Groan. I am a mom. I already have too much to do before I have breakfast—heck some days I don’t even remember to have breakfast.
But taking even one of these steps to take of yourself first thing in the morning can have a real impact on the rest of your day.
1. Pause to check in
The most important one I would recommend you do right before breakfast—before you do anything in fact—is pause.
What is the first thing you do when you open your eyes in the morning? Do you reach for your phone? Whether that is to check social media, check the time, the weather, the list of things to do or appointments for the day—you are already starting your day with the wrong focus.
They might sound like strong words, but as a mother, psychologist and mindfulness teacher, I have noticed the difference it makes when I don’t start my day that way.
When I start my day with just a few moments to pause, breathe and connect to myself in kindness and care, I start my day with more peace, love and less thoughts of, Oh my goodness I just don’t have enough time or energy to get through my day. I need more sleep!
So pause, breathe in and out slowly a few times, or even just once, and check in with how you are feeling. Connect to yourself with kindness and care before you move on with your day. See if you notice a difference
2. Go gently
Mothers tell me their number one challenge is being overwhelmed with too much to do, constant interruptions and the frustration of not being able to finish things. These are definitely sources of stress and hurrying about trying to get everything done is keeping us stuck in stress mode.
Interestingly, many people believe that it is the rushing and not the “busyness” that causes more stress….. so go gently, be aware of unrealistic expectations and choose differently where you can. Check in and slow down if you are feeling rushed. Less hurry, more space.
3. Reacquaint yourself with an old love
No, not your ex—but something you love to do which has been squeezed out of your life. I call it a “pleasure date” with no agenda, no goal, just pure pleasure.
What would your first choice be? Cast your mind back and remember a time when you felt light and happy, engaged and so interested in something that time just seemed to fly… and then go out and do that thing.
4. Be mindful of fairness and share the load
The single biggest source of simmering resentment with the new parents I see is a perception of the unfair division of labor at home. It doesn’t matter who does what in an objective sense. What matters is that you both feel like it is a fair division, that you are sharing the load.
So take stock and start a gentle conversation about revisiting who does what and if you need to get help. Ask for what you need.
5. Find softness
When we are stuck in a feeling of overwhelm, we can become short, sharp and “efficient” in the way we move through our day and how we speak to ourselves.
How do we respond to this demanding role of motherhood without getting overwhelmed?
We respond with compassion. By turning towards our pain with the kindness we would show a dear friend. Take a moment to breathe in and soothe frazzled emotions with the softness, the tenderness of mindful
6. Connect with your favorite people and talk to a grown-up
Even if your children are some of your favourite people, do yourself a favor and have an adult-to-adult, peer-to-peer, grown-up conversation with someone over the age of 18. It might be someone at the local store, a parent at school or child care, or a close friend.
Be seen and connect with someone who can talk about what is going on in the world outside of diapers, toilet training and food preferences and refresh and recharge another part of you.
7. Absorb what is good
Do you know about the negativity bias of the brain? Our brain is built for survival, not happiness, so its “default mode” is to scan for problems that need fixing—because to our cave man brain, any problem could be a threat to our survival. That’s the negativity bias.
What to do to stop descending into “problem saturation?”
Deliberately notice and absorb what is good. You could call it mindful gratitude—because if we don’t mindfully tune in and notice what is good, it will pass us by and we miss out on a powerful multi-vitamin for our psychological well-being.
So go ahead and scan your life, your day and your environment for what is good and soak it up like a sponge.
8. Go outside
There are certain stages of motherhood that can give you cabin fever. Without realizing it, you can spend day after day indoors, collapsing into bed at night without having seen the sun or sky at all.
But on the days where you get outside it literally feels like a breath of fresh air and all by itself. Vitamin D, moving our bodies, lifting our eyes to the horizon and being part of the world again is something we can easily make part of our self-care regime
9. Stop multi-tasking
Remember that overwhelm of too much to do, constant interruptions and never finishing anything? It can be so tempting to multi-task, but this is one of sources of stress in a mother’s day. We can’t actually DO two things at once so we are really constantly switching tasks, which is exhausting.
10. Accept worry
Huh? Isn’t worry bad for us? Well yes, there isn’t really anything helpful about worry, even though sometimes we kid ourselves that it is planning and preparation, not worrying that we are doing.
So why accept worry? Because the best way to soothe that cave man brain of ours that is searching for threats and problems to worry about is to accept whatever we are feeling, even if what we are feeling is worried.
If we can accept that we are worried and send ourselves the kindness and support we would send a dear friend, then we can move more peacefully and easily to something more helpful than worry. But if we fight it, we are layering on more distress and self criticism for something that is not really our fault—something that our brain is hardwired to do.
The best way to “unhook” the pull of worries is to accept and soothe them. Then deliberately take action to fix the source of the worry—or change the channel of our brain to something more helpful—like absorbing the good.
11. Register that self-care is not selfish
Somewhere along the line we absorbed the message from our culture, our community, our family, even the media, that caring for our children meant putting ourselves last.
And yet at the same time we know that we are much better at mothering when we are happy, rested and cared for ourselves. We know that we need to put on our own oxygen mask before we can help our children with theirs—but still we put ourselves last. We cannot pour from an empty cup.
But unless we fully let it sink in that taking care of ourselves is not selfish, we will slowly but surely fall to the bottom of our own list of things to do….and all around us will suffer. Our children, our partner, ourselves. Enough said.
12. Hug your partner, hug your child
Want to know the easiest way to get that magic feel-good hormone oxytocin pumping through your body? Have a 20 second hug with someone.
I suggest your partner and your child because then you all get more bang for your buck. I often joke to clients that they should go home to the person of their choice and say that their psychologist has prescribed multiple 20 second hugs per day this week—just to bring a light-hearted ring to the whole process.
Seriously. Give it a try. I bet it will bring a smile to your dial and quickly become a family tradition. If you can keep happily hugging for 20 seconds, even if you all get the giggles, you will never look back.