If you heard me say “life is full” you’d know exactly what I meant right? For most people, their day-to-day lives are jam-packed with to-do lists, emails, appointments, running kids around, trying to manage a home, to eat well, to work out, launch their side hustle, and on and on it goes!
You already know that self-care is important, and in fact, a necessary part of a healthy and balanced life. And especially in your role as “mom”, you’re clearly aware that your self-care needs are the first to drop off the priority list when lift gets hectic … which is probably all the time.
Now, when I talk about self-care I’m not referring to mani-pedis and facials.
Self-care is not extravagant. It’s not frilly or luxurious. It’s not even expensive. Well, it doesn’t have to be at least. And even though it’s often thought of as an “extra” or “if I have time I’ll get to it”, self-care is actually the most important thing you can do as a mom to keep balance… and your sanity.
Reset the Meaning of Self-Care
So first of all, can we all reset our understanding of what self-care really is? Just ask yourself the simple question: what do I need in order to feel cared for and comforted, and how can I do this for myself?
For moms, this often comes down to the most basic needs, like eating nutritious food, moving your body, sleeping well, stimulating your mind, processing emotions, and finding some quality interpersonal connections that aren’t your kids!.
Self-care is about tending to all parts of you, including your mind, body, spirit, and relationships.
It’s about checking in with yourself on each of those levels, understanding which areas need more energy, and how to actually meet those needs. It’s unique to YOU.
The Reality You Know All Too Well
But here’s the challenge: especially during those early years with your kids, your needs take the back seat.
And honestly, I think this is natural and not necessarily a bad thing.
Your life feels out of balance because it is out of balance. Never in your life will another little human need you to the extent that young kiddos do!
But just remember… it’s temporary.
Now as a mom (and therapist) who get’s how hard this is, I certainly won’t tell you flippantly that you need to focus more energy on you. To be honest, I’m not sure that if a therapist told me to “do more self-care” I would have given it much thought… it never seemed realistic.
In my mind, there was absolutely no way there was time in the day to do anything for myself.
Self-Care As An Item On The To-Do List
You see, I used to view self care as another item on the to-do list that I just didn’t have time for, likely because I always failed at it.
Somehow I had this idea that I could make self-care a central part of my life virtually overnight, but all this did was brought me more stress knowing how brutally I was taking care of myself.
Why can’t I just take these vitamins?
How hard is 30 minutes of exercise a day?
Why do I keep staying up so late?
Why do I drink so much coffee? What’s wrong with me?
We often set the bar too high, expecting monumental change to happen almost overnight and then loathe ourselves when we fail “yet again.”
And if we equate self-care to another chore on the to-do list (like I had been doing) then it’s unlikely to get done. We might even actively avoid it just like that laundry pile in the corner.
Are chores motivating? Exciting? Calming and fulfilling?
Do they let you recharge your energy, calm your system, and feel better? Maybe… but probably not.
Aim Low . Like Really Low
So here’s my first suggestions to help you make self-care part of your everyday life: stop setting such lofty goals that make you feel badly about yourself!
Now this might be strange to read and certainly counter to what you’ve probably learned, but what if you lowered your standards? Could you consider creating small and do-able goals rather than shooting so high and ultimately setting yourself up for disappointment?
Not only will you avoid feeling so terribly about yourself, you’re also more likely to create a habit when you smart small (it’s science, apparently).
Reduce coffee instead of cutting it out …
Workout twice a week rather than think somehow 6 days a week is realistic …
Write for just a few minutes in your journal each day.
Eat something, anything, green every day.
Ask yourself, “What is simple and doable?”
Double Dip With Your Time
The other key to easily weave self-care into your life as a busy mom is to double dip with your time rather than add more to your plate.
If we are so damn good at multitasking (cuz we are, right?), then multi-task the heck out of self-care. Can you do something for yourself while you are going about your normal day?
For example, maybe you put on your favourite music when cooking dinner and give your ears a break from the kid-tunes you’ve so kindly rocked all day for your little ones.
