Do you have those friends who read three books a week, do yoga before work, take long evening walks with their partner, and can't stop talking about how great meditation is for your mental health? Yes, me too...and they don't have children.
As a mother of a 5 year old and a toddler, I have this conversation with most of my friends a lot.
Yes, I should be practicing self-care...but when on earth would I?
We all KNOW as parents how important it is to take care of ourselves. When we can stay connected to our own well-being, it overflows onto our children and we're more patient, loving, joyful parents. However, knowing and doing are completely different things.
Between drop-off, and work, and pick-up, and soccer, and dinner, and bedtime, and sleep (well, we'll call it sleep), when on earth do we find the time or energy to run...or bike...or stretch...or meditate...or really do anything for ourselves? I personally get caught in a constant cycle of I should, I will, and I didn't today. Maybe tomorrow. Maybe on Sunday. Maybe next Sunday.
The reality is that the struggle is real. It's hard. But, at the end of the day you are better for it, and your kids will be better for it too.
To get you started, here are 45 self-care ideas that can help you unwind in under an hour. Some are big, some are small, but all of them are doable.
1. Take time to dream about you.
Taking time to think about yourself will boost your self-confidence and trust in your own abilities. This is a must when doing the hardest job in the world — being a parent. So, set some time aside and settle into the idea that you are amazing!
2. Get a massage
Who is going to argue with this one? The benefits of massage are overwhelming, and research shows regular massage will reduce stress and anxiety AND help you sleep — umm, sleep? No one should have to tell a tired mom that statistic more than once. If you need more reason that that, check out 9 Healthy Reasons to Make an Appointment Today.
3. Go to yoga
Yes, we love to hang out in our yoga pants whenever we can, but actually DOING yoga is great for you too! Yoga is a wonderful way to get in your "me time" while also reaping benefits for your body and mind. Need some ideas on where to get started? Seek out local Yoga studios, or start at home with a few beneficial poses like these: 5 Great Yoga Poses for New Moms.
Meditation can have an impact on many areas of your life including helping to decrease stress, better manage your emotions, let go of mental distractions, and be more present and attentive with your kids.The bonus? Teaching your kids a skill like meditation early in their lives will have major benefits for them later in life too. Although finding time for daily practice may see overwhelming, it's so worth the time. Find a meditation practice that fits your schedule and vibe—there are many free online options and apps to help you get started.
5. Declutter something
Clutter can have a psychological impact on parents, which in turn can adversely affect their kids. Who needs more things sucking our brain power and energy, when we already have tiny humans working their hardest to do that? This doesn't mean you have to get rid of everything, but streamlining and getting rid of junk can drastically reduce stress and even take some checkboxes off of your to-do list. Get inspired by reading 'How getting rid of 'stuff' saved my motherhood.'
Let's face it, we are way too attached to our devices. Don't miss out on life! Find out why it's important to unplug, and the benefits it can have in your life.
7. Take deep breaths at a stop light
This is a way to sneak in meditation with no excuses for lack of time. Don't check Facebook — take a few deep breaths and focus on the present. Check in with yourself in the nooks and crannies of your day, and you will feel better for it!
8. Get a manicure or pedicure
Self-care with instant results! There is no denying that a little pampering will make you feel good.
Another opportunity to be still, reflect, and take care of your body. Carrying your little one around too much? Stretching loosens your muscles which relieves muscle fatigue and increases blood flow. Need more proof? Here are 7 Incredible Results You Can Get From Stretching Every Day.
10. Choose a healthy snack
Eating healthy has a wealth of benefits, but don't feel bad for that drive-through meal from last night when you were exhausted. Start fresh and reap the benefits today by choosing something with whole grains or healthy fats. Nutritious snacks can help with weight and improve your overall health.
11. Go for a walk or run
Self-care requires that we take a daily preventative approach to the care of our bodies. What does that more than exercise? Bonus? More time to yourself. Stuck in the house during nap time? Check out this Easy 10 Minute Workout for Busy Moms.
