The term “self-care” has been beaten to death. So it’s natural to treat it with indifference. But there’s a reason many people emphasize the importance of self-care. Because it is critical to your wellbeing. Taking care of yourself is not only about you. It’s about being available, both emotionally and physically for the children you say you love.
But as a solo mom of three adult sons, I understand the overwhelm that comes with having to add one more thing to your plate. But don’t look it that way. How can you go on feeling depleted and worn out? Think about how to be present for your children. And think about having the mental capacity to negotiate not only with your children but also respectfully with a co-parent.
You already know why you should make self-care a priority. I wanted to give you some tips on how to do it. Many of these tips are from experts and solo moms just like you who were guests on SoloMoms! Talk podcast. So if you’ve been resistant to making time for self-care because you thought it was too much work.
The tips below will help you design a self-care routine that you can integrate into your daily life. After a while self-care will become such a natural part of your everyday experience, you will wonder why you resisted in the first place.
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Why Make Self-Care a Priority
The practice of prioritizing one’s own physical, emotional, and mental health is known as self-care. Self-care is very important for a single mom to keep her balance and lower her stress levels. Making time for self-care can enhance general health and happiness, whether it’s through exercise, relaxation, or creative endeavors. Self-care can help single moms refuel and take on everyday obstacles. It can also have a favorable effect on general well-being.
Before we delve into ways you could practice self-care so it’s manageable for you, let’s briefly examine some of the benefits.
- Practicing self-care routinely improves your overall wellbeing.
- Making self-care a habit sets a good example for your children
- It allows you to replenish and restore balance
- It allows you the opportunity to become self-aware
- I teaches your children that you are important as a person
- It places value on self-love
How to Make Self-Care a Priority: Practical Tips
It’s best to approach self-care like you would if you were eating an elephant — one bite at a time. Not everyone can take one weekend a month and go to the spa. But everyone who is not physically challenged can take a walk. Or can do deep breathing while doing the dishes. There are so many ways you can practice self-care that it makes the reasons given not to do so sound like excuses. But I do empathize with moms who are just too overwhelmed to think clearly about prioritizing their own health.
But if you are still skeptical, let me share my experience. Several years ago, on my way to work I decided I wanted to catch a certain bus. So I started running towards it. But my body protested. I could not get one foot to lift high enough to run. And I was a jogger at one point.
I pondered this whole thing the entire day. Then I realized that I wasn’t taking care of myself. I spent 10-12 hours a day at my desk, hunched over my computer. Those 12 hours were sandwiched by 2-hour commute each way. When I got home, I was too tired to do anything but sit (again) until I dragged myself to bed. I repeated the scenario daily for several years. Then on the weekend, it would be grocery, and cleaning, and laundry, and…you get the picture.
So it’s no wonder my body protested. So I did what I could under the circumstances. As a solo mom of the two youngest children living at home, I had a lot of responsibilities. So I never rode that bus again. I started walking to the train station. Then on Saturdays, instead of getting in my car and driving to the farmers market I started walking to it. I then discovered that the market was at the entrance to a huge and very beautiful park. So I started driving my car again but spent an hour or two walking in the park.
You won’t believe the difference these simple steps made in my life. It didn’t stop there, however. Because once you start, you will find that new ideas for self-care open up to you. And all of a sudden, you’re doing all these things to better your mental and physical wellbeing without a second thought.
So I hope my story helps you put your own life into perspective. Here are several tips for integrating self-care into your life, even if you think you have no time to take care of yourself.
Walking is one of the easiest ways to fit both mental and physical exercise into your day. It’s easy. You don’t need any equipment (unless you want to level up with weights). And you can integrate it into other activities:
- Walk when it’s possible: Do you make a habit of jumping in your car even to go to the corner store? Why not try walking next time?
- Walk with your children: If your children are younger and you don’t have a babysitter. Take them with you. Push the stroller around your neighborhood. Hold your toddler’s hand while you walk and point out things like the insect crawling on the ground. This might be more difficult to do but you will feel better doing it and it will start to become a natural part of your routine.
- Walk an extra block: Before you get on public transportation, walk to the next stop. Or park your car a little further away as long as it’s safe to do so.
Meditation & Deep Breathing
- Meditate. Meditation can be just closing your eyes for a few minutes and doing some deep breathing without much focus. But it can also be a 20-minute Transcendental Meditation session. Do what helps you assimilate the practice into your daily life. You can listen to music or use an app like Headspace. You can also download free music on sites like Pixabay.
- Wait to go home: After a long day at work, sit in your car for a few minutes before you go inside.
- Color with your kids: Studies show that adult coloring improves mental wellbeing because it is a type of meditation. It may not be the same as doing it on your own but if this is all you can do, it helps. Plus you get to do something with your kids that they enjoy.
