.
While BabyCub is napping or during tummy time, take a few minutes to do some stretching. I know my back is constantly achy from hunching over to feed, muscles tight from holding, and shoulders tense from the baby
carrier/wrap. Just to give those tired muscles some loving, take a few minutes to stretch. Even better, if you have a muscle roller, take the time to roll it out. It doesn’t take long, and it’s very effective.
Remember how crazy focused we were on getting enough water while pregnant? The counting of all those ounces and staring at your pee after every bathroom break? Well let’s keep that up. Truthfully, I’ve been slacking on that. And that dark yellow pee in the toilet mocks me as I rush off to drink up another cup of Black Tea (I’m just not a fan of coffee). Water works wonders in our bodies, so take that minute to gulp up some plain tasting self-care. Get that ‘fun’ bottle you purchased while you were pregnant if that makes it more tolerable.
The sun provides energy for all living things. Even you. Now, of course it’s not going to nourish you the way it does plants (we have our random handful of mixed nuts, snack bars, and chocolate for that). But that sun light does help in providing the amount of Vitamin D needed. To get your daily dose, spend time in the sun for 10-30 minutes (those with darker skin color need to spend closer to 30 minutes).
Here’s a quick rundown is what appropriate levels of Vitamin D does for our busy bodies; helps your body absorb calcium to maintain bone strength, balances our hormones, increases weight loss and decreases body fat, reduced the chances of development the flu and heart disease, and reduces depression and anxiety. Sounds like a wonder
drug, huh? And it’s all from the sun (as well as food… real food!) Even if it’s just taking a walk around your block with BabyCub nestled in one of your many carriers, it’s worth it. Even sitting on the front porch (or just sitting on the grass) a couples times a day is realistic.
I had the chance to observe surgeries during college. During one surgery, the doctor, who was very experienced and professional, kept throwing out jokes and had his staff laughing throughout the surgery. Up until then, my surgical experience was shows like Grey’s Anatomy and House. And if you believe those shows the patient was likely to crash at any second for no reason, the staff was serious with stoic faces under those masks, and the only conversations should be inappropriate relationship advice. A joking, laughing surgeon did not fit into my little world view.
He later let me know he seriously believed laughter was the best medicine for his staff to relax and be at ease. As a result, it helps with patient outcomes. I’ve taken that conversation to heart and find it true outside of that sterile surgical suite. While I’m scrolling through Facebook posts, I often come across a Dry Bar Comedy clips. Because of this, I find myself in a better mood after watching them. Taking the time to laugh doesn’t take up much time, effort, or energy. And according to the lovely Audrey Hepburn, laughter is the best calorie burner (so this is another 2-for-1).
So there you have it. Some reasons and ways to implement self-care when you don’t have time to do self-care. Do you have other tips, tricks, or ideas on self-care? Anything you do to relax when you have a spare minute? What are the things that keep you from being able to do self-care? Please share… I’d love to hear from you.
About the Author/ Jenell Pickering
As a 4-year Psychiatric RN, Jenell cares for people struggling with eating disorders; helping them bring health and balance back into their lives. As a first time MamaBear, she is figuring out a healthy balance in caring for herself, her husband Ryan, and their BabyCub Carter. As a blogger, her goal is to deliver advice, tips, and personal stories to other first time MamaBears on how to maintain health and balance for their families and, most importantly, themselves.