12. Just be still
It only takes a minute. Look around and notice your surroundings. Take a breath — and there you go. Yes, we're sneaking meditation practice into your busy day again...you won't regret it.
13. Find the sun and warm up in it
Not only does this feel amazing, it has benefits such as soaking up essential vitamin D. Scientists at the Norwegian Institute for Air Research have created a calculator to tell you how much time you need to get the right amounts of vitamin D — but feel free to splurge!
It's TRUE, laughter is the best medicine.
15. Call a friend you haven't talked to in awhile
Self-care is about connection with yourself, but don't forget that connecting with others is good for your soul too!
16. Write in a journal
Writing requires mindfulness. Journaling helps balance emotions, and requires you to set time aside to think and dream. Believe it or not, it has many health benefits, and bonus — you can write down all of those amazing things your little ones say that you never want to forget (and you will.) Grab a journal like this one and get writing.
17. Help someone
Donate to the food bank, help an elderly friend with their groceries, mow your neighbor's lawn. Believe it or not, helping others has been shown to make people happier, and let's be honest—it feels great. Plus, generosity is contagious — so just a little goes a long way!
18. Make a connection with someone you don't know
Connections open up a world of possibilities. What better gift can you give yourself than the opportunity for something great? Maybe it's a career shift, maybe a new mom friend (we know how hard those are to find). So take a leap and put yourself first by stepping outside of your comfort zone and making a new connection.
19. Plan a vacation
You may not be basking in the sun or getting couples massage yet—but you can think about it, and science says that may give you the boost you need until it's time to hit the beach—or slopes, or mountains. According to an article in the New York Times, a study showed that a large boost in happiness comes from the simple act of planning a vacation.
20. Watch the sunset
Nature is beautiful—soak it in. Take time to think about the passing day, and practice gratitude for what you have encountered in your journey today.
21. Watch the sunrise
Set your intentions for the day. Do you want to be more patient today? Do you want to try something new? Setting intentions requires time for inner reflection, and a chance to start new daily, despite what happened yesterday. Not sure of your intentions today? Here are 30 Intention Setting Prompts to get you started.
Whether you want to learn something new, or just be taken away for awhile, reading helps reduce stress and brain fog. So, work that most important muscle in your body! Can't find time? Here are a few ideas to sneak in reading time for busy moms.
23. Cook your favorite meal
Okay, this might just sound like more work, and, maybe it is — but do it for you! Scrap the family orders and make something that you love. Take time to soak in the aromas, enjoy the quiet time chopping and prepping, and reap the benefits of a healthy, delicious meal.
24. Listen to your favorite song (or album)
According to Neuropsychologist Daniel Levitin's research, music can positively alter brain chemistry, and boost chemicals in our brain that support things like immunity. Plus, how do you not get happy when you hear your favorite song?
25. Practice gratitude
The benefits are endless. Research by UC Davis psychologist Robert Emmons shows that simply keeping a gratitude journal can increase well-being and life satisfaction. Really, there is science behind it!
26. Get rid of clothes that are old or don't fit
Believe it or not, your wardrobe could be dragging you down. A study in Fashion Theory Journal found that 85% of women keep things in their closets that don't fit. Take some lessons from the KonMari Decluttering Method, and get rid of old items that you haven't worn in years.
27. Just breathe
Are you catching on to a theme? In case you aren't convinced, here is some scientific information on why your brain needs more downtime.
28. Paint or color
Jump in with your little, or get your own coloring book — coloring is trendy and it's great for you! Plus, it's a great time to bond with your child. Feeling childish? Find out why coloring is so great for your mental health.
29. Drink water
60% to 70% of your total body weight is made up of water, so it's not hard to understand why this is good for your health. Pregnant? Are you breastfeeding? Now your water consumption has an impact on your little one too. Drinking water can also help with your skin, fight fatigue, protect your muscles, help with achy joints, and more!
