As soon as you become a parent, your priorities shift. You’re responsible for a whole human being other than yourself, and that’s a heavy weight to carry. When your baby was tiny, you probably dropped everything to focus your energy on your bundle of oxytocin-inducing wonderfulness, and that’s the perfect response. It’s the response we’re biologically conditioned to make. The trouble is, life just keeps getting busier, there’s never any more time in the day, and daily self-care is one of those things that
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Why You Need Self-Care.
I say feels dispensable because, really, daily self-care is not dispensable. You can ignore it, but like a neglected laundry pile, or last week’s lasagne in the fridge, it will come back to bite eventually.
It doesn’t always feel this way, but, Mama, you have the most important job on the planet.
Whatever else you do in your life, you grew a tiny human, maybe more than one, and that’s nothing short of amazing.
It’s a tough job though. Maybe you’re working outside the home and trying to juggle housework and childcare and family time. Or, perhaps you’re working from home, and trying to push aside the guilt of not being fully present with your children.
Even if you’ve labelled yourself ‘just a mama’ (no such thing, btw), and you’re putting all your energy into your home and family, there are still always pulls on your time that can make everything feel difficult at times.
If you’re not taking proper care of yourself, it’s only a matter of time before burnout and
Identifying the effects of daily self-care can be tricky, because, so often, we’ll have neglected the basics for a long time before our bodies finally say, ‘Enough!’ You can’t always look back and pinpoint what you did or didn’t do that caused everything to start unravelling.
Think of daily self-care as being like housework.
You probably don’t need to clean your bathroom every day. You could skip today, and nothing bad would happen. Then, tomorrow, you could decide to just give the sink a quick wipe and ignore the rest. It would be okay, gradually getting a bit less clean and shiny, but okay nonetheless.
What about after a month, though? Two months?
Sooner or later, you’ll wake up and realise that your bathroom is suddenly an unignorable health hazard that you absolutely have to deal with Right Now.
Was it the first day of missed cleaning that caused the problem? The fifteenth? No, it was the accumulation of all those days of neglect.
Your health and wellbeing are no different. A late night here and there, or a few skipped meals won’t have any major consequences, but when self-neglect becomes your habit, you’re in trouble.
Daily Self-Care Practices for Mamas.
So, here are my seven awesome daily self-care practices for busy mamas – which is all of you, you’re all busy mamas, I’ve never met a mama who isn’t busy. These are the things that keep me sane. They’re the habits that I know I need to maintain in order to keep my body and mind working well.
Do I always manage them all every day? Nope.
Am I actively trying to get better at self-care? Absolutely.
1. Get Dressed.
This is a pretty basic one, but it can mean different things to different people. I know plenty of mamas who don’t feel properly dressed without a full face of make-up. I’m not one of them. I like to be dressed in such a way that I’d feel happy leaving the house without having to change first. That’s my benchmark. So, you’ll almost never find me in pyjamas during the day. I’m moving towards a capsule wardrobe of sorts, and that’s making my morning much easier, because I no longer have to waste time trying to find clothes that go together.
2. Fresh Air & Exercise.
You can do one without the other, but it makes sense to combine the two. It’s easy for days to slip by without being outside for longer than it takes to get from house to car and car to supermarket. Getting outside, in daylight hours, and taking some exercise will be enormously beneficial. Don’t get caught up in the specifics. A walk to the park and a half-hour watching your kids play can be as good as a run. The best kind of exercise is the kind that you can actually
3. Do What You Love.
Take some time, every day, to do something just because you like doing it.
If you’re out of the habit of self-care, maybe it’s hard for you to even remember what you love. That’s okay, you’ll soon find your way back.
Go back to a time when you had hobbies you loved AND you were actually participating in them. Even if you have to time-travel way back to when you were at school. I’ve dabbled in lots of crafty stuff in the past, and still do a lot of knitting and crocheting, both of which fit really well into small pockets of time throughout the day. I learned to make bobbin lace when I was at school though, and I keep thinking about buying the kit again and seeing how much I can remember.
It doesn’t have to be just crafty stuff – just tune in to the things you feel like you don’t have time for. Reading? Painting your nails? Cycling? Whatever it is, you owe it to yourself to find a way to make it happen. Make time to do something you love every day, even if it’s only for a few minutes. It’s about keeping the momentum going.
4. Be Mindfully Present.
I get it, your day runs away with you, and from the moment you leap out of bed in the morning until the moment you collapse into it again at night, you’re busy.
Huge chunks of your life are at the disposal of other people, and your plans can be derailed at any moment.
Daily self-care is hard to schedule in when you don’t know how your day’s going to pan out. Being mindful, and being fully present in any given moment is an act of self-care, and it’s a way of slowing time a little too. It can help to have anchors in your day where you always make a conscious effort to sink into the moment, to be fully present in your body.
I like to tidy up in the kitchen when I’m waiting for the kettle to boil. I don’t actually like to do it, but it’s just what I do, I’ve trained myself to use that snippet of time to stop the kitchen getting too out of control. I’ll bet you have things like that too, habits that piggyback onto another action or activity, so they’re easy to remember.
Treat daily self-care in the same way, treat mindfulness in the same way. In the kitchen example, maybe you’d decide to extend that little chain of happenings as follows:
– Boil kettle.
– Tidy kitchen while waiting.
– Make coffee.
– Really enjoy coffee.
