Micro Self Care for Busy Mums with Lou Murray
Reading time: 10 minutes
Did you know that research has shown that mums have on average, just 17 minutes of time to themselves each day?!
Being a mum is hard work! From waking in the middle of the night to feed your baby to picking the kids up from school, us mums have busy schedules and that means we’re often exhausted.
So when it comes to looking after your own health and wellness, it’s totally normal to feel stressed and not know where to start...
Fortunately, we caught up with Health Coach and Mindfulness Teacher, Lou, who has shared her favourite micro-self care tools for mums that have ‘no time’ for self-care.
Take some time for YOU, now. Pop the kettle on, and read all about how learning to squeeze self-care into your life may actually lead to less stress, more patience and a clearer focus.
Time is valuable for any busy mum. There never seems to be enough of it. And when you think about your priorities, making time for self-care probably falls near the bottom of your list —below kids, work, home, and family time.
Consequently, self-care quickly falls by the wayside as you continue with the daily grind.
Even though it may seem like the right thing to do, routinely dismissing your own needs can have an adverse effect on your overall health. It can make you irritable, fatigued, stressed and susceptible to a full-blown burnout. So, in order to save your health (and sanity), make time for self-care!
The challenge is, most of us already know this. We KNOW as parents how important it is to take care of ourselves. When we can stay connected to our own wellbeing, it overflows onto our children and we're more patient, loving, joyful parents. However, knowing and doing are completely different things.
When on earth do we find the time or energy to exercise...read a book… meditate...or really do anything for ourselves? It’s all too easy to fall into the repeated pattern of I should, I will, and then….I didn't today. Maybe tomorrow. Maybe on Sunday. Maybe next Sunday….
The reality is that the struggle is real. YOU ARE NOT ALONE in this. Research has shown that mums have on average just 17 minutes of time to themselves each day, so it is hard! But, if you can find even just 10 precious minutes for a little self-care each day, you are going to be so much better for it, and your kids will be better for it too. In fact, learning to squeeze self-care into your life may actually lead to less stress, more patience and a clearer focus.
This is why I love the concept of MICRO-SELF CARE! Let's be real, it's not feasible to soak in bubble baths for hours or go cloud-watching when you are navigating the chaos of motherhood. Trust me, I know. With four kids under six, I know how hard it is. The trick is to practice self-care in short intervals, little micro moments, so you can easily fit these mind-set makeover tools into your jam-packed routine. Start with just 10 minutes a day and build it up from there. You owe it to yourself to give yourself those 10 minutes.
And for me, real self-care, the kind that shifts habits and mind-sets and sets you up for a happier, healthier life is messy! It’s not about bath bombs and candles and escaping – it’s getting to know your boundaries and how you can best nourish your mind, body and soul…without any guilt.
Sounds good? Here are eight of my favourite micro self-care tools for mums that have ‘no time’ for self-care….1. Breathe
Stop what you’re doing and take a deep breath. Do not underestimate the power of a deep breath. These precious seconds may be the difference between losing your cool and responding calmly; between feeling overwhelmed and staying focused.
I honestly believe that energy boosting breathwork can be better than caffeine. Use the power of breath to create an incredible feeling of energy, clarity and focus through your body.
If you’re not breathing optimally, you’re robbing yourself of energy. The way you breathe may be causing you to feel tired, fatigued, foggy, and uninspired. This is because proper, controlled breathing ensures an optimal oxygen-carbon dioxide exchange. This is vital for high energy and mental alertness levels. Since oxygen is the breath of life, it’s rocket fuel for the body and mind.
With this exercise, we’re focusing on deep, diaphragmatic breathing. This means we’re not using out chest or upper body to breathe. We are engaging our lower belly as we inhale and exhale. On the inhale, your lower belly should rise outwardly. On the exhale, the lower belly moves inwardly, towards the navel. These movements draw air into the lungs, and not just the upper lungs, as in chest breathing. Diaphragmatic breathing fills every part your lungs, including the lower parts.
Do this simple breathing exercise twice a day or whenever you feel yourself losing steam:
- Deeply exhale with a whoosh sound
- Deeply inhale through the nose for 4, hold for 7, exhale through the mouth for 8
- Repeat for 4 breaths
You can integrate breathing into your daily living very easily — you simply have to be conscious of it. When you wake up in the morning, think about it. When you go to sleep at night, think about it. Instead of yelling at a red traffic light to change, focus on your breath. When someone is talking to you and you have no interest in what they are saying, turn your attention to your breathing! When your toddler is driving you mad….you get the gist!
2. Cup of calm
When you start feeling a little overwhelmed, this is a great ‘2-minute’ self-care tool. Mindful meditation doesn’t need to take a long time, just 2 or 3 minutes can be enough to give you a little space to slow down, press pause, re-connect and re-energise for the rest of the day. So if you are feeling a little stressed, just a couple of minutes to practice this ‘cup of calm’ mindful moment …
Make yourself a cup of your favourite warm drink and sit down. Notice three things in this moment – the colour of the drink, the weight of the mug, the feeling of the chair. Then consciously breath into your shoulders, try and relax them down a little and enjoy your cuppa – savouring the flavour. Return gently to the senses whenever you notice the mind straying into thought. Be open to your senses, rather than try to analyse what’s happening.
3. Say no, more!
As a mum, you can often feel like you're pulled in a million different directions trying to please everyone in the family. You might even feel guilty about saying no to certain requests from family members, children or friends. But you shouldn't! It's okay to say no sometimes, and to not take on extra work on your plate when you don’t think you can manage it or it will stress you out. Remember to look after yourself as much as you look after others around you, or you could be in danger of burning out.
