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Over the last couple of years, self care has become a huge buzzword. Just about everything has been labeled “self care,” from your $5 iced coffee habit, to midnight baking. You can easily spin any activity into self care as long as it’s something somewhat enjoyable. As someone on the pursuit to living a mentally healthier life, I’ve learned that self care is most effective when made into a habit. When we incorporate self care into a daily, or even weekly routine, its positive effects are much more noticeable.
As moms, making just about anything a routine is challenging. It’s especially challenging when it’s self care, as opposed to child care, or family care, or care of anything else except yourself. As mothers, we’re often conditioned to put everything else above our own needs. This leads to chronic burnout among moms, and even higher levels of depression and anxiety amongst mothers. They say a happy home begins with a happy mom. Creating a prioritizing a self care routine could be exactly what you need to get you to a happier motherhood.
Here I’ll give you a few steps to get you started on starting a self-care routine and sticking with it. This isn’t going to be a list of time consuming, overly complicated or expensive tasks. But tips to make self care meaningful and effective for you. The best kind of self care is the kind you actually want to stick with.
First off…What Actually Is Self Care?
Self care has definitely been a hop topic lately…and it’s also been used for profitable gain by many clever capitalists. But self care is so much simpler than your social media and targeted ads make it seem.
The concept of self-care came into being around the 1950’s with the civil rights movement. It was actually coined by medical professionals who wanted to turn the tides of healthcare from simply care of your body, to overall health care. With healthcare becoming slowly more person-centered, self care slowly became a movement first among those in the mental health field, then with civil rights activists such as the Black Panthers, and now “self-care ideas” is one of the highest Google-d terms in the last 5 years.
Understanding even a tiny bit of the history behind self care makes you see that it’s positive impact is much more than just having a spa day with the girls. It was actually a very radical idea to take better care of yourself in more than just your physical health. Taking care of your emotional health and spiritual health has slowly become equally as important to a healthy lifestyle.
Self Care Shouldn’t Be A Capitalist Cash Cow
But with that being said, self care has also ben hugely capitalized over the last few years. Lots of people have turned what should be simple self-care practices and made them into cash cows. In 2018, a study was published estimating that the “self care industry” could potentially make $450 billion dollars! Something as simple as spending a little extra time for yourself has been turned into a great way to make a ton of money off of stressed out people! And frankly, it shouldn’t be that way.
Self care shouldn’t be hard, and self care shouldn’t be expensive!
So how can creating your own self-care routine be simple, effective, and something you can achieve in your daily routine? In this post, I’ll give you several ways you can create a self-care routine that is NOT going to involve spending tons of money or time. But simply finding the self-care activities you can do easily, even when you have a totally overwhelming life.
Decide What Your Priorities are When It Comes To Self Care
Self care is very personal, and everyone’s priorities are going to be different. Heck, your own priorities may change with time. Recognizing those priorities is key to starting to and sticking to a daily self-care routine.
So consider what your values are when it comes to self care:
- Is it important that you are intellectually stimulated regularly? Or are you the kind of person who enjoys regular “no brain power” time?
- Does physical fitness mean a lot to you? If so, what is the kind that gets you excited?
- Is it important to you to have time outside in the fresh air regularly?
- Are you a morning person, or a night owl? Or perhaps you’re more of a mid-afternoon person?
- Do you have any routines you follow at all for yourself?
- Do you need to be totally alone for your self care to feel truly restorative, or can you include others?
- How much time in a week do you feel like you need for your self care routine to be effective? How much of that time do you actually have to spare in the week?
- Are you more of an extrovert, or do you need regular alone time to feel like yourself?
- What are things in your life that feel like priorities, but may actually not be?
When you keep these values in mind, finding a self care routine that works will be way more successful. Getting a clear understanding of those values can help you eliminate things that are not restorative, and help you add in things that are.
