Heads Up, Mama!
In Part 1 of this Summer Series, I described my kitchen as not being up to my usual standards. As a quick refresher, here’s what was going on:
It was morning and I was navigating my way around the kitchen, like I usually do first thing, and I was in the process of preparing myself breakfast when I started to feel a sense of panic.
I knew that it was directly related to how disorganized and messy the kitchen appeared, so I called myself down by telling myself that I’ll just “take care of it later.”
But why was my kitchen in such disarray to begin with?
I was on my period. Yeah, I’m not even going to sugar coat it or try and come up with a more polite way to talk about it because it’s my blog and if you’ve been around a while then by now you know what to expect from me (brutal honesty).
In Part 1, I hinted that the state of my kitchen would be explained today when I talked about self-care. So, what does my being on my period have anything to do with self-care and helping you navigate the summer at home with your kids?
In today’s post, I’ll discuss three self-care strategies you can use this summer to help you cool down and remain calm. First, I’ll share how you can honor your body’s cycles. Then, I’ll explain how doing less can be a form of self-care. And, finally, I’ll wrap up by offering a tip specifically to help you get a break from your kids.
Strategy 1: Honor your cycles
Without going into all the details of how your cycle works, I want to quickly explain how I’ve been using my own cycle as a way to help me with how I navigate my days. While this might not seem like self-care in the traditional sense, aligning myself with the cycle I’m in has been a game changer in my life and how I feel. I hope that sharing this will help you, too.
I first came across this idea in the book, “Do Less,*” by Kate Northrup. Basically, she explained that our body goes through four cycles per month, and during each cycle, we are primed to do different things. When we align our lifestyle with our cycle, we can maximize productivity and still feel nourished.
The phase that I suggest you first pay attention to most is your menstrual phase, the days when you’re on your period. According to Kate, “this is the ideal time for rest and reflection.” She goes on to explain that “your physical energy level will likely be the lowest during this time, so it’s a great time to take a day off, minimize social engagements, do super gentle movement (if any), and just rest.”
My period (TMI) lasts about four days, so during those four days, you’ll find me lounging hard. I’ll likely still get my low intense chores done (laundry isn’t impossible), but I limit how much time I’m on my feet at any given time. I lean heavily on my older kids to help around the house (because, hello, they have nothing else to do since they keep complaining about being bored). I don’t plan writing or thinking-related activities. I might journal, if I feel like it since it is a good time to reflect. Basically, I go with the flow (I promise that wasn’t an intentional pun).
This list doesn’t go into the details, but if you want an idea of how you can align with your body’s natural cycle rhythm, here are some examples of things to do during each phase. This list was compiled using recommendations from Kate’s book as well as recommendations from the app I use to track my cycle, My Flo. I’ve listed the phases in the order that they happen. After the luteal phase, you go back to your menstrual phase and the cycle repeats.
- menstrual phase (3-7 days): rest, reflection, evaluating, yoga
- follicular phase (7-10 days): plan, brainstorm, new ideas, new experiences
- ovulation phase (3-5 days): make calls, collaborate, heightened communication skills, HIT workouts
- luteal phase (10-14 days): complete projects, tackle to-do list, intensified focus, organization
As you can see, the advantages of tracking your period are far beyond just making sure you don’t catch yourself without a tampon (or my preference: a Saalt cup*). Tracking helps me map out my month, and plan better.
I’m aware of when I’ll likely get my period again, so I don’t plan for anything that requires me to leave the house and walk around. For summer, this means not planning library or splash park trips during those days.
I’ll have the most energy during my ovulation phase, so those types of ventures are probably best suited for that time. (Plus, as an introvert, I’ll be more willing to be around people and communicate with strangers during that time, too.)
Strategy 2: How doing less = self-care
Self-care is participating in healthy activities that help you relax, but it’s also considered self-care when you decide to do less. By making a conscious decision to reduce the number of things on your plate, you’re giving yourself breathing room to relax and not feel rushed and pulled around in a million directions.
For me, I’ve found that the key to reducing my feeling of stress at any point in time is to start by looking at the season of life I’m in and deciding to only do the things that are most important for right now.
Take an honest look at how your days flow and all the parts that go into your day. What parts can you let go of for a few weeks?
You already know that I’ve let go of writing this blog every week, choosing to switch to a bi-weekly publishing schedule. While I enjoy writing and didn’t want to cut it out entirely, I also enjoy taking breaks. And since summer means I’m with the kids more, I needed to do less of something so I can have more me-time.
For me, my blog is fun, but it’s also work which takes discipline and focus, both of which are difficult with kids constantly making noise. The time I would have spent blogging weekly is now being used to do other self-care things I enjoy or simply doing nothing at all.
Think about how your days differ now and that should help you figure out what parts of your day need to be restructured.
Strategy 3: Best self-care tip for summer
When COVID closed schools in March 2020, my youngest was 5 months shy of her second birthday. She was still night nursing and sleeping in my room. I can’t remember if she was sleeping in her bed or cosleeping with me, but around that time I was transitioning her to sleep in her own bed.
Right away, I knew that with all the change happening, I needed to reclaim my bedroom as my sanctuary. That meant two things – wean her from nightly sessions and move her into my older girls’ room.
By April, her crib was moved and she was sleeping with my daughters. If she woke up at night, instead of nursing, I offered toddler food pouches. But the part I loved the most (aside from reclaiming my breasts as my own) was the fact that I now had a place I could hang out in during the evenings when the girls went to bed.
My husband was still working away from us until August 2020, so from April until then, I spent a lot of time alone in my room. I did yoga, I did meditations, I wrote in my journal. During that time, I was heavily focused on getting to bed at a decent hour and I was strict with not using devices after a certain time so ensure that I’d fall asleep as soon as I hit the pillow.
So, recently, when I read “The Cozy Minimalist Home”* by Myquillyn Smith and she said:
No matter what’s going on in our homes, we all need at least one sane space. This applies especially to stressfull times…”Myquillyn Smith (pg 79, The Cozy Minimalist Home)
I immediately thought about that transition period last year. She goes on to say that you should protect that one part of your house, explaining that it’s “self-care of the home, which means it is self-care of you and your family.”
Having a space that was mine was so important during that time. Sure, during the day, I sat in there and did school work with one of my girls, but I always made a point to put that stuff away and out of sight when we weren’t working. I protected my space and because of that, I saved my sanity that very, very long summer.
So, my tip (and Myquillyn’s tip) to you is to create a sane space in your home. It doesn’t have to be an entire room, but create an area of your home that brings your peace whenever you walk into it.
To recap quickly, here are the three self-care strategies you can implement to help you stay cool this summer:
- Honor your body’s cycle by resting during your menstrual phase and planning your days to align with your cycle phases.
- Do less so you have more room in your days to breathe.
- Create a sane space and protect it as if your sanity depends on it (because it does).
I hope that sharing these self-care strategies with you today will help you get through the next few weeks of summer break at home with your kids.
Read next post: Part 3 – Mind & Body
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