Written by Melissa Mills, Like Minded Souls Natural Therapies
How many tip lists and articles have you come across in health and wellbeing magazines and websites, filled with great ideas for self-care and made a mental note to try some of them, but got caught up in the daily grind of The Great Juggle of family, work and life in general? As women, we are naturally nurturers and givers. We love our families and we enjoy taking care of them. But often this involves putting our own needs last. We feel selfish doing something for ourselves and feel guilty asking for help with the jobs we feel are our responsibilities – cooking, cleaning the house, washing, grocery shopping, looking after the kids, the list is endless. Does any of this sound familiar to you? You are not alone. We have all felt like this at times. For me personally, asking for help and not feeling guilty was the hardest lesson for me to learn when I became a mother. In fact, it’s still challenging and therefore a life lesson (sometimes I am a slow learner!). My tips for self-care in the trenches are actual tools I use to survive toddler warfare with my 2 year old twin boys and maintain some shred of sanity!
1. Move yourself up the priority list
Only you can do this. Let’s be honest, it’s usually pretty rare that our partners will suggest we take time off and they will look after the children. So it is up to you to ask for this time for yourself. You deserve it. Your mental and emotional states will benefit enormously. You may encounter resistance from those around you when you first start taking your me-time. Keep pushing and they will get used to it. If asking for me-time is new to you, start slow, take baby steps. Ask for 1 to 1.5 hours a week off. Find a weekly class that interests you or join a gym and go at a time that suits you. Or do a weekly Saturday morning catch up with other mums, who are also on me-time or friends you haven’t seen in forever. Enjoy actual conversations with no interruptions from children. These catch ups can be revitalising and keep you going for weeks in the trenches.
A truly wonderful way to spend your me-time and strengthen your connection with your mind, body and soul, is to try yoga or Pilates. Click here to learn more about these two awesome practices and their similarities. I have tried both practices and found Pilates incredibly beneficial during the last trimester of my twin pregnancy, to strengthen my lower back, legs and pelvic floor muscles. I’ve been unable to try Pilates post-natal, but will be adding it to my self-care plan this year, to strengthen my core muscles and support my massage work and the physical elements of motherhood.
After the shock and awe of first time motherhood wore off and my boys were six months old, I was drawn to hatha yoga. After experiencing the amazing peace that can be felt when you stop, relax your body and get out of your own way during the relaxation segments of the class, I was hooked for life. When I entered my first yoga class, I was in a place where I couldn’t hear any babies crying and no-one wanted anything from me. It was all about me and re-connecting with my body to enact healing on all levels. Within the first 4 weeks of attending yoga classes, I felt a noticeable improvement in my core strength, posture and flexibility. Most noticeable was the improvement in my mental and emotional wellbeing. Often, I’d turn up exhausted and running on 4 hours sleep a night and the guided relaxation exercises at the beginning and end of the class, helped calm my nervous system and slow down my rapid breathing and racing brain activity. Two years later, these are still my favourite parts of the class. When other interests I have tried to pursue have been put on the back burner until my boys are older, yoga has been the one constant in my life I have hung onto tightly. It keeps me sane and if it’s been a crazy week at home, it’s often the only space I’ve consciously created to do meditation and self-care for that week.
If you are unable to schedule time outside of the house for a class or cannot find one that suits you, I’ve discovered an app called Yoga Studio. It has collections of classes you can select from, broken down into levels of ability and length of classes. So if you are new to yoga, you can begin with 15 minute beginner sessions and increase at our own pace, as you grow in flexibility and confidence. If you’re time poor, but wanting to try yoga, this is the app for you! Check it out!
3. Nadi Shodhana – Alternate Nostril Breathing
Nadi shodhana or aIternate nostril breathing refers to clearing the channels of circulation. Deepak Chopra’s website provides some clear instructions on how to do this basic breathing technique.
I was recently introduced to this invaluable tool by my yoga teacher and love it. My teacher gave me the great tip that if you are out in public and feel anxiety building up (eg. your kid decides that the supermarket is the place to chuck a huge tantrum or take all their clothes off), you can simply visualise a triangle of white or gold energy in front of your nose and do the breathing technique amidst the chaos. When I feel the tension and frustration rising up within me, whilst dealing with two grumpy irrational toddlers on the days of no day sleeps, I visualise the triangle of energy in front of my nose, and begin breathing in my left nostril and out through my right nostril and let the tension go. Sometimes, I miss the cue and lose my cool and get all shouty at my boys. I’m only human. I get tired and grumpy myself sometimes. I’m a work in progress after all!
Massage is no longer a luxury or just the realm of day spas. Remedial massage has documented scientific benefits of reducing stress and hypertension, increasing mental health, as well as preventing injury and chronic pain. Often the responsibilities of caring for children, remembering all of their health requirements and extracurricular activities and all the other things it takes to keep everyone in the house alive and operating efficiently, comes down to us mums. These physical and mental requirements can take their toll over time. Scheduling a monthly remedial or relaxation massage can help reduce tension in the muscles you use most and restore balance to your mind, body and soul. If you find yourself time-poor but in need of relief for your tired, aching muscles, there are many mobile massage therapists like myself out there that will come to you and work around your schedule. Many of them are mums themselves and understand the struggle we have to book time in for ourselves.
5. Cry when you need to
This is one of the best forms of self-healing you can do. I learnt the valuable lesson that crying is not a weakness, 7 years ago during my first weekend course of Reiki level 1, where self-healing was the focus. Up until this point, I had always thought the opposite, so this was a significant lesson to learn. I have cried more in the past 2 and a half years than I ever have, since I became a mother and learnt a multitude of lessons, with many more to come. When I feel my emotions build up, I try to take deep breaths and take myself off to my bedroom when I get the chance and just let the tears flow. Afterwards I feel lighter and my inner wisdom kicks in and I can see the situation I was upset about with a fresh perspective.
6. Find your tribe
This one is so important and one I find the most difficult to fit into my life, whilst my children are young. My first experience of finding my tribe was when I was 25, and I sought out likeminded souls, who had an interest in intuitive development and meditation. I have never really had many friends or family, who share my interest in intuitive development and alternative therapies. The benefit that arose from this situation was that I was forced outside of my usual social circles to find my tribe of lightworkers. I’ve been in several classes and courses over the past decade and they have been fantastic and uplifting experiences. Other recent experiences of finding my tribe are seeking out other multiple mums, after the birth of my twins and seeking out other mums in business, when I started my own small business last year. Both of these groups have been invaluable with the emotional support they’ve provided. To find yourself accepted into a group of likeminded souls, who share your interests and where you can be 100% yourself is amazing. You can speak your truth and share your challenges, without fear of judgement or ridicule. It’s wonderfully freeing! So whether you are into intuitive development, meditation, yoga, sports, books, plants or whatever gets your passion ignited, go forth and find your people and experience the freedom that comes from connecting with the awesome soul you are, when you are not being somebody’s mum, partner, employee or daughter.
As always, my underlying message with anything I write, is do what works for you. If none of these tips resonate with you, but I’ve set you on the path of thinking about what you can do to improve your self-care, then that’s awesome! I’ve achieved the purpose of my post! If you are already doing any of the tips I’ve listed as part of your self-care plan, I’d love to hear about your experiences. Or, if you have some new ones for me to explore, get in touch.
Melissa Mills from Like Minded Souls Natural Therapies, offers mobile massage, Reiki healing and intuitive readings across the eastern suburbs of Melbourne.