Start With The Simplest And Least Time Consuming Thing You Can Think Of
A simple way to start a self-care plan you’ll stick to is to start with the small things. The best steps to take first are the small steps! If your self care routine is incredibly complicated, then you’ll never stick to it. Not everyone can start their self care routine with a 9 step skincare routine, an hour long bubble bath, and a 3 mile run. In fact, an overly complicated self care routine may feel more like a chore than a joy to you. Plus, as a mom, your whole family probably has busy schedules. Starting small is an important and necessary step to starting new easy habits.
Find one incredibly simple thing to do, and do it on a regular basis. Here’s a few examples:
- Wake up 10 minutes earlier and drink your cup of coffee, or cup of tea in peace.
- Sit outside for a couple minutes a day.
- Go on a walk, even if it’s a short one.
- Do a 5 minute journaling activity, like a gratitude journal.
- Begin your day (or end your day) with prayer, meditation, calm, and/or a devotional.
- Even something simple as going to bed a little earlier can be a good goal. A good night’s sleep is definitely self care!
Once you find a simple thing you can make a priority, stick with it for a couple weeks and see how you feel. If you feel like you need more, then add in the next simplest thing. Then the next, and the next, until you feed sufficiently self-cared.
There’s countless simple things you can do to kick off a self care routine. But the only way you’re going to be able to start and keep a new routine is by keeping things simple. If you come out of the gate with a 9 step skincare routine and an hour of reading every night, then you may get overwhelmed too quickly. On the other hand, if you begin with something small, like morning coffee and your favorite song, then making self care a part of your daily life will be more manageable.
Use Your Phone To Your Advantage
I have a love/hate relationship with my phone. I hate how heavily distracted I am by it, but it has been quite effective in other ways. If you’re finding yourself holding your phone way more than you’d like, and you know it’s not benefitting your mental health at all, then consider using it to your advantage.
Many phones have “focus” settings you can set for when you want to limit notifications or even access to certain apps at certain times. Using those settings could be key to eliminating the distractions you may have from your self care plans. Personally, I have screen time limits set so I’m not spending too much time scrolling social media. Once I hit my limit for the day, my phone kicks me off the app, and I have to find another way to pass the time.
Another simple way to use technology to your advantage is to set alarms for yourself. Many moms have a “I forgot to feed myself today,” kind of personality, and we may need more than just good intentions to start new routines. Start setting alarms to remind yourself that it’s time for you-time.
Lastly, use your phone to loop in your spouse or other family members on when your self care time begins and ends. For example, if you got a family that seems to cease functioning when you are doing anything for yourself, start scheduling when your self care time is and put it in a shared calendar. It may sound very type A to schedule your self care time, but for many busy people, it’s either in the schedule or it never happens. Using shared calendars or family management apps can be an effective tool in keeping everyone informed when you do your self care time. No more “what time are you leaving again?” or “what do I make for dinner again?” kind of questions. Instead, respond with “check the app,” or “look on the fridge.” Plus, using a shared calendar can make your self-care time more sacred in your household. If it’s important enough to put on the calendar, then you’re more likely to stick to it.
Take The Relaxing Things You Already Do, And Make Them More Relaxing
This is hands down one fo the best self-care tips I could give to you! The most effective self-care you can have is the kind you can enjoy consistently!
There may be things you’re already doing that have great potential to become self-care habits. For example:
- If you already have a habit of drinking a cup of coffee first thing in the morning, why not pair it with a good book or podcast?
- If you already wash your face regularly, why not add in a face mask and some relaxing music every so often?
- Many people journal, but why not try different kinds of journaling tactics, like a gratitude journal, or a self care journal?
- If you’re more of a “sit on the couch and do nothing,” type of relaxer, why not create a “happy corner,” for yourself? A special spot in the house all your own, with your favorite amenities nearby, a charger, and maybe even a cute pillow.
Perhaps the habits you have already formed could be easily modified to feel more restorative to you. Write down what your current daily rhythm looks like, and consider simple ways you can make things feel more relaxing to you. This may look differently for everyone, but that is the great thing about self care. It is unique for everyone.
