A lot of us are figuring out what our essential needs are, as well as what we might need beyond that to best care for ourselves and our families. As mothers, we need to fill up our own cup first. Self care is not selfish, and it can’t come last on your list — taking care of yourself enables you to be the best version of yourself for your family.
These self-care essentials, whatever they might look like for you, are more important than ever. So make sure that somehow, someway, you’re taking time each day to prioritize your own care.
1. Care for your body
Let’s start with the bare bones basics. As much as you can, continue old routines that keep you healthy and feeling good, or start new ones — like eating nourishing food, staying hydrated, and engaging in some form of movement. Even a walk around the block can make you feel energized and happier.
2. Care for your mind
Your mental health is just as important. So do what you can to manage your stress in healthy ways. Minimize the time you spend following the news if that’s causing you a lot of anxiety, by muting your news notifications or scheduling a specific time to read the news. Maybe give meditation a try. And reach out to a mental health specialist if you’re having a tough time and want professional support.
3. Get enough rest
Getting the sleep that you need is important for both your body and mind. But for parents — especially those with babies or very young children — sometimes this can feel impossible. While we can’t necessarily help your child sleep through the night, we can give you permission to prioritize your own rest. So take that nap (whenever you possibly can), leave the dirty dishes for the morning, keep your email response as short and sweet as possible, and maybe don’t binge watch that extra episode tonight.
4. Don’t sweat the small stuff
Right now, there’s a lot that seems small by comparison to the health crisis we are living through. In some ways, this can be freeing — that unfinished DIY home project or the giant pile of unfolded laundry that’s been sitting out may be annoying, but it’s not hurting anyone. Give yourself all the breaks.
5. Make time for fun and laughter
We need some levity to lift us up when things are bleak, whether it’s watching a favorite comedy, asking your toddler to tell you a joke, or sending a silly meme to your friend group. Laugh as much as you can. And if you can’t right now, know that you will feel like yourself again.
6. Seek out pleasure
Similarly, it’s important to engage in things that you know bring you pleasure. Maybe for you it’s lighting a candle while reading your favorite book, having a date night at home with your partner, rocking your sweet baby for a few extra minutes, making a really good soup. Despite all that’s going on, there is still some joy available to each of us right now, so soak it in when and where you can.
7. Stay connected to loved ones
We’re all missing our close friends and family members. Even if you can’t physically be with your loved ones, stay in touch in all the ways you can. Video chat with family members, plan a virtual hangout with friends after your kids are in bed, play online games together with extended family, watch a movie together virtually, send a card via snail mail, write an email, ask for a favorite recipe, share that great article you just read with your social media circles, send a funny meme to your family text chain — there are so many ways we can still stay close.
8. Spend quality time with the people you live with too
If you feel like you’ve spent way too much time with the family that you live with lately, this might sound like a lot, but while quantity time can be exhausting, quality time is restorative. You might feel like you spend a lot of the day being pulled in a million different directions, so make some time each day to focus your attention on just being present with your little one, just being present with your partner, even just being present with your pet. That quality time, even if it’s brief, provides much needed connection — and maybe even a moment of calm, or clarity.
9. Carve out some alone time
That being said, you also need some time by yourself. Whether you spend it showering in silence, watching that show everyone’s talking about, or making a meal without a toddler at your ankles, it’s incredibly important to recharge with some time spent solo too — especially since it can be so hard to come by these days.
If all else fails, start small. Right now, we’re all stretched thin, and even thinking about self-care might seem overwhelming. If you’d really love to take a long shower but finding time for that feels impossible, take a few minutes to wash your face. If you can’t make time to finish a yoga practice during the day because your kids take that as an invitation to treat your body like a jungle gym, do a few gentle stretches before bed. If you’d love to take a long walk outside but can’t, open a window. If you’re finding it hard to schedule a video call with several friends, text them to connect. These little moments can make a big difference and will give you a bit of the self-care you deserve.