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Motherhood and the Daily Fight for Self-Care: Part 1

Why Taking Care of Yourself is so Important

Self-care during every stage of life is a fight, but navigating the unknown twists and turns of keeping your children alive increases your daily stress to new levels. Self-care is vital to stress management and key to being your best and the best mother to your children.

Your time is precious, so let’s cut to the chase.

One of the most difficult things about motherhood–postpartum and beyond–is how often mothers stop caring for themselves.

If I am catching you prior to having or adopting your first child (or next child), this is for you.

If I am catching you in the throws of piles of laundry (maybe you remember if they are clean or not), wiping little noses with a Disney rerun entertaining your toddler, this is for you, too.

We strive to love others as we love ourselves. But how well can we really love those around us, if we aren’t loving ourselves well?

There is no excuse good enough to ignore your self-care.

We get it—a new life always affects the budget and the amount of available time for self-care. So let’s take some extra steps in preparing the budget and schedule to include meeting mom’s physical, emotional and mental self-care needs.

Benefits of Self-Care

Like myself, you probably don’t even realize you’re running on fumes until you get more sleep or sneak out for a night with the girls. We know we are better humans when we prioritize self-care, so why do we always put ourselves on the back burner?

A few motivations to convince yourself to prioritize your regular self-care:

  • Improved health–less sickness, less aches and pains.
  • More energy–be the best fun-mom you can be and sign up for that kick-boxing class.
  • Improved cognition–have you had enough of mom-brain?
  • Improved critical thinking–be able to strategize the best solutions for your growing family.
  • More intimacy–just schedule that belated anniversary date night or girls’ night out; conversations with other adults that love you will remind you that you are still in there somewhere.  
  • Improved self-esteem–stepping away from the hustle improves our perspective of our roles in life and increases gratefulness for our current season.  

Are you lacking self-care?

Our body, mood, actions and inactions can tell us if we are not managing our stress well. Physical, emotional and chemical stressors all play a part in our stress load.

Warning Signs:

  •         Fatigue, exhaustion, low energy
  •         Repeated illness, pain, injury
  •         Overwhelmed
  •         Angry, frustrated or irritated most of the time (short fuse)
  •         Lacking passion for life, work or hobbies
  •         Lacking desire to be with friends
  •         Trouble adapting to change
  •         Low self-esteem
  •         Procrastination
  •         Emotional (crying easily, short fuse)
  •         Critical of yourself, spouse, other family members or co-workers
  •         Cynical, lacking perspective of temporary situation(s)

Self-Care Routine: Baby Steps

During this season of chasing littles or night nursing, self-care may not look like getting to the gym on the regular or a spa day, but self-care can be in the little daily things we are already doing while trying to keep your children alive.

Simple modifications or additions to our daily routine might be all the time you have for self-care in your current season—and that is okay! It’s a start!

This list and the the other steps that follow are not meant to overwhelm you or bring any more guilt into your life. These are simply suggestions to improve your quality-of-life (self-care for beginners if you will) and to inspire you to be more intentional with your self-care, because you are worth it.

  • Pick up a few special treats just for you while you are at the grocery store or throw them in your Amazon Cart
    • Calming tea (Chamomile, Valerian)
    • Grab-and-go protein bars [we love RX and Larabars]
    • Mommy’s special dark chocolate
    • Physician-grade highly absorbable magnesium—magnesium is a natural way to calm your mind before bed, fight depression, anti-inflammatory, reduces PMS symptoms, etc.
  • Consider a grocery delivery service.
  • Eat your dessert first (this is my husband’s favorite)
  • Hide a jar of almond butter to pair with an apple for your sugar-fix.
  • Wash your face.
  • Make a list of your support system–people that can drive to your house or will at least answer your call in a pinch. Put the list where you can see it on the rough days.
  • Schedule yourself a chiropractic adjustment along with your children’s appointments.
  • Use your earbuds more. While driving put one side in and listen to your music or a book.
  • Be more intentional about making decisions and stop asking the kids where they want to eat–where do you want to go?

Once you’ve taken baby steps to include simple daily self-care, you are ready to consider more significant life changes, in order to be the best you for yourself and your family.

Again, these are meant to be suggestions. Please, do not get more overwhelmed. This is about you taking care of yourself.

Simple Chemical Modifications for Self-Care

Drink more water.

Especially if you are still nursing, your water intake should equal at least half your body weight in ounces per day.