30. Hire a sitter and do whatever you want
I'm not going to elaborate on this one, you know "me" time is good for you. Schedule time just for you to do whatever you want, and don't get caught running for groceries or catching up on housework. If you're feeling lost, take this time to do a few items on this list!
Motherhood mode can take over and make you feel in a constant spin to keep up. Slow down, trust yourself, and take time to align your highest priorities and your to-do list. Take time to consider what must be done, what should be done, and what can wait...and focus on the things that matter most!
32. Ask for help
You've seen it, you may even be one—moms don't ask for help. But asking for help doesn't make you anything less than a superhero. And, the truth is, we generally are least likely to ask for help when we need it the most.
33. Plant flowers
Gardening can reduce stress, clear your mind, and help you sleep better. Add in the benefits of getting extra vitamin D from above, and you have a great cocktail for a happy mommy.
34. Go to bed early
Moms are notorious for not getting enough sleep. This can have an incredibly negative impact on your health and well-being. Can't get to bed on time? Here are a few additional tips on how to combat new mom sleep deprivation.
35. Create a quiet space and go there
In today's constantly connected world, finding time along has become a lost art. But, creating some time for solitude can have major benefits for your health.
36. Take a long shower or bath
More time for yourself is good for all of the reasons above. Put the kids to bed and take a minute (or twenty) to relax, reflect, and rejuvenate for the day ahead. Solitude can change your brain in amazing ways.
37. Shop for yourself (no kid clothes allowed)
When is the last time you actually did this? And no, I don't mean a last minute ad- on to the Amazon Prime diaper order you placed last week. It doesn't have to be big, but it has to be for you.
38. Get a beauty treatment
As moms we take care of everyone else before ourselves. Sometimes that means forgetting to shave, or letting your eyebrows grow uncontrollably across your face. So get a wax treatment (if that's your thing), book a quick facial or get your hair done. Your children think you are beautiful no matter what, but sometimes the littlest things can make us feel beautiful again.
39. Listen to an energizing podcast
Podcasts are a great way to stay connected, learn something new, or just be entertained. Listen during the mundane tasks of your day. Here are a few ideas for parenting podcasts to get you started. Or, want to build on your self-care practice, here are a few podcasts on becoming your best self.
40. Visit your favorite museum
Museums are a great way to learn something new, get inspired, and to share something you love with your children. Stimulate your own mental juices, and be an awesome mom at the same time by hitting a local museum on a rainy afternoon.
41. Take a community education class
Take time to nurture your mind by learning a new skill or taking on a hobby. Often moms feel guilty for taking time out of the day to do something on their own, but stepping out of toddler talk to time with adults can keep us sane. We promise, it's not selfish to take care of yourself!
In the shower, in the car, on a kid-made stage in your living room—singing has a ton of benefits like reducing stress and releasing muscle tension. It's a fun and energizing way to improve your well-being. Add in a little air guitar and your kids will think you are awesome.
43. Have coffee with a good friend
It's easy to feel isolated in this incredible journey of motherhood. Your friendships are so essential to your spirit during this time in life when you will be stretched to your limits. Take time to nurture your friendships by getting together with a good friend sans kids, and focus on your friendships that will get you through this crazy life!
44. Acknowledge and release your stress
Another short meditation practice that you can do anywhere, any time, and even in the heat of the moment. It will help you be a more present person, and a more mindful parent. See crazy coming? Stop, identify, and release! Find more tips on reducing stress in just two minutes a day.
45. Revel in the absolute joy of being a parent
Kiss your babies, smell their heads, dance with them to crazy music Because it's the most amazing, important, impactful thing you will ever do, and you are awesome at it!
My message to you, new parents and pros... make time. You are important. It doesn't have to be all or nothing! Do little things every day that take care of you. Maybe just start by doing one a day, maybe you do as many as you can. It's called practice for a reason and it doesn't have to be perfect. Start today, and make yourself a priority now and every day after.