Make your mid-morning coffee into a self-care ritual. Use the really good coffee (better still, stop buying anything you don’t consider to be really good coffee), use your favourite mug, and properly enjoy it with all of your senses. Really wrap your hands around that mug, watch the steam rising, enjoy the smell of your coffee before you drink it.
Yes, that all sounds a bit weird, it’s only a coffee after all, but let this be the one coffee you finish, completely, while it’s still at the perfect temperature. Give yourself the gift of a few minutes where you’re not racing through the day in your mind, trying to figure out how to slot all the puzzle pieces together.
There are too many different ways to journal for me to go into here, but I can share what works for me right now, and you can do your own research to find the perfect fit for you. It might take a bit of experimentation to find your best journalling solution, but it’s well worth the effort.At the moment, I have two journalling practices that I use as part of my daily self-care routine: Morning Pages, and my Bullet Journal. They serve very different purposes, but, for me, they both come under the self-care umbrella.
6. Morning Pages.
Three pages of longhand, stream-of-consciousness writing, every morning, as per Julia Cameron’s recommendation in The Artist’s Way.
I rarely follow any recommendation exactly as laid out, but I try to stick pretty close to the original when it comes to these pages. This is how I get myself unstuck. It’s a way of getting all the crap out of the way, clearing the sludge from my brain, and readying myself for a new day.
You’re supposed to write them the moment you open your eyes, ideally before you even get out of bed. That literally never happens here. My mornings start when my youngest decrees that it’s morning, and he is definitely not keen to watch me writing my morning pages before he gets his breakfast. So, I do the best I can. As soon as immediate needs for nappy changes, food, and drink are dealt with, I write my pages. Usually that means that the TV goes on, so that I can have half an hour of relatively undisturbed time.
7. Bullet Journal.
My current organisation tool of choice. I love my bullet journal, and it works beautifully for me in this season of my life. I feel like I have so many different things going on, that standard diaries and planners don’t really work out.
With my bullet
I spent a lot of time on Pinterest looking at beautiful bullet journal spreads before taking the plunge. Then I realised that, while those pages are wonderful to look
Why is this self-care? Because it’s a way of getting crap out of my head and into a system.
It’s not possible to keep track of everything in your head. If your brain is constantly working to remember dates, times and plans, you need a system to capture it all. Then, all you need to remember is to use the system. So much simpler.
Having my bullet journal helps me be better at everything. It helps me to see that, actually, I have a really full and busy life, so, on the days when things fall through the cracks, I can be more forgiving.
Do you feel like your brain cells started dying off when you had children? Are you stuck in the fog of ‘baby brain’ even though your youngest is definitely not a baby anymore?
If you have a job where you have to keep up a professional development schedule, then you might already have this nailed. The rest of us need to be conscious about keeping our grey matter ticking over – use it or lose it.
You don’t have to have big plans or a specific reason for wanting to learn something. It’s okay to just learn for the sake of learning. I love to have a non-fiction book on the go most of the time, or a course of some kind. For the last few months, I’ve been busy learning about blogging, and getting this site up and running. There’s plenty for me to learn as far as that goes, and I enjoy working on this project each day.
I’m also keen to improve my handwriting (partly because I want to be able to share some bullet journalling posts with you, but I really don’t want to photograph my bujo as it currently looks!). So, I’ve been looking for a handwriting resource to help me,
Maybe there were subjects you learned at school or college that still interest you, but don’t really form part of your life at the moment? You could explore this just by borrowing books from the library, and committing to reading a little each day.
Schedule Daily Self-Care Time.
It feels like cheating to include this one, but it’s important, so I’m counting it in my list.
Having a list of daily self-care activities is all well and good, but actually doing them is what’s important. Whatever kind of planner or organisation system you use to plan your days, you need to be scheduling self-care right alongside the more obvious to-dos. Especially when you’re just getting started, you need to make your new habits as foolproof as possible.
Planning to take a proper coffee break each morning instead of gulping it down while folding laundry? Write it down.
Want to make time for a walk on your own this evening? Schedule it.
I bet you write other people’s things stuff on your list all the time. This week’s lists in my bullet journal show all kinds of things related to other people.
We’re often more willing to schedule time to help other people than we are to help ourselves. That needs to change.
Waking Up Earlier (and why it didn’t make it onto the list).
Here’s a bonus eighth item that’s not part of my self-care arsenal right now. Waking up early can be a great way to get some peace and quiet, a little bit of time to yourself.
For some people an early start lets them find time for self-care activities in their busy lives.
If you think it could work for you, then I highly recommend you try waking up earlier. I’ve done it at different times in my life. Sometimes to allow me time for running or yoga. Sometimes just to allow me to drink a coffee in peace.
Right now though, I have a 4-year-old who thinks sleep is for wimps, and who still wakes up a LOT of times each night.
Right now, sleep trumps peaceful coffee.
There’s a lot of information online about how to wake up earlier. I love Hal Elrod’s book, The Miracle Morning. It’s an inspiring read that will have you eagerly setting your alarm clock!
Those are my favourite seven daily self-care activities right now. They’re the things that are making the biggest difference to me.
I think this is a great list for those of you getting started with daily self-care, it’s a good jumping-off point. You need to make your own routine though, and fill it with things that work for you. Morning pages feel like self-care to me, but they might feel like a pointless chore to you. Putting on a full face of make-up might make your daily self-care list, but it doesn’t do anything for me.
Self-care is a personal thing. No-one knows better than you what you need to include in your daily self-care routine to make it nurturing for you.