Are you taking enough time out of your day for some much needed (and well deserved) self-care? There's nothing wrong with loving your baby and devoting everything to them, but it's also important to remember to take time for you, too.
Whether you've just had a baby or it's been a year, your body has gone through a huge change, carrying your little one for 9 months and giving birth. You're sleep-deprived and might not have time to do your hair and make up every day, and you might just feel a little different about being yourself because you've gotten so used to just being 'mum'.
Although being a parent can be the most rewarding and exciting part of your life, it can be very challenging and exhausting at the same time. That's why it's important to check in with ourselves on the regular with a bit of self-care every now and then.
Remember that it's okay to take the time to do things for you too! You don't have to dedicate whole days of doing things for yourself, you can take a few hours a week to enjoy a little pampering or do some light exercise. Have we convinced you yet? If so, take a look at our self-care tips especially for busy mums...
Be kind to yourself
So often we beat ourselves up over what we haven’t done rather than congratulating ourselves on what we have achieved. Remember to practise self-compassion and forgiveness, even on those days you feel like nothing is going right: when you’ve slept badly, the washing hasn’t been done and the dishes are piling up.
Meditation shows us how to be less reactive to fleeting emotions and instead to respond from a place of clarity. Headspace specifically has been shown to reduce emotional reactivity and negative emotions. Silence your inner critic and refocus your thoughts on all the positive steps you have taken. One or two small acts of kindness for yourself can make such a big difference to your mood.
It is so important to spend some time outside each day even if it’s just a quick walk around the block, to your local high street or local park. The fresh air on your face and a change of scenery can do you a world of good and is hugely beneficial.
Walking has been proven effective in reducing anxiety and depression, and there is further evidence that walking in nature improves those results even further. That’s because different parts of our brain activate in nature. Our mind calms, leading to physical health changes including a reduction in heart rate and blood pressure.
It can be difficult especially for parents of young children to get out of the house each day, but so important for the whole family’s well being. By being present and taking in the sights, sounds and smells around us, we can give our mind some respite from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
If you’re waiting for your body to give you a signal that it’s time to drink – don’t! Feeling thirsty can actually be a sign that you’re already dehydrated so try to sip regularly throughout the day. And if you’re feeling hungry, try drinking water before you grab a snack as thirst is often confused with hunger.
We get it, water can be pretty boring but unfortunately, coffee and alcohol just aren’t going to hydrate you. Instead, mix things up a bit and add some flavour with slices of lemon, strawberries and even a bit of mint. Or why not try coconut water? Packed with electrolytes and rich in potassium, it’s a refreshing option and you can even pretend you’re in the Caribbean…
Do something just for you
Parents prioritise their kids and family over everything. Nurturing and caring for our loved ones is a positive and rewarding part of life, but it is also important to set aside time for yourself to enjoy something you love, whether that’s exercising, reading a book or going to your favourite café for a treat and hot drink.
It is important to continue to invest in yourself and make sure you are still on your priority list.
Take some deep breaths
Everything can feel like one big rush when you're a parent with what feels like a million things to do. But one thing we can all find time for is to stop and be present in the moment. A way to do this is by taking some deep breaths. Try this from psychotherapist Anna Mathur: "Breath steadily, in for four through your nose, right down into your tummy. Then breath out through your mouth to the count of eight. Start with four repetitions and increase as you feel more confident."
Improve the quality of your sleep
As Prince William said when Prince Harry became a dad: “Welcome to the sleep deprivation society that is parenting”. Parents often struggle to get the recommended eight hours of sleep; however, it is important to take steps to improve the quality of your sleep.
Getting quality sleep is important for your health: it strengthens your immune system, helps you maintain a healthy weight, and lowers your risk for serious health problems such as diabetes and heart disease. Parents feeding their children through the night bear the brunt of this sleep deprivation. Make sure you rest throughout the day and nap when the baby naps.
Meditation can be a good addition to your wind-down routine. It allows your body to relax and your mind to drift off – letting go of tensions and racing thoughts. Let go, feel yourself sink into the mattress, relax and allow yourself to fall into a restful sleep.
