A Self Care Summit Just For Mama’s
Motherhood is beautiful and it’s hard. In between sweeping up cheerios, bandaging a scraped knee, celebrating a first bike ride and pumping at all hours of the night trying to increase your milk supply, finding a fleeting moment for yourself can seem impossible, but it’s so vital. New mother’s hear that often, but what is self care really? And how on earth do you fit in in?
Self care was something I had to learn to do as a new mother. When my son was 10 weeks old I found myself needing to work though a clogged duct and then mastitis shortly afterwards, before I knew it I was in the throws of a nursing strike and had one miserable little boy on my hands. Out came the pump and too many sleepless nights to count before I could get us sorted out. One night, in a fit of tears I opened my laptop and started my search. I wasn’t really sure what I was looking for but I knew somewhere in there was an answer to my questions. Why am I so burnt out? Why am I not really enjoying any of this? How am I going to turn this around?
I stumbled across a blog created by a woman named Shawn Fink and it was called “The Abundant Mama Project”. She wrote of so many things that resonated with my severe state of overwhelm and she gave practical, real-life suggestions that anyone could implement yesterday. She was optimistic and I just wanted to hug her right then and there. So out of what I perceived as my desperate situation, I found a community who was exactly where I was in life, or had been and could hold my hand on the way out. This community, lead by Shawn was one of my biggest blessings as a new mother. I wanted to feel abundant, and not just in my milk supply, in motherhood too! I signed up for one of her courses right away and started a wonderful journey towards balance and learning so very much about myself and motherhood.
Self care was one of the many things we delved into that I implemented into my life immediately and it has been one of the greatest gifts not only to myself but also to my family. Me, taking care of myself was important for my family to see and it gave me a softer heart and the ability to send more loving kindness their way.
“Taking good care of YOU, means the people in your life will receive the best of you, rather than what’s left of you” – Carl Bryan
It wasn’t always easy to implement. I am a do-er. When I cross something off my never-ending to-do list I get a rush. It feels so good! I like to be busy and active every minute of the day so setting aside time for self care was a hurdle no question but I knew I had to figure it out. There was a lot of trial and error but in the end I found the more simple I could keep it the more consistent I was, and the better I felt.
I’ve outlined here my top 10. These are my favorite self care practices. Ones that I have found incredibly powerful in helping me to always feel connected to myself and to be gentle and compassionate with myself. They have all helped me feel grateful, rested, calm and more peaceful in my day to day regardless of what sort of chaos I have going on.
I started with just one time a day and progressed to 3 times a day in time an then to whenever I needed to. What I love about this self care tactic is you can literally do it anywhere, anytime and with anyone. When my son was younger and losing his mind because I said we couldn’t stop at every single train station (to listen to the dinging of the gates) on the way home, I’d just stare at the road and breathe in 1-2-3-4 and out 1-2-3-4. I’d do it 10 times and be in a better place every time.
Express Gratitude Daily
This was very emotional for me as a new mother and there are lots of ways to go about making it work for you. I keep a gratitude book close to me throughout the day and periodically I’ll stop what I’m doing and just reflect on what I’m grateful for. When I started I would record 5 things every day, usually it was my husband, my children, the house, our health and my parents and siblings. I use it more now to record things I’m grateful for that are maybe a bit new or things that I was surprised to find I felt grateful for. This practice goes a long way in helping me keep the right perspective.
Create a Cozy Space
This was profound for me in starting my self care practice. My backyard has always been my favorite space but since I live near the Rockies and it’s often minus 40 here I created my space in my bedroom. I took a corner and put a cozy chair, soft blankets and pillows, candles, some of my favorite books and strings of white christmas lights hanging from the window. It has been my place to go when I’m feeling a little run down or my day has been more emotionally charged for whatever reason. It rejuvenates me.
I learned to meditate. I found a really great book and great resources online and I just did it. As soon as my kids are in bed at night, out come my headphones and I take 15 minutes to myself with the lights off to be still. I sit on my favorite super- squishy chevron print pillow, wrap a fleece blanket around myself and I just notice my thoughts, every night. I sometimes use a mantra too, either way it’s one of my most cherished times of day.
