I remember this moment so vividly. It was an "A-ha" moment that shifted my inner world and had an incredible ripple effect on my experience of Motherhood.
Avery was three weeks old. It was the first week of being on my own. My husband John had returned to work. It's early morning, and I'm standing in the kitchen making myself breakfast. An overwhelming experience of feeling so humbled washed over me.
I found so much joy in being able to make myself a warm breakfast - and the following realisation clicked;
"More than ever, I have to make self-care a priority - as this determines the rest of my day.".
Before Avery, I took for granted simple things like being able to make breakfast, going for a walk for fresh air and being in nature, having a shower, reading before bed, and even journaling. These little things are not so little when we become parents.
True self-care is the practice of cultivating daily habits that contribute to nourishing our mind, body, and spirit.
When our mind, body, and spirit are nourished and in alignment - we can give from the overflow.
We perceive the challenges that arise in parenthood with an open heart and soul. We are more patient with the journey of learning to be a parent, we are more compassionate when we fall short, and we are kinder to ourselves.
So how do you make time for self-care when you're either on your own; or your significant other has a demanding job, or help is unavailable?
It is possible. Let's explore some simple self-care habits that cultivate and nourish mind, body, and spirit - that will make all the difference to your experience of parenthood, and life.
Your thoughts matter. What you think about and how you feel has a direct influence on your actions, your words, and how you react to the challenges around you.
When we don't have the physical support in raising a family, it is easy to be hijacked by heightened emotions.
We potentially believe we are stuck versus we feel stuck at this moment. We are possibly convinced that we are not cut out for this parenting gig versus being compassionate to our learning journey and the season that the family going through.
Here are three ways you can start to cultivate self-care for your mind:
1. Start noticing your self-talk and start guarding your relationship to yourself
Does your self-talk empower you or disempower you? Are you your own best friend, or are you your own worst critic?
If negative self-talk is a habit, I invite you to challenge this habit. It will be hard at first, so bring compassion and kindness to yourself. Let go of judging your self-judgement.
I want you to imagine your child 21 years from now; how would you want their self-talk to be? Children learn from what we do, not from what we say.
When you make a mistake, I invite you to forgive yourself - and ask; "What can I learn from this?"
If you're feeling spent, I invite you to give yourself some grace.
Your relationship with yourself can be a beautiful love affair, or it can be an abusive and destructive relationship. Your self-talk matters.
2. Give yourself the opportunity to be inspired
Paul Smith has a beautiful book called; "You can find inspiration in everything, if you can't look again".
We have the power to train our minds. We are blessed to live in a time where knowledge is at our fingertips.
We can feed our mind inspiration via listening to a podcast, watching a YouTube channel, or reading an empowering blog post.
Have a podcast play in the background at home or in the car, swap aimlessly surfing the internet (including social media) for some empowering reading.
Feed your mind in a way that will add value to how you think and the experience of feeling expansive. Allow yourself to be inspired.
This also includes noticing the type of conversations that you engage in and that are around you - if they aren't inspiring or you don't feel expansive - take charge. Shift the conversation.
Inspiration is a muscle. In gifting yourself the opportunity to be inspired, you'll perceive the circumstances around you from a more "inspired" outlook.
3. Have a powerful go-to mantra
One of the biggest challenges of Motherhood was waking up frequently to breastfeed when Avery was going through a "leap" or mental development. He would wake up every hour or two. My mantra for that first year was; "Today, is a brand new day".
This mantra was placed in the corner of our Vision Board and made all the difference. The night may have been tough, and I was reminded in the morning, that today, this is a brand new day, with brand new moments that I have never experienced before.
I had a choice - I could carry the events of the previous evening into the gift of a brand new day, or I could welcome the new day with an open heart.
Find a mantra or a "go-to" quote that will serve you through this season of parenthood. By directing your mind to pay attention to this mantra, you are taking charge of your mind's focus. What we focus on, expands.
Your body is a powerful vessel. Too often, we take it for granted. Your body is in constant communication with you - it tells you when it's stressed, it tells you when it's tired, it tells you when it needs a time-out. It equally shares with you when it's feeling alive and vital.
How we nourish our bodies is directly correlated to how energised we feel about life. It is easy to fall victim to neglecting our bodies when we have no help in looking after the little ones - and it is more important than ever to nurture and nourish this powerful vessel so it can serve us.
Here are three ways you can start to cultivate self-care for your body:
1. Take a walk in nature
Children love nature. We all do. When we are in nature, and we take the time to allow ourselves to be in awe, to feel the sun, to witness the blue sky, to watch the leaves dance in the wind - we are inviting peace into our bodies.
Nature is healing, soothing, and therapeutic.
Being in nature and taking your children out to be in nature has proven to impact our wellbeing and have a positive impact on our mood. Our overactive minds are given an opportunity to calm down.
If you are the primary caretaker, make an effort to take your children in nature - it is both beneficial for them and you.
When you are in nature, allow yourself to soak up the awe - and let Mother Nature work her magic to heal, soothe, and restore your physical self.
