Here’s the thing: I’ve been dealing with depression/anxiety for the past several years, and I know that self care is vital.
But as a depressed/anxious person who is also a mom, I heard a lot of definitions of self-care being thrown around, MOST of which were ultra-vague and unhelpful. Advocates of mommy-self-care would usually phrase it something like this: “As moms, we sacrifice so much for our kids that sometimes we forget about our own needs and only focus on our kids’ needs.” And then they would go on to give self-care examples like “taking time for yourself”, “giving yourself the spa treatment”, “making sure you’re still going out and doing things you did before kids”, or even worse, “exercise and eat healthy so you can get your body back”.
Self care can ABSOLUTELY be allll of those things, but hang with me for a second.
Here’s what happened to me.
I would hear people’s vague definitions and think, “Okay, so self-care means time to myself.” But, being a depressed mom, I would immediately reject that idea, because I already felt guilty about how little actual time I was spending with my kids. My days mostly consisted of laying in bed on my phone while the kids watched TV in the other room. Sometimes I would make food for them. Sometimes I wouldn’t. (And they would just eat whatever snacks were lying around or pour themselves a bowl of cereal. They’re pretty self-sufficient.)
I was also working as a Zumba instructor, teaching 4 nights a week, spending “time away from my kids”. So then I would go into a shame spiral, thinking that I was doing too much self-care. I thought I was selfish.
What I didn’t realize was that my avoidant behaviors (laying in bed and watching Netflix/YouTube for hours every day) weren’t self-care. But don’t get me wrong, Netflix and YouTube can TOTALLY be self care. That’s not the point.
I believe self-care can and needs to be so much more.
I’m not trying to tell you what you should and shouldn’t do for self-care. I just think we need to remember what the term is actually about.
SELF. CARE. Taking CARE of yourSELF.
That means that you don’t need someone to tell you “how” to do it, nor does one person’s definition have to be your definition. Only YOU can know what kind of self-care YOU need. And it might not be what you think!
Some things that I’ve been doing for self-care lately are:
- calling my doctor to make an appointment to be evaluated for possible medication needs
- going on a walk for ten minutes
- doing stretches every few hours to offset the damage of sitting/laying down all day
- eating foods that sound good to me
- taking breaks throughout the day to do something I’m good at
- setting timers to remind me to brush my teeth (on the alarm I typed in an affirmation that says, “I deserve to have clean teeth every day”)
- doing one small thing to connect with my children (give them a hug, offer to read them a book, etc. Very simple and straightforward.)
- listening to/playing music in moments of overwhelm instead of reaching for my phone
- dancing/moving however I want to said music
YOU decide what YOUR self-care will look like, and you can get ideas everywhere!
Your self-care may look entirely different than mine, but the point is that you can literally ask yourself, “What do you need?” If it’s been so long since you’ve asked yourself that that you don’t know the answer, here’s some good resources I found to give you ideas.
- Instagram accounts:
- @heytiffanyroe A therapist/speaker/podcast host who gives great content focusing on ending the stigma around mental illness and encouraging best mental health practices
- @mombrain.therapist Support for early motherhood from a Licensed Mental Health Counselor
- @happilyfed A nutrition therapist working to create a community encouraging intuitive eating and health at every size(haes)
- @notsafeformomgroup A stigma-free place to ask or say anything
- @hellomytribe A support community for moms to “connect, support, empower, advocate”
- Blog posts/articles:
- This Is What “Self-Care” REALLY Means, Because It’s Not All Salt Baths and Chocolate Cake by Brianna Wiest on Thought Catalog
- Self-Care 101 by Maria Baratta Ph.D, L.C.S.W. on Psychology Today
- Self-Help Techniques For Coping With Mental Illness by Emmie Pombo on the NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) website. This one is especially helpful if you feel like the standard self-care advice (exercise, eat right, sleep more/better) is overwhelming for you. This entire website is such an amazing resource.
If you’re struggling in this area too, you’re not alone. You freaking GOT this, especially if you have people around you to support and help you.
If you’ve been trying to do it yourself, ask for help. I know this gets said a lot, but really do it! Maybe it’s the best thing you can do to take care of yourself. And in the end, taking care of you is one of the BEST things that you can do.
If you liked this article, check out some of my other posts where I talk about more mental health and self-care practices!