When I decided to go with the theme of self care for this month, two women immediately came to my mind: my Washington friends, Amber and Andrea. Both of these ladies serve as powerful examples to me of the importance of self care. I asked my dear friend, Andrea, to share some tips with us on taking care of yourself in the face of the constant demands of motherhood, and life in general. Her tips resonate with me on so many different levels. Welcome back, Andrea!
When Jessie asked me to contribute here and share advice about how I seem to take care of myself so well, I thought I would be able to whip out some words with ease. Then I sat down to write, following days of battling a head cold amidst 10 loads of laundry and crying children and 6-day-old unwashed hair and a very messy house and had to laugh at the irony of the topic. I got up and found my husband playing legos with the kids and asked him to start dinner and promptly retreated to my bedroom to fire up the ol’ brain.
So let’s just start right there with number one on the list…
Ask For Help
We were not made to do this alone. We should not do this alone. No one can do anything alone. Repeat after me… ‘it’s okay to ask for help, it’s okay to ask for help’ and tell yourself this over and over again until you believe it. Your children are not a burden to anyone! Your children are fun and people in your life want to help and take care of them. This includes asking your spouse for help if you’re feeling overwhelmed with daily life, but also family and friends for special days too! I try and schedule at least a couple of ‘me’ days a month! Many times I call my mom and the conversation starts like this, ‘Hi, want to come over at 6 a.m. to watch the kids next Thursday so I can go hiking?’ and that is a hard thing to ask someone! But it never hurts to ask, and most of the time your family and friends will be honest with you if they can’t or don’t want to!
I recognize that not all women live close to family or have trusted people in their community, and I know that can be a very difficult thing, so I don’t offer the ‘ask for help’ piece of advice lightly. But if you can do it, you should.
My darling husband and I also coordinate our gym time so we both have a small, but important part of our day that belongs to each of us personally while the other has the kids. I’ll ask my in-laws to watch the kids for a couple of days so my husband and I can go on solo road-trips. I ask my mom to help with the kids all the time so I can get to appointments, have photo sessions with clients, or have a ski date with a friend. While I SO appreciate and am grateful for this help, I don’t feel guilty about this at all! I’m a present and loving parent, and the time I choose to spend away from my kids investing in myself is good for everyone.
Do Your Own Thang
Remember up above there where I said that children are fun and people want to be with them? That’s mostly true, but when you’re the mother and you’re with them ALL THE TIME they aren’t always fun. You must get away and have breathing room for yourself. It’s good for them and it’s good for you! Being a mom is one of life’s greatest joys, and while I love my kids with my entire heart and soul, there are also huge pieces of me that have nothing to do with being a wife or mom. I sure do want my kids to fall in love with nature and have adventures and I love taking them hiking or snowshoeing, but I also love doing those things on my own. So I plan for it and ask for help and arrange time to have solo adventures without them. It’s so incredibly necessary for my mental health and well being. Make sure you aren’t losing yourself while raising these amazing little humans.
Eat Green Things and Move Your Body
I know. It’s tragic that popcorn and Andes mints don’t constitute a well-balanced diet. I can’t write anything here you don’t know already. Plan to eat well, and serve your body the nutrients it needs so you can function at your happiest and highest self. And then sweat and move and build muscles and release those endorphins. And then remember that balance is the spice of life and don’t feel guilty for strapping your sweet kids in their carseats and taking a trip to Starbucks for a latte and piece of banana bread.
Block out the Noise
Oye. Can I get an amen for this one? With social media and political madness and opinions flying at us every time we open up a screen it’s hard to stay in a zen state of mind. Only follow blogs and Instagram feeds from people who inspire you and make you feel good about yourself. I actually deleted Facebook from my phone as it was a huge source of negative energy and anger for me. Know when you need to step away and breathe. I go outside and play with my kids and remember what’s truly important in life and get some perspective. I get together with friends and invest in people and spend physical one-on-one time building community and suddenly the world seems a lot more bright. Focus on what you have control over and be a light of love and compassion.
Prioritize What’s Important
Personally I think it would be fantastic if I could just climb and hike and ski and backpack and bike and travel and ride my horse and be completely devoid of responsibility, but ya know… not reality. So while I find exploration and outdoor activities to be important and try and prioritize them into my life pretty high on the list, I have to think of the other people and things in my life that need me as well. This is an area each of us has to look at as individuals and decide what we need to put first in order for us to function happily. My stress levels stay on the lower end of the spectrum when my house is clean, because a clean space makes me feel calm and relaxed. Some women find missing their gym time non-negotiable. Some people need to wake up an hour before their kids to drink coffee and read and have alone time so that becomes a priority (but not for me, I basically lay in bed and don’t roll out until my child comes and smothers me with bad breath kisses). In summary, prioritize the small things in your life (that can be big things) to take care of yourself and your people every day.
This goes along with not comparing to other people or putting too much stock into other people’s lives because all it will do is steal our own joys! If you don’t really enjoy being dirty and in physical pain for hours on end, then don’t hike just because someone you know loves it! If a clean house isn’t important to you, don’t run yourself ragged trying to keep it that way. Do you think kombucha is disgusting? Don’t drink it for goodness sake. Love fresh vegetables but don’t want to devote time to keeping a garden? There’s a farmer’s market for that. Does your best friend wake up at 5:30 every morning to work out? That’s awesome, but it doesn’t have to be for you. Choose your priorities and choose your joy.
I love goals and am always setting them! Maybe it’s a personal fitness goal (I’ve been doing Crossfit at an incredible local gym for a few months now and seeing ways I can improve has been mentally such a boost for me!). Maybe it’s something small like tracking your budget better, or drinking more water or trying two new things. Perhaps it’s sitting down to map out all the fun adventures you want to have this year. Are you thinking of a dream like starting up a small business or taking an art class or training for a triathlon? Now is the time. Now is always the time. It’s never ever too late to change or make our hopes a reality. Having something to look forward to in the future keeps your mind spinning in a positive direction.
Andrea lives in Washington state with her red-bearded husband and two darling critters. She likes climbing things, walking underneath towering trees, and photographing everything along the way. Follow along over on Instagram or browse the ancient posts of her dying blog. (Andrea’s words… not mine! Ha!)