Let’s say you’ve been wanting to start a gratitude journal. What if you got into the habit of writing a few things down every morning at the breakfast table while you sit with the kids? You could even make gratitude more of a family practice or ritual during dinner time.
What if you learned a simple visualization that you could do every day in the shower? Here’s an idea: My favourite is to imagine the water rinsing off everything that I don’t want or need to be carrying around with me that day. It might be frustration, self-judgement, worry, regret … just imagine the water taking it all away. Then, focusing on what you want to carry with you throughout the day (like ease, calm, positivity) washing over every inch of you. Ahhh, so good 😉
And my personal favourite for moms of younger kiddos: hang on to naps or quiet time as long as you can. Teaching your kids the value of resting the body and mind for an hour in the afternoon is a beautiful lesson, and then see if you can take that time to dive into a book or do something just for you.
Oh, and also. If you want to escape on Instagram, that’s okay. That’s self-care (to a degree) in my books as long as it feels like rest/entertainment/enjoyable.
Make Self-Care So Easy
What I want to illustrate is that self-care doesn’t have to be a huge monumental gesture of self-love, and it doesn’t have to cause stress or take up time that you certainly don’t have.
I encourage you to be creative and find ways that you can sneak self-care into to you daily family routine so that it doesn’t cost you even more time and energy.
Re-learning how to prioritize yourself takes practice. By becoming a parent, you shifted your focus and finite energy to your children and this inevitably leaves less for you.
Your job now is to renegotiate how you fit into the equation. Start right now by thinking of just one small way to send yourself some of the love you so rightfully deserve.
You know what it’s like to feel as though you’re barely hanging on to all the million-and-one things you have to take care of? If you drop just one ball, they all come crashing down (or so it seems, at least).
Now, there may not be an obvious way to simplify your life or de-stress (and no… I won’t tell you to just take a bath or meditate) but, there are ways to calm your nervous system so that allllll the things you manage don’t suck you into a permanent state of stress and overwhelm.
Cuz that’s no fun.
Ultimately, when you’re operating on high alert (as you probably are almost all the time) your body’s in a constant state of readiness… remember learning about fight or flight in high school science?
To put it simply, when you’re stressed out, your nervous system prepares itself as if you’re under attack by some seriously threatening outside force (like a tiger), when in reality, it’s just that you’ve got too many things on your to-do list that day.
Or maybe the barista is painfully slow.
Or maybe your boss had a bad day and they truly do resemble an angry tiger… idk?
Your poor nervous system … working so hard to keep you safe not knowing that you’re actually fine (I mean, you’re likely not running from a wild human-eating animal). But regardless of the perceived source or seriousness of threat, your entire system feels stress on a deep level.
And this high-alert space you hang out in too often is doing a number on your physical, emotional, spiritual, and mental well-being.
So how do you calm your nervous system, then? Here’s 9 realistic tips to calm your system when you’re overwhelmed.
10 Best Ways To Manage Overwhelm
1. Watch your pace.
Rushing is very stressful, it throw your energetic pace all out of whack!
Essentially, when you rush around from task to task, you send a message to your brain that there’s a problem and to send help! In comes your nervous system to get your body fired up to manage the “stress” (along with a cocktail of stress hormones). This kind of stress is cumulative, so take this to heart if you always seems to be running late.
Give yourself some extra time, take some things off your plate, or alternatively, let go of the need to be promptly on time for everything. If you are late, take a breath and try to put things into perspective, letting go of any guilt you’ve gathered along the way.
2. Do Nothing.
Seriously! Be open to stillness, silence, nothingness, and un-productivity. Let go of the need to always be getting something done. In fact for some people, doing nothing is harder than doing something! When you give yourself permission to take a break and be still, you cue your body to let it’s defences down and your nervous system can relax for a while.
3. Have Fun.
Get back to your joy, whatever that looks like for you.
Somehow we’ve learned to take ourselves so seriously and lost the pure magic of play, silliness, and good old fun, as though these are reserved for childhood. But interestingly, we’re learning more and more about the value of having fun in support of good mental and physical health.
And come on, fun just feels good doesn’t it?