2. Nourish your body with eating well and being well hydrated
Your energy levels are directly correlated to how you feel physically. How you feel physically is heavily dependant on how well you eat and your hydration levels.
During the week - eat well, and keep hydrated. This doesn't mean you can't indulge here and there - Have that be the exception rather than the norm.
When we feel we have no-time, or when we are running on empty, we are more likely to either skip meals or eat on-the-go and consume unhealthy food.
Start breaking the habit one meal at a time. Start with breakfast. Create a rhythm for eating a healthy and delicious breakfast - and gift yourself the time to eat it. It doesn't have to be lavish or complicated.
Once you have mastered breakfast, move onto lunch, and then dinner.
Being conscious of what you feed your body will help you feel empowered and expansive.
3. Sleep earlier
I know, you're craving that "me-time". After a full day of children climbing all over you and feeling spent, you want time to yourself that you can watch and do whatever you want. That reprieve from being a parent.
You want to stay up late, to aimlessly surf social media or do whatever it is you want... except it is a vicious cycle.
You'll wake up tired and spent, "surviving" the day, then staying up late for that "me" time. You're running on empty.
The irony is this - when you're running on empty, and you're giving from empty - this is when you're going to crave "me-time" and compromise sleeping earlier.
However, when you are nourished in mind, body, and spirit - and you're giving from the overflow; you value and respect your body's needs. Sleep is one of those needs.
If you're serious about self-care for your body, start getting interested in being well-rested and cultivating a healthy relationship to sleep. Your body is powerful - and it is only as powerful to the extent it feels rejuvenated and restored.
Your spirit is your connection to yourself. It is our sense of worthiness, our sense of belonging, our sense of connection, and our contribution to the world.
When we are connected to our spirit - we feel alive. We feel purposeful. We feel that our life has meaning, and we matter.
In cultivating self-care habits for our mind and body, we create a foundation to unleash the connection to our spirit.
Here are three ways you can start to cultivate self-care for your spirit:
1. Practice Gratitude
Gratitude shifts everything. Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life - and no matter what the circumstance, whatever challenges we are facing, it is possible to find something to be grateful for.
There is a lesson to be found in every challenge.
Developing a gratitude practice contributes to opening up our hearts. When we start opening up our hearts, we move our focus from not being enough, not having enough, not supported enough to acknowledging our strength, our courage, and embracing our humanity.
Gratitude contributes to compassion and kindness for ourselves - which leads to compassion and kindness for others.
We can be grateful for the time we have for this precious time with our children; we can be grateful for our partner/ spouse who is providing for the family; we can be grateful for the air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we get to eat; we can be grateful for our heart, lungs and this magnificent body that's doing its best to support us.
Find something to be grateful for every morning when you wake up and before you go to bed. Share it with your partner/ spouse and your children.
Meditation is about bringing awareness - and it is a learned skill.
When we meditate, we are paying attention to our breath, we are paying attention to the thoughts that consume our mind, and we are paying attention and hearing what our mind/ body are telling us.
The more we meditate, the more awareness we bring into our daily lives. When circumstances are exceptional - it is easy to be great.
When circumstances are challenging, as they can be when we feel alone in looking after the little ones - it requires a certain strength and willpower to be great.
By learning how to be aware of our internal dialogue and our reactions, we hold the power on how we show up in our daily life.
3. Bring the joy
Brendan Burchard is one of my favourite teachers and mentors - and he has a powerful mantra: "Bring the joy!". He says, "Intentionally decide to make that situation or that place you're going, better. Why not try and challenge yourself to be responsible for bringing good energy?"
Our spirit has the power to "bring the joy!".
This is the caveat - It has to come from an authentic place.
This isn't about perfection, and it isn't about "disguising" your feelings or ignoring when you are genuinely feeling spent and need a break.
Whatever you're dealing with, rate yourself on a scale of 1-10; how much joy do I feel right now? Then ask, what could I bring to make it one or two points more?
Bringing the joy can be turning on some music and having a dance-off with your children, bringing the joy can be having a karaoke session in the car - even if it's to "The Wheels on the Bus!".
Self-care in parenting is often perceived as a luxury or something that takes a lot of time and money - and is limited to the lucky few.
When you are a single parent or are on your own with your children for most of the time - self-care can occur even more elusive!
All the above suggestions defy the notion that self-care is a luxury, that it takes a lot of time and money, and that it is limited to the lucky few.
As a parent, we are committed to showing up as best we can for our children - we all want to be the best parent we can be that is calm, understanding, and patient...and we are seeking fulfilment within.
It starts with showing up for ourselves and doing the inner-work.
When we are nourished in mind, body, and spirit - we can give from the overflow.
When we give from the overflow, we have a higher chance of being patient with our children as they learn to navigate and understand the world around them, we have a higher chance of being compassionate to their journey of being human, and we are more likely to respond with more kindness when things don't go our way, or there is conflict with our children.
When we show-up this way as a parent - and we practice compassion and kindness, we love ourselves that little bit more. This is the seed of greatness.
Start where you are. Self-care is all about progress, not perfection. It is a journey of learning to be your own best friend.
I hope you make time for yourself - and give yourself some love and care.