Self-care seems to be the new trending word across blogs at the moment, but it really is vital to maintaining your physical and mental health. Whether you’re a new Mum or Dad, don’t have kids, or are an empty-nester. Taking care of yourself first is so important in making sure you have the energy, both physical and mental to be able to give your best at work, at home, to your kids, in your marriage or anywhere really.
One thing I found during my experience with Perinatal Anxiety and Depression was that I was the last person on my priority list. My list went:
- Owen & Ethan
- Other family member needs
- House cleaning & chores
Like a lot of Mums, I always felt like I was the last person I could spend time on and only after everyone else was happy. In reality however, life is so much better when you are the first person on your list.
When Ethan was around 6 months old, by chance one morning I managed to wake up before both of the boys, get dressed, have my cup of tea and sit down by myself! It felt like my best day in weeks. I had so much less anxiety, I felt brave enough to leave the house with 2 kids and I actually could think clearly. What a change!
The following day I had a bad night with Ethan being up a couple of times and didn’t get the chance to have even a second to myself or to have my cup of tea before 2 kids were screaming at me, pulling my hair (Ethan loves hair), complaining that the tv was on the wrong channel and demanding food. Bam… straight back to a fog of anxiety, feeling overwhelmed and unable to adult.
So I started experimenting with getting up before the kids (which was near impossible while Ethan was getting up 3 or 4 times a night). On the mornings that the stars aligned and I was able to get up, go to the toilet, make my cup of tea and drink at least half of it before I heard a peep from anyone else I felt so much more in control of the day. I didn’t feel like I was already behind the ball.
When the boys would wake before me I would always feel behind. I was behind in getting to the toilet ALONE, I was behind in getting them breakfast ready, which then made me just snack on whatever I could find (which didn’t help my energy levels!), I was behind in keeping the house in a reasonable state and I never got the chance to do anything for myself.
I really started to see that when I spent a little bit of time giving myself what I need, I would feel so much better and each day didn’t seem like it was insurmountable.
Once I started feeling better I really started seeing first-hand how important self-care is. I started to make sure I got up in the morning before the boys so I could at least get half of my cup of tea before the chaos of the day. I would greet the boys in the morning a much happier Mum rather than grumbling because I had just woken up. (I take a good 10 minutes to wake up properly!)
Self-care isn’t just about eating right, doing a bit of exercise and seeing the dentist at least once a year. Your soul needs care and love. With help from my psychologist sessions, I started looking at how I saw myself and how I spoke to myself. WOW. I wouldn’t even speak to people I didn’t like the way I spoke to myself in the depths of my anxiety and depression. What does your inner speak sound like? How do you talk to yourself when you realise you’ve left the washing in the washing machine for 2 days in a row? I used to berate myself. ‘So dumb, can’t remember anything. Stupid.’ Really Kate? It’s just washing. Build a bridge!
I used to be critical of everything. From the clothes I wore, to the drink I chose, to the chocolate bar I shouldn’t have impulse bought and eaten in 3 seconds flat before the kids saw it.
Until I was asked the question ‘Would you speak to your best friend the way you speak to yourself?’
‘HELL NO! I love my best friend. Why would I speak to her like that?’
‘Well then why do you speak to yourself like that?’
‘Ummm. Because I can take it?’
‘NO! You shouldn’t have to take that crap from yourself. Especially if you wouldn’t take it from your best friend!’
So I started to pay attention to my inner speak and made the effort to soften how I speak to myself.
Since I made this change to my inner speak, I have found so much more inner strength. My inner critic is much quieter now. She is drowned out most of the time by my inner cheerleader! She does flips when I accomplish something, she cheers me on when I’m struggling and when I can’t quite succeed, she is there patting me on the back, saying ‘Don’t worry, next time.’
Make time for YOU
Finding time really isn’t an easy thing for any Mum to do. The little kidlets just suck every second out of the day don’t they! You really need to make time for your self-care. Some days that might be going to bed 20 mins earlier so you can get a little bit more sleep and feel more refreshed in the morning. Some days it might be spending the extra time to cook up a healthier breakfast rather than cereal or toast. But sometimes your self-care has to be more than just eating right, going for a walk or getting a sleep in.
You need to do something for you beyond existing. Whether that is reading a non-parenting book, watching something not on ABC Kids, or doing something crafty.
When we become parents our needs & feelings tend to get pushed way down the priority list, behind dirty nappies, tonnes of washing, worrying if the baby has enough layers on, sterilising bottles, preparing pureed veggies, rewashing clothes you just put on the baby and countless other chores.
While we eventually work out routines and manage to keep our bodies relatively healthy, I honestly believe it’s just as important to do something for ourselves, for our souls, for our identities. Taking care of yourself and making sure you are happy is not selfish. It's essential to a good life.
Being creative is my form of self-care.
See part 2 of my post on self-care here.