So ask yourself, what fills you up? How can you reconnect with joy and invite more positive energy into your world? And if nothing jumps out at you, then is there something you’ve thought about trying in the past that you could make happen this week?
4. Get Your Priorities Straight.
This is all about boundaries. What do you really want to spend your time doing? What parts of your life add the most value?
Now, of course there’s things you simply must do as an adult, like clean up after yourself, do laundry, earn some kind of income. But I’d bet there are other things taking up your valuable time and mental resources that aren’t really paying you back.
Think about those conversations you have that aren’t fulfilling. The time lost on social media, that event you said “yes” to even though your heart wasn’t into it. When you’re overwhelmed, you need to get ruthless about your time and energy, and only spend it where you get value back.
5. Clean Up.
Outer order = inner calm … heard that before?
You might have found yourself with the sudden urge to clean and organize during your most stressed times, and this actually makes perfect sense! When your external world is chaotic, it’s adds to the sense of overwhelm within you.
When you focus some energy on eliminating the outside chaos, you’ll feel yourself settling as well. Just make sure you don’t let your sudden cleaning urges get in the way of important things you need to take care of (like sleeping… or getting your work done).
6. Move Your Body.
No, you don’t need to do a huge workout or go for a run, but just move.
Do something. Stretch, dance, go for a brisk walk. And take note of how your mood feels during and afterwards. What usually happens is you get a little endorphin hit (you body’s natural feel-good chemical) once you move your body that will help ease your overwhelm and feel more balanced.
7. Accept The Struggle.
One truth that so many of us try to deny is that suffering is inevitable. To be human is to suffer because we have these things called emotions. And the hard part about emotions is that you can’t pick or choose which one’s you get.
Most of us know what every single emotion feel like! We know grief, jealousy, anger and rage, fear, sadness, guilt, worry, frustration, disappointment. Welcome to being a human. Darn, hey?
If you can find a way to accept that sometimes, you’re just going to be in the muck, you’ll find a little bit of peace while you’re there. Instead of working so hard to change your situation (when often you simply can’t), you’ll surrender and avoid taking on more negative feelings when you realize you can’t just run away.
Usually, emotions pass whether or not you try to change them. They move, they change, they get easier then harder again. So try to surrender if you can.
8. Hang Out In Nature.
Just trust me, get outside. Not only do your senses come alive, but you get a break from your mental busy-ness when you step out into the elements and pay attention to what’s there.
Focus (on purpose) on what you see, hear, smell, feel, taste. Make a mental note of how everything looks a bit different with each passing day. When you tune into your senses in this way, your nervous system has an opportunity to relax and settle. Noticing your senses brings you out of your mental stress and into your body where the relaxation and grounding happens.
9. Practice Self-Compassion
You’re reading this because you want you feel better, and because you value personal growth and development, right? You want to learn how to manage overwhelm so you can get back to joy! And these are all good things! You’re a self-helper!
Where we tend to get in our own way, though, is with pervasive and ruthless self-criticism.
Why can’t I keep everything tidy?
Other people have it way harder than me and I can‘t even manage this!
There goes another day without going to the gym, I’m so lazy.
Somehow we’ve learned that self-criticism is deserved and that magically it’ll motivate us to change. And quite frankly, both of those ideas are just wrong.
Would you ever criticize a friend who was struggling with the exact same challenges that you’re going through? No.
If someone calls you names like lazy and useless, does that inspire you to work hard? Hell no.
The truth is, self-criticism is like a catalyst for overwhelm and makes the experience feel so much worse. I want you to consider the way you’d treat your best friend when she’s having a hard time: how would you speak to her? How would you validate her?
Then, catch yourself being self-critical, remind yourself that it’s not actually helpful, and try replacing those criticisms with kindness and understanding.
By the way, I have FREE mini-course that’s all about your inner critic and creating positive self-talk that actually supports you (imagine that?). You can learn more about that here or click the image below.
FREE Mini Course!
Click the image above to learn more about the free course and how managing your inner critic can help you deal with overwhelm and stress!
What’s one tip that you think you’ll start integrating today? Let me know in the comments below!