In your first year or two after having a baby, balancing the care of a helpless tiny human along with yourself (and maybe your older children too) is likely overwhelming. For some time, routine and predictability is replaced with erratic sleep, random schedules, and problem after problem (illness, teething, etc). While new motherhood can be one of the most joyful times, it can also be one of the most overwhelming.
So how do you even begin to take care of yourself in the midst of all this chaos?
This is the strategy I use with my clients, many who are overwhelmed with the responsibilities of new motherhood but not wanting to completely lose themselves in the whirlwind.
The very first step is that you must make a promise to yourself that you will make your health and this self-care a priority, no matter what. Of course things will come up from time to time, but each and every normal day, you must put this self-care at the very top of your priority list.
Many moms in this day and age feel selfish doing this, and understandably so. We have been conditioned over the last couple of decades to believe that successful motherhood is always about self-sacrifice and putting our children first. But ask yourself, would your child rather have a caretaker who is drained, resentful, and falling apart, or would they rather have a parent who feels refreshed, happy, and fulfilled? By putting your own needs first, you’re benefiting your family too.
So before you make your self-care plan, you must wrap your head around putting this plan above everyone else, and have zero guilt about it. It would also be helpful to get your partner on board so that they can support you.
To be healthy, we need to take care of our bodies and our minds (these go hand in hand–without the body our minds will suffer, and vice versa). It is very important that these daily habits are ACHIEVABLE in your current life. You will know if it is too much if you have tried over and over to make it work, and it keeps falling apart, or if the execution of the habit is causing you more stress than it is resolving.
Start with something you KNOW you can do each day, even if it’s a tiny goal. When you accomplish it, that will give you a sense of well-being and give you a foundation from which to work on. You’ll avoid spending each day feeling like a failure, spiraling downwards instead of up. Remember, this is a season of your life, not a permanent situation, and things will change someday allowing you to have more time to focus on yourself and achieve your dreams. (This is why I hate the “no excuses” mentality-read more here.)
First, choose a form of activity for yourself. It can be a 10 minute Youtube workout, it can be a walk around the block, it can be a hard-core intense workout at the gym, whatever it is that you know you can do and will be able to easily keep up. Remember, this is just your foundation and you can always take it to the next level later.
Next, choose a way to honor your body with nutrition. For some new moms, this can mean just having a goal to eat three meals without skipping any. For others, this might mean a green smoothie daily. Or maybe you’re at a point where you can meal prep and get vegetables in each meal.
Finally, choose a way to take some time for yourself, something you enjoy. I meditate for 5-10 minutes daily. One of my clients loves to color and chose to work on her coloring book for a short time each day. Maybe you take 30 minutes to read a novel, or listen to your favorite music while you’re hanging with your kids. Or maybe you’re at a point in your life where you can pursue something more in depth, like volunteering or taking an art class. Again, make it achievable.
Now you have your three priorities for each and every day. Remember, these come first, before all else including friends, family, work, housework, etc. on a daily basis. Life happens, and you will most certainly get off track from time to time, because of illness or vacation or other unavoidable but inevitable events. That’s ok. As soon as you feel you can, return to the three habits. If you are having difficulty getting back to these habits, adjust them to make them achievable for the current situation.
For example, when my father passed, I stopped exercising for a time. When I was ready to face life again, I just didn’t feel like working out at full capacity yet, so I went on daily walks instead. And as I felt better, I added my normal workouts back in. I did lose some speed/strength, but I was always gentle and understanding with myself, and what I lost eventually came back.
I’ve created a worksheet for you to plan out your daily focus habits and make the promise to make yourself a priority. To download and print it, click here.