Self-Care cannot wait until you have more time. Self-care is such a buzzy word these days. It sounds both blissfully indulgent, and painfully unattainable when you are in the thick of caring for your children and your family responsibilities. If you read my blog post for Twin Love Concierge on self-care for parents of infant multiples, you might remember the story I told about how self-care can sound like handing a baby (or two or three) to a drowning person who was hoping you were throwing them a life ring. To someone like myself, who has very high standards for herself for doing it all and doing it all very well, self-care sounded both selfish and like something I could do only once I completed everything else on my ever growing To Do list. I have since learned that I was looking at self-care all wrong. Self-care is not a reward for getting everything else done. It is what you do for yourself to create a healthier You which, in turn, allows you to do the other things in your life. Then the question becomes, “What can I do to care for myself when I have extraordinarily little free time?” Here are some priorities I would like for you to consider.
Reduce your social media consumption.
Did I really say that? Yes. I know that is so hard when you already feel so very isolated as the mother of small children in the middle of a pandemic. One of the greatest sources of anxiety in women is social media related. That sounds crazy, but there are studies that suggest the amount of time we spend trying to connect with others online is actually more isolating and leads to lower self-esteem even in adults. So much on social media is designed to make you feel as if something in your life is lacking.
If you prioritize using social media solely to connect with the people who fill you up, support you and love you, you will be happier and you won’t waste time scrolling. Remove people from your social media feed who give you anxiety or make you feel like you are not living up to some curated ideal. Recently, I went through and unfollowed all business accounts that weren’t local small businesses that I want to support, all celebrity accounts, and any people who make me nuts when I read their posts. For Instagram, I only follow actual friends so I can see photos of them and their children and of course their pets and I follow National Parks and travel sites so my feed is full of beautiful places. It’s relaxing and soul filling and not angst inducing.
Another technique to help is to remove Facebook’s app from your phone and only use it from your computer or move the apps for social media to random pages in your phone and not on the home screen so they don’t tempt you to open them every time you pick up your phone. How many of us start our day by grabbing for our phone and checking our social media feed first thing? Instead, start your day by reading a devotional, another daily inspirational reading, the newspaper, or journaling. I start mine reading Jesus Calling on my iPad and then a book in one of the Gospels. This is a new practice that I started this year, and it’s been a much better start to my day. I have fallen into the old habit several weeks in a row, a few times now (I am a slow learner) and my mornings are never quite as good. Try it and see how your perspective changes.
Declutter and Simplify
An important, yet difficult thing you can do to take care of yourself is to simplify your life. Remember the old saying, “less is more,” in terms of mental health, less stuff in your space leads to more calm and more mental headspace. There is a direct correlation between the amount of clutter and a person’s anxiety level so if you find you have trouble relaxing in your home, downsize the number of things in your spaces. It’s especially difficult for me, but I have been going through the house and cleaning out. I am loving having less.
I recently have been ruthless about donating or throwing out clothing that I do not really need, does not fit now, or does not make me feel strong and confident. It does not matter how much I paid for it, or if it’s relatively new or if I might, maybe, perhaps one day need it again. If it’s not a perfect fit, and amazing on me, out it goes. I have also gotten rid of almost all my high heeled shoes. If you know me well, you will know that at one time, I had a bit of an addiction. I do not have a reason to wear them much anymore so out they go. I have kept the ones that are the best quality, and that go with a variety of outfits and a couple of extraordinary pairs, but the rest went away. I have a long way to go in my closet, but the progress I am making is like a huge weight being lifted.
Move your body every day.
Moving your body every day is good self-care. It is not punishment. It is not so that you can fit into smaller jeans or so your booty looks like it did before your pelvic bones decided to spread out to accommodate extra bodies and forgot to go back where they came from. It is because moving your body releases endorphins that act on your brain better than any drug outlawed by the war on drugs. It is because once you make it a habit, your brain and body will crave it, and there will be amazing side benefits ….maybe you will fit into smaller jeans or have a high and tight booty.
