Making Self-Care Accessible for Mums
Chartered Psychologist, author, speaker. Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire, Qualified Psychologist (Masters in Org Psych), registered yoga teacher and personal trainer
@suzyreading on both Instagram and Twitter, Facebook
When we are born a mother we need self-care like never before but it can feel more out of reach than ever. We are pressed for time, space, energy and funds, and guilt can loom large. Many of the things we used to do to nourish ourselves become inaccessible and in the squeeze of parenthood it’s so hard to find the headspace to come up with alternatives. We literally need it spelled out for us and this is where a framework can be so empowering. In this piece we are going to demystify the concept with a simple, practical definition, we’ll examine why we all need self-care, and most importantly, focus on how to make it happen, overcoming the very real barriers mothers face.
We’ve all heard of the term self-care but there is great confusion about what it means and if you find it hard to do, please know you’re in good company. There are good reasons for this – what one person finds nourishing might not resonate with another and even our own needs and preferences change over time. It’s fair to say that we all know what we need to do to feel healthy but it’s another thing to make it happen! Self-care isn’t always easy but when we have a definition to work with and a broad toolkit from which to draw, we can weave it into everyday life and see the dividends ripple out beyond us.
What is self-care?
The simplest definition is self-care is health care. It is nourishment for the head, the heart and the body. While it’s often equated with pampering, luxurious acts, let’s be honest, sometimes the real act of self-care is the last thing you feel like doing. It is not always easy but it is the nourishing action that will help you feel better. To get clear on self-care in the moment, there’s a second part of the definition that can stop self-care from becoming self-sabotage: self-care takes care of your needs in the moment and also nurtures the person that you are becoming, your ‘future self’.
Why do we need self-care?
- To help us cope during times of stress, loss and change.
- To help us heal and recover from these challenging times.
- To keep us energetically topped up, so that we are resilient and resourceful in the face of future challenges.
- To give us access to our best self. Lovingly tend to yourself with self-care and you give yourself the best possible chance of being the kind of mum you want be. Seen through this lens, the barrier of guilt might drop away. If it lingers, remind yourself that it doesn’t have to be me ‘first’, it’s just me ‘as well’ and without our health, what do we have?
- To raise resilient and compassionate kids, we need to be role modelling self-care for them and teaching them their own self-care toolkit. Even better, engage in collective self-care and boost the health, happiness and wellbeing of your family, together.
How can we build a daily self-care habit?
- Use the ‘Vitality Wheel’
A framework can help bring self-care to life, making it easy to pin down an accessible soothing practice when we need it the most. I created the Vitality Wheel for this purpose, which is informed by Positive Psychology, CBT, Mindfulness, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, Yoga philosophy and from my decade working as a personal trainer and health coach. The Vitality Wheel shows you 8 different ways that you can nourish yourself, opening your eyes to different options, helping you swiftly choose something of resonance. It is far more effective than trying to scroll through your mind when you are feeling under pressure. Even better, annotate the wheel with tools and practices that speak to you and you’ll have access to something that helps in any moment.
- Soothe your nervous system by prioritising sleep, R&R and working with your breath.
- Eat and move for physical AND mental health.
- Specific tools, like mindfulness, and skills to keep your thinking constructive.
- Harnessing the power of your environment – home, work and the skin your live in, and tapping into the therapeutic effect of Nature.
- Boosting the health of your relationships and deepening your feeling of connection.
- Skills and activities that lift the spirit.
- Creating goals that boost wellbeing and reflecting on what you’ve achieved to lift your mood.
- Connecting with what matters most in life and deepening your self-knowledge.
- ‘Micro Moments of Nourishment’
Self-care needn’t involve large investments of time. Take the ‘micro moments of nourishment’ approach and dot them through your day. Sixty seconds of being with the breath. Savouring the scent of your morning coffee. Repeating a mantra to cultivate how you want to feel. Ten minutes of soothing yoga or journaling before you go to bed. These practices are potent stress busters and will change the quality of your day, just like hitting the reboot button.
- Turn everyday actions into self-care
Become skilled in the art of mindfulness, curiosity, kindness, compassion and savouring and this will transform the lens through which you see the world. In this way we imbue everyday actions with a feeling of tenderness and care. What are you already doing that you can make more nourishing? The way you greet the day, the way in which you dress yourself, how you shower, how you eat your meals, the way you talk to yourself? These are all things we can turn into a ritual of nourishment with awareness.
- Mindful downtime
Too often we fritter away precious spare moments by scrolling on our phones, overthinking or mindless busyness. Make the most of your downtime and use the Vitality Wheel to choose something truly nourishing. Connect with how you’re feeling right now, how you’d like your ‘Future Self’ to be and take loving action.
- Make an appointment with yourself
We book our car in for an MOT without guilt: similarly, schedule time in for you. If self-care is constantly getting bumped, carve out time in the diary and make it a non-negotiable. There is rarely a ‘good’ time, we need to make time. Whether it is a solo walk, a session with your osteo or planning a date night to feed your relationship, give your nourishment the priority it deserves and book it in. Proactive self-care is better than resentment, burnout and enforced rest.
Self-care is the means by which we cope in the moment, restore and heal, boost our resilience, allowing us to be the kind of mums we aspire to be. When we see what self-care facilitates and the fact that it can be so simply integrated into daily life, the barriers of time, energy, expense and guilt genuinely drop away. Nourish you, it truly is the gift that keeps on giving.
Links to resources
Film Audio Apps
Suzy Reading soothing, accessible self-care practices perfect for mothers on my IGTV feed
Podcasts –Motherkind, Anna Mathur
The Self-Care Revolution by Suzy Reading
Self-Care for Tough Times by Suzy Reading
The Supermum Myth by Anya Hayes
The Little Book of Self-Care for New Mums by Alexis Strickland and Beccy Hands
Mind Over Mother by Anna Mathur
Mindful Mamma by Sophie Fletcher