Acknowledge it's ok to be alone
When you have a newborn, it can be a big adjustment going from a busy work and social schedule to being at home most of the time with your little one. It can feel like your world has become very small and that you are alone and forgotten, and these feelings of loneliness and isolation can have a negative impact on mental health.
Feed your body well
Just as it's very important that your baby gets all their nutrients as they grow, it's important you do too! Not only does your body need to recover from giving birth, but you also need plenty of energy to keep up with your little one! And one of the best ways to do that is by feeding your body all the nutritious and healthy foods it needs to thrive.
While the cooking process may seem long and time-consuming, cooking can be a great activity to improve mental health and get your mind off parenting for a bit (especially if you enjoy it). Best of all you'll have a delicious creation for you and your family to enjoy after!
Give exercise a go
The thought of it might make you groan but exercise (whether that's running, Zumba, yoga or simply a walk) is something that is well worth squeezing in when you get the chance. It's not always to do with losing weight (although if that's what you want, great!). Exercise is great for your physical and mental health, boosting your mood through the chemicals that your body releases, making you feel more relaxed and reducing stress. It also strengthens your body and reduces your risk of heart diseases
Take a look at these postnatal exercises from Jessica Ennis-Hill to get some tips.
Spend time with your partner
With sleepless nights and understandably giving your baby all your attention, you might feel like your relationship becomes strained or you forget to enjoy your partner's company before heading to bed.
Don't forget who you are as a couple and set aside a night each week or month to spend with just the two of you, even if it is just a few hours watching a film on Netflix after you put your baby to bed.
Drink your coffee while it's hot
Hot coffee is something a new mum can only dream about. If you make yourself a hot drink, it's quite easy to get distracted by something else, or your little one needs changing or feeding.
Buy a thermal cup to keep your drink hot, because every mum deserves to enjoy a hot cup of coffee and not find their cup sat on the table untouched after 2 hours(!). Alternatively, check out these mug warmers to help you get a hot cup of coffee at last.
Remember your hobbies
Before being a mum, you were once you and you might have had hobbies such as knitting, tennis or painting. Keep in touch with hobbies and set a few hours aside a week to enjoy them. If you're struggling for time, find a way to include them in your day such as playing an instrument to your little one, or if they're a bit older let them help you paint.
Try a new recipe
Always had a love of food and experimenting? It can be easy to lose your enjoyment of cooking or baking when you’re trying to convince your tot to eat her greens. Reclaim this time by heading to the library and picking up some new cookbooks. Bake something you’ve never tried before and drop it round to an elderly neighbour to taste test for you.
Use a face mask
Before your baby was born, pampering yourself might have meant a few hours at a spa, enjoying the peace and quiet, but now pampering might mean getting an uninterrupted shower.
Run a hot bath ready for when your little one goes down for a nap, or pop a facemask on and close your eyes for 10 minutes. A little pamper every other day will make you feel a lot better, and with those baby cuddles... you won't even miss a spa break! Check out the best face masks for when you *finally* get five minutes.
Step back from technology
We can be guilty of spending a bit too much time on our phones, tablets or laptops and it's easy to form an unhealthy attachment to technology. Switching of our devices when possible is a self-care step you may not realise you needed and has a whole host of benefits from improving sleep to reducing stress and even enhancing your memory.
Connect with others
If you enjoy giving back to others (and it is possible for this to extend beyond your family!), consider what you can do in your local area to spread the love. It could just be volunteering to spend time with the elderly for Reengage (reengage.org.uk), or fundraising for a charity close to your heart.
Learn to play an instrument
Teach yourself to play an instrument, or book a lesson a week if you can stretch to it. Whether it’s a violin or flute, allow yourself time to practise every day. As you start to grow in confidence, consider finding like-minded musicians you can play with and learn from.
Self-care ideas from our #mumtribe Facebook group
Andie Langridge says: 'I love to get my toddler involved in my daily workout and yoga! I also try to get her in bed by 7:30 to give me a bit of time to have a bath and relax.'
Kay Gutteridge says: 'I walk every morning around the local reservoir with my baby. Getting out is so good for my mental health! I also love to have a lovely hot bath with nice bath products in the evening once my baby has gone to bed.'