I am not suggesting you must go crazy and do CrossFit or train for a marathon, but just move. Go for a walk, do a short exercise video. Pinterest, YouTube and the Peloton app have a ton of 5-30 minute free workouts. Squeeze in three short exercise sessions of 10 minutes each if you cannot find a half hour chunk in your day. You need to do something that raises your heart rate as well as some resistance training to prevent bone loss as you age. If you had told me a year and a half ago that I would be running half marathons, I would have told you to start seeing someone for your hallucinations. I will never win a race. My training group is the slowest, and I am happy to stay in that group. It’s about moving and being outside and I feel so good both physically and mentally.
Even if you are not an artist, doing something creative or crafty is wonderful for your wellbeing; plus it is so much fun! In 2018's Great British Creativity Test from University College London, which examined how creative activities can help us manage our mood and make us feel happier, the research concluded that even a small amount of creative activity can improve your wellbeing in three main ways. It is a distraction and being creative reduces stress. When being creative, an amount of contemplation takes place and you get some perspective on your life. You have a measure of self-development allowing you to build up self-esteem and confidence.
Crafts are also a great way to practice mindfulness, especially those crafts that include a measure of repetition such as knitting, crochet, needlework or woodworking. Mindfulness helps to calm your mind, relax and unwind. Research into knitting showed it lowers blood pressure, reduces depression and anxiety, is as relaxing as yoga, distracts from chronic pain, increases one’s sense of wellbeing, reduces loneliness and isolation, and increases one’s sense of usefulness and inclusion in society. These benefits can be found in almost all crafts, especially when you find a way to learn or practice in a social setting such as FWMoM’s crocheting group.
I like to plan parties and decorate our home for holidays. My crafting is often creating decorations for the outrageous parties I host for our church youth group or the small ones for my daughter’s friends and for our random holiday celebrations. We celebrate everything, and I decorate for everything – inside and outside.
I also enjoy crafting with food. I love to bake cookies and we make sugar cookie cut outs for just about every holiday. We do not do the fancy decorations because we are not artists, but we have a lot of fun. My husband and son have turned just about everything into a vampire, LOL. Sometimes, I just like to look at the apps on my iPad from the museums we have visited and read about the beautiful works of art we saw and then research the artists. Your creating and crafting can include your kids or be with friends or all by yourself but find something that adds a bit of art to your life.
Ask for Help/Find your Tribe
I may sound like a broken record on this one, but for me, the most important way to care for yourself is to surround yourself with people who care deeply for you and you feel the same for them – a mutual admiration society. You are not designed to go through life alone, and definitely not to parent your children without a village or tribe of others who love you and your children fiercely. When you find your community of people who make life better and easier, hold on to them. Do not ever be afraid to ask for help when you need it or give help when you can. Sometimes it may feel like you are always the needy one, and it may just be the season you are in right now. Your tribe will love you through it. Someday, you will be in the position to be the one to tell your friend, “It’s okay, this too shall pass, and I will be here through it all.”
Now that you are a MoM, your To Do List is never going to get any shorter. The laundry will never be done – people keep wearing clothes. They will always need to eat – like every single day. There will always be another thing to do to the house or the yard. You cannot wait until all of that is done to take care of you. You must start TODAY to take care of yourself as well as you do everyone else. I promise that if you do, you will have more mental, emotional, and physical energy to be the MoM, partner, and friend that you want to be to those you love, and you’ll actually enjoy it as well.
Linda Kennedy M.S. – TLC’s Dallas Fort Worth area Associate, is the mother of 16 year old twins, Shane and Savannah, and wife of 25 years to Shane, a physician. A former high school and college level science teacher with a masters in Biology, Linda is a busy stay at home mom and community volunteer. After nearly ten years of marriage, Linda and Shane welcomed their twins following IVF and a high risk pregnancy that ended on bedrest and an early delivery at 31 weeks and long NICU stay. A long time member of FWMoM, Linda has served in many capacities including as Programs director and President, where she developed a program and curriculum for expectant moms of multiples and parenting infants and toddlers. This came out of her own experience, and what she learned from the other moms in the FWMoM community. Her favorite thing to tell expectant parents is find your multiples parents group, to help you figure out how to care for multiple babies at once because you are going to be too tired at first to figure it all out. She continues to be an active supporter of moms of multiples finding their own parenting style, becoming confident making choices for their children that bring joy and wellbeing to themselves and their family. You can reach Linda at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information about our Dallas Fort Worth services.