Stay Away From Negative People & Cherish Your Friends
This is way easier said than done. It’s not always easy to know who the negative people are in your life, it often takes time and you need to reflect on it. The big question I asked myself was ‘how do I feel after I’ve spent time with this person?’. That made it easier to see it for what it was. If it was a genuine relationship I always felt uplifted for hours after spending time with that individual but I found if I was worried about something they had said, or felt like they really didn’t know me the way I hoped they would, it was probably best for me to stop initiating the contact. Instead, I focused on reaching out in small ways to those I cherished. I called them more often, went for coffee more often, asked them more questions, complimented and encouraged them more. It made me feel good to let them know I cared about them, rather than just assuming they knew.
Create a Joyful Daily Ritual
This one is about making something positive out of something negative. Are there certain tasks you are responsible for that you would really rather not have to do? Are there certain times of the day in your home that are complete chaos no matter what day of the week or time of the year? Creating a joyful ritual with the intention of flipping those situations over to the positive side can go a long way in creating more peace in your life. In my house, breakfast time is absolute mayhem and I absolutely loathe doing the dishes. The peaceful ritual I began when I started my self care practice was to leave the dishes for awhile, grab three books off the shelf, grab my coffee and sit on the floor cross legged. I drink my coffee and everytime one of my littles snuggle up, we read a book together and it’s peaceful for all of us. Everyone is in a better place and I can get the dishes done when my coffee is done.
Utilize a Self Care Kit
This could be full of anything that would stimulate your senses in a positive way. Your favorite candy, essential oils, a small print of your favorite painting, your favorite sweater or music. The point is that everything in it should be able to shift you from feeling anything negative (angry, sad, overwhelmed) to something more positive (calm, content, creative), even if it’s just a little bit. My kit is full of turtles chocolates & licorice, an uber soft scarf my sister gave me years ago and some lavender essential oils. I have two compilations from ‘yellow brick cinema’ on You Tube I could listen to all day long and a gorgeous painting of a precious arctic wolf in my living room. When I’m having ‘a day’, feeling unmotivated or continually challenged I bring out my little self care kit and make a point of using/experiencing these sensory stimulating things as much as possible all day.
Get in Touch With Your Inner Child
Have you ever noticed how you feel when you participate in an activity as an adult that you did all the time as a child? Roll down a grassy hill, colour a picture with crayons, jump in a puddle, kick dandelions in a field. It feels incredible! Just as it did when you were a child. I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t want to bottle that feeling up and carry it in their pocket forever but even if we can’t do that, we can certainly give these things a go whenever possible and make a point of it. Just because we’re ‘grown ups’ doesn’t mean we can’t. We should!
I have to be honest and say I’m still not very good at this one most of the time. If my daughter is having a tough day it’s really difficult not to internalize it and feel completely responsible for it. Many people refer to these feelings as ‘mom guilt’. I find myself saying things like ‘maybe I should have slowed down and not rushed her so much’, ‘maybe if I spent a little bit more one on one time with her she wouldn’t have such a tough time going down for her nap’, or ‘maybe if I wasn’t in and out of the house so much she would have an easier time transitioning’. This thought process is exhausting and it drains me of my happiness. I’m learning to be gentle with myself. No mother is perfect and no one is going to get it just right every single time. Smother them with loving kindness as much as you can and try not to worry about the rest.
Drink your morning coffee… a little bit slower. Leave 10 minutes earlier and walk your kids to school… a little bit slower. These are simple ways to set a pace for your day without firing out the gates on overdrive and ending up with your backtires smoking by lunchtime. Prioritize and make your schedule a little less crazy. Maybe for your next family vacation, rather than paying a fortune to struggle through airports and customs and wind up on a crowded beach in a foreign land, a short drive to a secluded log cabin in the mountains followed by loads of one on one and quality family time might bring your mama heart a lot more calm.
Self care is not a one time deal. Scheduling a spa day once every six months is not going to provide you with the same benefits as a daily self care practice. I would highly recommend the Abundant Mama community to every new mother to take a step in the direction of self care and more peace, you can find it at http://www.abundantmama.com/blog/.
Developing a consistent self care practice is one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself and you deserve it Mama. I promise you won’t regret it.
Do you have a daily self care practice? What do you find keeps you connected to yourself?