Self-care is the most important thing you can do for yourself, your health, and your family. It is the best investment you can make – and it should be of the highest priority. There is a reason that airlines instruct you to get your own oxygen mask in place before helping anyone else. Simply put, you are not in a position to help others if you have not first helped yourself. We cannot expect to give 100% of ourselves to another human being if we aren’t 100% to begin with. As a mom, this can be a ridiculous challenge. Every day, we take care of everyone but ourselves. We look after our children, care for our husband, manage the house, and nurture other relationships outside the home (among so many other things)!
Self-care looks different from person to person. In a later post, I will provide a list of possible self-care ideas. However, in this post, I want to address why self-care is important, and share what my personal self-care routine looks like – and why I recommend it.
Importance of Self-Care
Think, for a moment, about your car. On a basic level, your car needs gas to operate properly. That is a frequent task with car ownership – gas gives the vehicle its energy source. Without gas, a car cannot provide its most basic function of getting you from point A to point B. Now, outside of filling up the tank, cars also require routine maintenance. They need oil changes, tune ups, and replacement parts, among other things, to continue providing the basic task of transport. Consider for a moment what happens when you don’t do those things. Your car is likely to start having mechanical issues.
About six years ago, I got a call from Hubby shortly after he had left for work. His car, his beloved Jeep, had broken down on the side of the road. We had it towed down to the service department, only to find that the engine had seized up from lack of oil. He was WAY overdue for an oil change and the car just couldn’t handle the strain anymore, so it broke down…for good (may it rest in peace).
We are not unlike vehicles in that way – we don’t want to end up broken down! When we don’t take care of ourselves – provide our bodies energy and keep up on basic maintenance – we end up running on fumes. Self-care helps us acquire and maintain the aspects of our lives that we need to function properly. Energy, rest, peace of mind, stress management – those are all wonderful side effects of a self-care routine. When we have those things, we are able to give more of ourselves to other people. In that way, self-care is not only important for ourselves, but it is also a loving gesture to those around us. It is not selfish – rather, it is the greatest gift you can give someone because when you are 100%, you are giving them all of you, rather than a broken down version.
Start the Day off Right
Self-care at any time of day is better than no self-care at all. However, if you are able to work it into your schedule, I find the mornings to be the ideal time of day. If you start your day bright-eyed, well rested, and full of energy, you are more likely to conquer the rest of the day in a similar fashion. You will feel refreshed, and as such, are likely to continue doing things throughout your day that make you feel equally as good. Much like any goal you set for yourself, the more you accomplish, the greater momentum you build and the easier it becomes. Starting a self-care routine in the morning helps you wake up on the right side of the bed, so to speak. It is easier to start from that point, rather than course correct later in the day.
My Personal Self-Care Routine
Day to day I may partake in different self-care activities; however, they vary by day and oftentimes by season. In the winter, I may indulge in a nightly dip in my hot tub. In the summer, I may kick back with my husband on our back deck with a beer or glass of wine. Both involve quiet and relaxation (and let’s be honest, oftentimes a favorite beverage). Every self-care activity I partake in (for the most part) gives both my mind and my body a chance to unwind.
However, those are activities and not routines because they change and they are dependent on other factors. A routine is something that we do day in and day out, to the point that it becomes almost a habit. We come to expect it. In order for something to become a routine in our lives though, we need to prioritize it and therefore, make time for it. If you’re anything like me, you’re probably thinking you have absolutely no time left in your day. When I first started considering how I could work self-care into my daily life, I didn’t think I had a single second to spare. My day is taken up by my children, my husband, work, chores, and other basic life tasks. Then I realized that I had a golden opportunity every.single.morning.
My Mornings Then vs. Now
Hubby gets up at 5:45 am every morning to go to work. He showers, walks the dog, kisses me goodbye, and is out the door by 6:30 (as a woman, I am incredibly jealous of how quickly he can get ready). When he left, I used to roll over and go back to sleep. My alarm clock was generally my children yelling at me to get up. Let me tell you, that is not a relaxing or conducive way to start the day. How could I expect my day to be peaceful when my mornings started in pure and total chaos? Some mornings I would try to anticipate their wake-up time and set my alarm clock earlier so I’d have time to shower. This was a total gamble of course, and one I often lost.
Life changed when I realized that I had a golden window of opportunity between the time Hubby left for work and the time my kiddos woke up. Rather than set an alarm, or allow my children to abruptly wake me from a deep slumber, I asked Hubby to wake me up when he gets up to shower. With this, a new routine was born. My mornings are no longer chaotic. I have time to prepare for my day and care for myself first. It has done wonders for my attitude throughout the whole day, as it has helped me feel more centered and in control – meaning my kids are getting a more relaxed and fun mom.
5:45 – My Morning Begins
Hubby sets an alarm every morning, but I very rarely hear it. Because of this, he now knows to wake me up. Let me tell you, it is much nicer to wake to the sound of my husband’s voice than the annoying beep of an alarm clock. While he showers, I do three things – jumping jacks (don’t laugh – there’s a reason for this!), a brain training activity, and a guided meditation.
Jumping Jacks & Make the Bed – 3 minutes
Upon waking, I hop out of bed and do 10 to 15 jumping jacks. This wakes me up, gets my blood flowing, and helps me resist the urge to crawl back under the covers. I am not a morning person, so forcing myself out of bed to do jumping jacks ensures that I will not “accidentally” fall back to sleep. While I’m up, I also make the bed. This is yet another insurance policy in my attempt to stay awake. Plus, making the bed means I’ve already accomplished something in my day and gives me momentum to continue knocking things off my to-do list.