Reading & Journaling
- Read a fiction book: This is one of my favorite ways to relax. You may not remember anything about the storyline but for the time you were reading — whether a chapter or the entire book you were in the character’s world. Reading is another one of those activities that improve your mental wellbeing. So grab your kindle or a paperback and settle in to your favorite genre.
- Start a gratitude journal: Studies show that there are many benefits to giving thanks and keeping a journal. But together, these habits pack a powerful punch in maintaining your mental and emotional wellbeing. You can use a notebook, a gratitude journal, or an app on your phone like Day One or the 5-Minute Journal.
Building connections not only brings a feeling of wellbeing. It can also provide people around you who can babysit so you can take time out for self-care. So keep your connections strong. Exchange help and assistance. For example, cook for an elderly neighbor or pick up their groceries when you pick up yours. You decide what works given your relationship with the people in your life. It’s not that you are doing good to get good. But that is how life works.
- Get to know your neighbor: Do you know your next-door neighbor? What can you do to help them? Or what do you have in common with them? Seek out ways to connect with one or two of your neighbors. At the very least know who is living next door.
- Join the PTA or volunteer at your kid’s school event: This was one of the hardest things for me to do because I worked such long hours. But I tried. Eventually, my kids were old enough to spend time at a classmate’s home. But I knew who they were so it was one less thing to worry about. It gave me time to get some “me time” even for a couple of hours.
- Attend a local church: Connecting with people in a church can be one of the best ways to have a community around you. It’s not always the case. But you can be blessed with finding the right congregation that wraps its arms around you.
Ask for Help
When you need help don’t be afraid to ask. In addition to building new connections don’t be afraid to ask for help from friends and family members you can rely on.
1. Ask a friend or family member to babysit: Is grandma nearby? Can a friend babysit? Even if you remain at home you can still remove yourself and take a nap or soak in the tub. Also, if grandma or grandpa is willing and able create an atmosphere where you kids can bond with them while you care for yourself.
2. See a therapist: Do you have unresolved trauma? Do you feel like you want to talk to someone but you’re afraid of being judged or criticized? Maybe this is the time for you to seek the help of a professional. A good therapist will be a great support who can give you objective feedback and help you through difficulties you may be having.
3. Read the Bible and Pray: Reading the scriptures can provide comfort. Praying can bring you joy and satisfaction because you know God has your back. Use this time to bask in your place in God’s plan. He loves you. Remember that as you read and pray.
Even the things you normally do can be used to incorporate self-care into your life. For example, I use an electric toothbrush on a two minute timer. So while brushing my teeth, I do squats. I found out I can do 80 if I’m fast. But I slow down to make it harder. Even the action of brushing your teeth can be used to slow down your thoughts, especially if you use an electric toothbrush.
Also sometimes cooking is a rush job to make sure the kids have food in their stomachs so you can go do something else after. But what if at least once each week, you took your time to prepare a meal of your liking.
For example, when I make scrambled eggs or an omelet, I put lots of veggies in it. So I slow down and take my time to cut those vegetables into tiny pieces focusing on my actions. If you’re worried about neglecting the kids or that they are going to distract you. Get them innvolves. Let them break the eggs or choose their own veggies.
Another example is if you are folding laundry take the time to savor the moment. Examine the garment you’re folding. Whose shirt is that? Feel into the moment in a carefree way. It could even be a time when you focus on the positives of folding those clothes. For instance, my first son was born when I was 22 weeks pregnant. He remained in the hospital for four months. He was due on May 7 but was born on February 13.
So when I was doing his laundry, I was extremely grateful that he came home from the hospital healthy and strong. It’s one of those moments when gratitude enters my heart. When folding my son’s clothes becomes an opportunity for self-care. What is that moment for you?
As you can see, you can use various everyday activities to practice self-care. The idea is slow down instead of moving at warp speed all the time. Savor the moments. Take care of yourself.
Teaching the Kids That Self-Care is a Priority
You may be tempted to yell at the kids when they interrupt your moment. Don’t. This is a teachable moment for them. Dr. Michelle R. Hannah suggests putting a colorful ribbon (or some other signal) on your bathroom door when you want to spend extra time in the shower or bath. But talk to you kids about it. Give them the opportunity to feel a part of the team by sharing how important self-care is to mommy.
This is the same attitude you can use when you give them chores. Them doing the dishes, cleaning their room, or cleaning up after themselves isn’t them helping you as much as it’s about them being a part of the team. Doing their part to make sure mommy has time to care for among other things, herself.
Solo moms can no longer afford to consider self-care a luxury. We are worn out and depleted because we won’t take care of ourselves. If you want to live a long life. To see your kids become adults and get the opportunity to spoil your grandkids, make self-care a priority.
I hope my tips above can help you see other ways you can integrate self-care into your life without having to jam one more thing into your already packed schedule.
Make self-care a priority. You will be mentally, physically, and emotionally better. Best of all your kids will benefit from having an emotionally balanced mom.