If You Don’t Like It, Don’t Do it
This feels like an obvious point to make, but think about it. Are there things you currently do in the same of “self care” that you don’t really like doing? Then why do it?
For example, if you really hate running, but you force yourself to do it because it’s good for you, then is that really restorative or are you just torturing yourself for no good reason? Is there some kind of obligation you have every week you wish you could just stop doing (think more like “weekly lunch with my in-laws” and less like “my job that pays the bills”). Does every keep suggesting a bubble bath for relaxation, but you really hate bubble baths? Then don’t do it! Perhaps the most caring thing you could do for yourself is to stop doing what you hate, and do more of what you love.
If you’re finding yourself exercising a certain way, but it’s really not bringing any joy in your life, then find a new thing to do. If an unimportant, weekly obligation is weighing heavily on you constantly, then maybe you should ditch it. Sometimes the greatest self care we can give ourselves is saying “no.”
So do an inventory of the tasks that seem to be sucking the life out of you on a weekly basis. Can you modify it to make it not suck as much? Can you ditch it all together? Is it really a necessity? Sometimes to find the energy to prioritize our needs, we need to reprioritize other things. This may mean you need to set boundaries with people or tasks that are impeding on your personal quality time.
Think of that one thing you really enjoy, and make it a More Achievable Priority
Self care is incredibly personal. Which means that some self care tasks that others love doing, you may not love. Just like how you should eliminate what is not working for you, you should add in what does work.
There may be some hobby you really love to do, but thanks to kids, you may have no time to do anymore. Or perhaps there’s that one thing you loved doing when you were younger, but lost touch with as you have gotten older. Those very things may be exactly what you should do to have effective, restorative self care in your life.
If you’re finding yourself thinking of those old and loved hobbies, and wanting them back in your life, then it’s time to start setting some healthy boundaries. Make regular time to do what you love outside of being a parent.
There’s a lot of unique ways one can make this work. Some hobbies can include your kids. For example, I have a friend who is very into knitting. She is able to make regular time for herself to knit because she taught her kids to knit as well. So they now get to participate in one of her favorite activities with her.
For those who prefer to practice their hobbies without kids, this may require some more creative planning. Schedule the time you want to do your hobby so your spouse, or other childcare providers, can watch the kids. Do your favorite hobby during nap time, or bed time. What I often do is have a daily “quiet time” for my non-napping child so I can have an hour to myself while he is safely occupying himself.
If finding time to do what you love is challenging for you, I have just the blog post for you. My post “How To Make More Time For Yourself As A Busy Mom,” is just what every time-strapped mom needs to read.
Final Thoughts: Make Your Self Care Care For You
Self care has become quite the buzzword over the last couple of years. And many people have many opinions on what effective self care looks like. The truth is, nobody can tell whether your self care routine is working except for you.
How can you tell if your self care routine is effective?
- At the end of the day, do I feel like my energy levels are better, or worse?
- When you’re finished with a self care task, do you feel better or worse about yourself and your life?
- Do you think you’re achieving a healthy balance with your self care and the other priorities in your life, such as your family, career, or community obligations?
- Do you find that the self care you are already doing is making your stress levels better, or worse?
- In general, do you feel like you’re in better health, or worse?
- Do you feel your self care is leading you towards healthy habits or unhealthy habits?
If you are answering “yes,” to the above questions, then your current self care routine is probably effective. Of course, you can add or subtract whatever you want as you wish. But if you found yourself answering “no,” to the questions above, then maybe you need to look at your current self care (or lack thereof) and make some changes.
The ultimate point of self care isn’t to fix all of your problems with a bubble bath, or to eliminate all of your stress with a face mask, but it’s to give yourself a series of simple and effective “bucket filling” tasks that help you stay grounded throughout the week. Self care isn’t the ultimate solution to all the struggles motherhood entails, but it sure is a great place to start in making it less overwhelming.