‘No’ is such a small word yet so hard to say! You can say no and still be a good friend, colleague, sister, person. Sometimes you’ve just got to take care of YOU.
Saying no is empowering. Saying ‘no’ is a massive self-care gift to yourself. Even saying ‘yes’ to things you are ‘meh’ about means you will be out of time and energy for the things you want to give a big fat YES to. So if it’s not a hell yeah – it’s a no. Design your life around the good stuff, make space for that first so that the not so good stuff slowly slips away.
Here are a few ways you can say ‘no’
- While my heart wants to say ‘yes’, the reality of what’s on my plate right now makes this a ‘no’ for me at the moment. Thanks for thinking of me.
- I am really touched by your request, and although it’s hard for me to say ‘no’, it is so necessary. I’m grateful that our relationship allows me to be honest about where I am.
- This sounds wonderful and as much as I would love to be involved, I can’t give it the attention it deserves right now. I am cheering for your success!
- No, thank you. (sometimes it can be as simple as that!)
Positive affirmations are a powerful way of sending yourself a great dose of positive vibes and a great self-love tool.
They can be grounding, energizing, motivating, inspiring - today let’s make them LOVING and send ourselves some loving kindness.
I totally get that many of you couldn’t care less about repeating affirmations. I used to be one of those, but when I began recovering from postnatal depletion, positive affirmations helped me like nothing else. And they have been a constant supportive mind-nourishing tool throughout my motherhood journey.
By starting your day with the repetition of one or more positive affirmations, you set the right intention for the day, brighten your mood and up your confidence. Maybe try writing them down and keep looing at them throughout the day to remind yourself of them.
It may feel awkward at first to say these words to yourself and you won’t even believe them to be true. Don’t let that discourage you from actively using affirmations as a way to take care of yourself because they work miraculously when it comes to taking good care of your body, mind and soul.
Slowly, slowly, day-by-day you will reinforce the messages and train your subconscious mind to tune into the truth of self-love more and more often. It really is MAGICAL stuff!
Here are a few of my favourite self-love affirmations:
Today, I choose me
I love my body and all it does for me
I believe in me
I love the woman that I am
I am growing and learning every day
I am deserving of happiness, love, peace, freedom, and anything else I desire
The more I practice loving myself, the more loveable I become
I deserve all that is good
I am loved
5. Develop an attitude of gratitude
Gratitude is a fantastic little mindset makeover tool and something that you can practice throughout the day as you go, so it doesn’t add anything extra to your ever-mounting ‘to do’ list. Just try and slow down just a fraction, just enough to briefly ‘press pause’ and just try and be in the moment of whatever you are experiencing and mentally note down what you are grateful for in that moment.
So for example – a child’s laugh. Just be in that moment and mentally note down how grateful you are for that magical laugh. DONE! That’s it. Try and rack up as many of these as you can throughout your day. This micro self-care tool will help you embrace the everyday magic amongst the chaos and whirlwind of motherhood. Magic moments, are all around you if you can just try and tune into them – and if you can you are going to feel more positive, happier, grounded, calm and in control. You will shift your mindset into a positive ‘high vibe’ zone – and you will start to subconsciously train your brain to see more positivity all around you and in return this will attract more positivity into your life.6. Thought shake
Do you sometimes need a thought shake? If you are feeling a bit low or a bit flat, seek positive inspiration from others. It helps to shake your thoughts up – replacing any negative chatter in your head with positivity instead.
This might mean grabbing a quick coffee with a great friend, listening to your favourite music, listening to an uplifting podcast, or reading an inspirational book. If you choose a book or a podcast; set an alarm for 10 minutes, read/listen away and then you will come away feeling much more positive and ready to get on with the day again.
Sometimes our minds just need a little break and a good dose of positive high vibes to reboot and help us keep going! Learning to be in-tune with your mood and noticing when your mood starts to dip, and then having some simple tools to hand that work for you is a real gamechanger.7. Assess your energy and mood hoovers!
Self-care is hard and sometimes means setting tricky boundaries and letting go of the stuff that drains us.
I’ve talked quite a lot about how you can boost your energy and shift your mindset with tools you can add into your daily life…but what about the stuff you can LET GO?
What saps your energy and hoovers your mood? What could you do with saying 'goodbye' to in order to fill your self-care cup with a little more energy?
Make a list for yourself, and try to stop just a few of these things. You will gain SO much more quality time in your life. Here are a few ideas for your ‘stop-doing’ list:
- People pleasing
- Negative self-talk
- Overthinking things you cannot change
- Mindlessly scrolling social media
- Negative people
- Dwelling on the past
What makes you happy? Think about what lights you up inside and makes you smile (a walk outside in the fresh air, drinks with good friends, reading a great book, a yoga workout)
Then think about whether you prioritise time for this?
- Make a list of things that make you happy
- Make a list of things you do every day
- Compare the lists
- Adjust accordingly
Usually there will be some misalignment between how you are spending your time each day and your happy list, there may be very few or even no items from your happy list on your daily ‘to do’ list.
But how can you possibly find time in your already jam-packed schedule to fit anything else in? My tip here is to start super small. Identify just one way you could find a little more space in your day for you. What one thing could you add to your daily ‘to do’ list to fill your ‘happiness’ cup a little more?
Start with trying to find just 10 minutes a day. Maybe use time when you scroll social media for a ‘happy list’ task. Or cut back on TV. Maybe you could get up 10 minutes earlier? Try giving batch cooking a try to free up time in the kitchen for a little more time for you. Can something on your ‘to do’ list wait until tomorrow to make space for something on your ‘happy list’?
Prioritising yourself is really important and can make you feel so much more positive and happy about your day, even just 10 precious minutes. What are you going to do for YOU today to make you happy?