Lumosity App – 3 minutes
After the jumping jacks, I sit down in a comfy chair and pull up the Lumosity app. I use the free version, which is perfect because it only takes a few minutes of my time. The free version allows me to do 3 different activities each day (the app selects the activity) and each activity is only a minute. Doing this stimulates me and gets me thinking. Plus, there are proven health benefits to these types of exercises – especially when it comes to preventing dementia later in life.
Stop, Breathe & Think App – 3 to 8 minutes
At this point I pull up another app, Stop, Breathe & Think. I use the free version of this app as well, so choices are limited, but so far it has provided enough of what I need. This app is for meditation and it utilizes exercises based on your current mood and state of mind. Most meditations are 3 to 8 minutes in length, so not a huge time commitment. I find it so helpful to have guided meditation to clear my mind. When I don’t, I feel so much more jumbled! This mind of mine won’t stop thinking if I don’t have something to focus on! If you do nothing else in the morning, at least do this. Meditation is so beneficial – it reduces stress and helps center you in a way that can otherwise be hard to achieve.
As you can see, only about 10 minutes have gone by at this point since Hubby woke me up. That’s 10 minutes I’ve dedicated completely to myself and my well being. It’s a small investment with a big reward!
Shower & Get Ready
Once Hubby is out of the shower, it’s my turn. Showering is one of my favorite parts of my morning, second only to coffee. Prior to implementing this routine, I often had days that provided me no time to shower. Now I never miss one. I know many people do not shower every day, but for me, I rely on this time. The water is almost cathartic and it helps wake me up even more. After showering I get ready – this includes getting dressed. My productivity is so much higher when I start the day dressed! At this point in the morning, I am generally feeling relatively energized and ready to conquer the world (within reason)!
COFFEE. COFFEE. AND MORE COFFEE
In case the heading didn’t give it away, this is when I make my morning cup(s) of coffee. Coffee is the highlight of my routine. Every week I roast my own beans and then make a half gallon jug of cold brew. This way my morning cup only takes a few minutes – I simply pour, heat, and flavor (cream and sugar please)! If you haven’t tried cold brew coffee yet, it is a total game changer.
Once my coffee is ready, I settle in for me time. This looks different depending on the morning. Some mornings it is getting caught up on chores so I feel like something has been accomplished. Sometimes it is just sitting in my living room and watching the sun rise. Most mornings it is listening to a favorite Podcast or working on the blog. Both of these activities are a passion for me, and this time helps nurture that passion.
A few of my favorite Podcasts if you’re interested in checking them out:
- From the Heart of the Home
- Good to be Home
- SHE Podcast
- Living Homegrown (my all-time favorite)
- The Blogging Millionaire (if you’re into blogging)
Those are just a few highlights – I have a huge subscription list depending on how I’m feeling that day (and what motivation I need).
This part of my morning is the longest. I generally get at least a good hour in before the kids get up. While any time after 7:30 am is fair game for them to wake, they know they aren’t allowed to interrupt me until 8:30. Of course, this doesn’t always happen. BUT, because I have accomplished the main points of my morning (shower √, coffee √), I am in a better mindset to start the day. Not only do I feel better, but I am a happier and more patient mom for them.
While my routine is something not all moms have time to do, especially those who are working, I do think that simple self-care can find its way into any routine. Maybe it’s as simple as indulging in a cup of coffee and listening to your favorite podcast on your way to work. Or cranking up the radio and belting out upbeat music while sitting in traffic. Listen to a book on tape. Use an invigorating body wash or shampoo when you take your morning shower. Take 3 minutes to write in a gratitude journal. Get to work a few minutes early so you can relax before the chaos of the day hits. Or, use the apps I suggested – they are only a few minutes each (just don’t use them while driving!). Whatever you do, find something – anything – to start your morning with a bit of indulgence and self-care. It can make all the difference!
Becoming a Better Parent
Prioritizing myself first thing in the morning has made me a better parent. I no longer start my days on edge and frustrated with the kids for waking me up. My mornings are my own – I have taken control of them and given myself what I need to function. By taking care of myself first, I am then able to better care for my children. They get the best of me – the patient and happy me – rather than the exhausted and cranky version. Because my mind is clear and I feel nourished, I am able to control my emotions and reactions more. Less of their behaviors and actions trigger me, and instead I am able to focus on natural and logical consequences when they do act out. However, with my mood adjustment, I have noticed a huge shift in theirs as well! Less yelling from me, means less tantrums from them. Win win!
But I’m not a Morning Person
I have never been a morning person. When I was a young child, I would get up in the mornings, move to the couch upstairs, and lay there half sleeping while my mom made me breakfast. Everyone knew to leave me alone. Not much has changed over the years. If I had my way, I would stay up until 2 am and sleep until 10 or 11 in the morning. However, life with kids has made that completely unrealistic. When I first considered this routine (and the idea of getting up at 5:45), I was skeptical. I didn’t think I could do it. After just a few days though, I was hooked. While it’s still not always easy, especially on those freezing cold mornings, I now crave my routine. On the weekends, when Hubby and I sleep in as long as the kids will allow, I often get up feeling cranky and on edge. I miss my alone time – my “me” time. It allows me to wake up on my terms, rather than allowing the kids to dictate how it happens!
If you are like me, and not a morning person, try adjusting your wake time by just 10 minutes each day. Get up 10 minutes earlier (and try going to bed 10 minutes earlier as well) until you reach your desired time. In addition to that, find something that motivates you to actually get up that early – something you can look forward to! Having a reward is the perfect motivation.
So, what are you waiting for? Give it a try! You have nothing to lose and you might find yourself craving this time the way that I do! The main goal is to find something that nourishes you in such a way that you look forward to it every single day. And what better way is there to start your day than that?!
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