Self-care, as I define it, is the act of routinely putting my mental health at the top of my to-do list. And sharing ways to practice self-care on this blog is a cause near and dear to my heart. Because not long ago, I neglected my self-care and unknowingly allowed the stress of raising kids to build up inside of me until I reached a breaking point in 2016.
From that point forward, I prioritized my self-care, including taking the time needed to learn more about myself and what I need in order to function at my best. Because I never, ever, want to get back to that low place in my life, these days I do whatever I have to in order to properly take care of myself.
So, what does that look like exactly? How do I, a stay-at-home mom of four, practice self-care? In today’s blog post, I want to share what my current self-care practice looks like as well as offer tips to help you develop your own self-care plan. My hope is that by sharing my own self-care practice it will help you feel more confident in your ability to make time for yourself and help you not feel guilty for doing it.
My Current Self-Care Practice
Before diving into what self-care currently looks like in my life, I want to preface this by saying that my kids are ages 15, 11, 7, and 3 at the time I’m sharing this. What I’m doing right now is not what I was doing 3 years ago when I was breastfeeding and taking care of an infant.
Please don’t look at this list and think that I’m saying that you should be doing these things, too. Everyone’s needs and life circumstances are different. Some moms will need more downtime to recharge than others. But if you’re highly sensitive like me, seeing what I’m doing might help you get a feel for things that you might like to do, too.
Here is a list of the self-care I currently practice:
Every morning and evening, I sit down and journal in my JMB Living Journal. After I take the kids to school, I make my coffee and breakfast and sit down with my journal and write down things like my daily gratitude and affirmation of the day. Some days, I also journal in a separate notebook.
If you want to develop the habit of journaling, try pairing journaling with another habit you already do every day. For me, adding the JMB Living Journal into my mornings was easy because I decided I would make time for it while I sat down to eat breakfast and enjoy my cup of coffee. Unknowingly at the time, I was setting myself up for success because that’s one of the recommendations James Clear gives in his book “Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones”*.
*This is my Amazon affiliate link. I’m currently almost midway through this book and have already learned so much. As always, I only share recommendations for books that I have read and enjoyed. If you make a purchase using my link, your price doesn’t change, but I earn a small commission. Thank you in advance for choosing to support my blog in this way.
2. Afternoon Reset
During weekdays that the kids are in school, I use the time that I’m in carpool line as my afternoon reset time. You can learn more about how I spend my time in carpool by reading this blog post here, but most days I do nothing but rest my eyes or stare out into the clouds. On the weekends, I don’t have a designated time of day for a reset, but usually, I find time between lunch and making dinner to do something relaxing. Since my weekend days aren’t usually as stimulating to my nervous system as during the week, my reset sometimes includes watching a show or movie – something I don’t do during my weekday afternoon resets.
3. Phone Boundaries
As a highly sensitive person, I have learned that I function best when I have certain phone boundaries in place. For one thing, most notifications on my phone are turned completely off (especially email and social media). I can’t have my phone pinging me a gillion times a day, interrupting my thoughts and causing system overload.
I also have boundaries in place when it comes to the hours that I will allow myself to use my phone. My phone apps stay locked up until about 8 am to allow me enough time to wake up and not see a bunch of notifications on my phone during that first block of time before starting my day.
And I also don’t answer calls or texts after 7:30 pm. My phone automatically goes into Do Not Disturb at the time and then it locks up most of my apps at 10 pm. This might seem excessive, but this helps notifications to not come through in any form. I get annoyed with the little red numbers on the apps, so when I lock up the apps, those go away and I can’t see that I have a pending notification or text message.
All of these boundaries protect me from experiencing stress during times when I don’t want to experience it. It’s a way to control when I allow external messages to reach me as opposed to being open to receiving it anytime, day or night.
4. Daily Yoga
I used to only practice yoga a few times a week or sometimes I’d go a few weeks without practicing, but starting in January 2021, I’ve been practicing daily yoga and I haven’t looked back. Will I do this forever? I hope so, but I know that life circumstances might change and make a daily practice challenging. However, for now, it’s built into my evening routine as something I do to help me wind down for bedtime.
To read more about my daily yoga practice, including tips for beginning your own, you can check out this blog post.
5. Massage Therapy
I’ve been going to massage therapy since 2016 as a way to manage stress but I haven’t always been consistent. In the beginning, it wasn’t unusual for me to see her every 2 weeks. There have been periods of time where I didn’t go frequently (6-month gaps), but in the fall, I returned to see my therapist every 4-6 weeks.
For me, massage therapy is partly a way to deal with pain management, but also a way for me to release emotional stress that I’m unknowingly holding on to. Moving forward, I plan to continue this form of self-care as preventative medicine because doing so is an outlet that helps prevent a build-up of stress.
Tips to Create Your Own Self-Care Plan
Now that you know how I’m currently practicing self-care, here are a few tips to help you create your own self-care plan:
- Creating a self-care practice that works for you involves knowing yourself and your needs well. And it takes some trial and error. I strongly encourage you to dig deeper into learning more about yourself because this can really help you figure out which self-care practices will work and which probably won’t. (To find out if you’re highly sensitive like me, check out Dr. Elaine Aron’s work. To learn more about your personality, including whether you’re introverted or extroverted, check out 16 Personalities free personality test.)
- Your self-care practice should be adjusted to account for the current season of life you are in. By that I mean some seasons of life will allow for more time to care for yourself while others will allow only a little bit of time. Regardless, you can always find time no matter which season you’re in to take care of yourself each day – even if that’s just for a few minutes.
- Think about things that you know that you enjoy doing, things that you know relax you. Do you enjoy curling up with a good book? Are you into crafting, scrapbooking, or memory keeping? What sorts of hobbies did you used to enjoy before having kids that you haven’t made much time for recently? Is there a way that you can encorporate one or some of these things back into your life?
- Start with just picking one thing to do each day for your own self-care. After a little while, add a second thing. Then a third. If you aren’t usused to thinking about your own needs first, it will take some time to shift into a new mindset around self-care. By starting small and giving yourself permission to take baby steps, you’ll be more likely to succeed in the long-run. Eventually, you’ll naturally schedule self-care into your days without even really thinking about it.
To recap, here is a list of self-care practices I have built into my life during this stage of motherhood:
- Journaling (morning & evening)
- Afternoon Reset
- Phone Boundaries
- Daily Yoga (5-30 minutes)
- Massage Therapy (every 4-6 weeks)
The self-care practices I shared above aren’t an exhausted list of every single thing I do to take care of myself. Other things I do that are part of my overall self-care include my skincare routine, taking supplements, drinking plenty of water, getting enough sleep, making sure I don’t go too long between meals, etc. There are so many things that you can do that involve taking care of yourself that don’t have to be complicated or take up too much time.
Remember, it took me years to get to the point where I’m at with my habits and routines around my self-care. It will likely take you a while to get into a good groove with what you do for your own self-care. Start by adding something small and practice it often, daily if it makes sense for you.
Don’t beat yourself up about it if you fail to practice as you intended. Practicing self-care isn’t about being perfect. It’s about keeping your needs front and center rather than on the back burner where it’s been. As long as you get into the habit of thinking about what you can do today for your own self-care, that’s what matters.
*This blog post was inspired by my answers to an interview from momAgenda for their February self-love campaign. You can read that blog post with my answers here.