Drinking more water throughout the day is the simplest way to increase your energy and improve detoxification from daily chemicals we are all exposed to in our environment and food.

  • Buy yourself a reusable water bottle—preferably glass or stainless—to make it easier to track your water intake while you are on the go.

Need more reasons to increase your water intake?

Find a Coffee Alternative and limit caffeine consumption.

Your adrenals are already in overdrive—give them a break.

Caffeine causes you to be in fight or flight mode which causes your digestion to be off and a whole host of other issues— adrenals. Drinking coffee causes your body to make HCL. HCL should only be made when the body is about to digest a meal. You can only make so much HCL this leads to a lack of digestion, especially protein digestion. What do we need protein for?

Coffee also causes stress to your kidneys thus causing your minerals to be thrown off— think zinc and magnesium. We need those!

Don’t just go switching to green tea–it blocks folate receptors in the brain.

I personally love Dandy Root and therapeutic teas as a coffee alternative.

Reduce your sugar and alcohol intake.

It is easy to lean on quick fixes like sugar and alcohol when we are overwhelmed or stressed out. Instead…

  • Communicate how you are feeling with your support system or journal about your feelings, before these unhealthy coping mechs creep out of control.
  • Swap out that sugar with fresh fruit. Keep a bowl of organic apples on the counter.
  • Revisit the baby steps list and try adding in a handful of simple self-cares daily.
  • Review your current eating habits. Have you slunk into a bad eating habit that could be adding to your stress or worsened your fatigue? (Think: too many simple carbs and sugars—bread, pasta, white potatoes, pastries, etc.—or not enough protein or water?)

Choose more living foods and buy organic and clean meats whenever possible.

Remember–food is fuel.

Your body will function its best when you fill it with the right fuel like living foods and clean protein.

Protein is the most versatile and valuable fuel you can give your body. Ideally, your body needs 100 grams of protein every day to function properly.

  • Clean meat labels should include ALL of the following:
    • Beef and Pork: grass-fed and organic
    • Chicken & Eggs: free-range and organic
    • Fish: wild-caught

Reducing exposure to pesticides and other chemicals found in boxed foods starts with you—the family grocery shopper.

  • Try to always buy organic for the Dirty Dozen:
    • Strawberries
    • Spinach
    • Nectarines
    • Apples
    • Grapes
    • Peaches
    • Cherries
    • Pears
    • Tomatoes
    • Celery
    • Potatoes
    • Sweet Bell Peppers and Hot Peppers

Adding more living foods into your diet will also improve the health of the entire family; which means less sickness, less behavioral challenges and better sleep!

Simple Physical Modifications for Self-Care

Get at least 8 hours of sleep.

Consistent sleep can be impossible at certain stages of motherhood, but making sleep a priority is essential to self-care and being your best.

  • Girl, put down that phone before bed. Give your brain a break and put all your screens away at least 5 minutes before bed. Let your mind rest and day dream for a minute. This is a great time for prayer, mediation, reading or adding a gratitude journal to your routine.
  • If you are blessed with a spouse or support system, strategize with them quarterly about how you can get more sleep in your current stage with littles. Each growth-spurt and developmental-leap may require you to look at your sleep situation with fresh eyes, so pick a time to talk with your support system when you are thinking the clearest and work out a game-plan for you to get more sleep.
  • If you’re still nursing, consider co-sleeping (a.k.a. room sharing) with your nursling. There are endless benefits to co-sleeping.
  • Try adding chamomile tea, or a physician-grade highly absorbable magnesium, before going to bed.

Adding a magnesium supplement was a game changer for me while I was night nursing; it allowed me to fall back to sleep and not feel drowsy or cognitively delayed in the morning, like OTC sleep-aids. I still take it, after night weaning, to calm my mom-list that runs through my head before bed. Magnesium before bed and prayer have also helped me through some rough patches of depression and anxiety during motherhood.

Get movin.

Contrary to my own convictions, chasing a toddler from room to room is not enough exercise. As moms, we need to be more intentional about our exercise and daily activity.

Exercise is essential for eliminating stress, increasing endorphins (the happy brain chemicals) and grounding yourself (fresh eyes, fresh perspective on your situation caused by increased oxygenation in your brain).

  • Spend more time outside. Go for an evening walk or a hike through a trail park.
  • If you are a runner (not me), invest in a jogging stroller. Take full advantage of that nap time.
  • I know several bigger families that have used birthdays or holidays to acquire a collection of bikes for the whole family. These families have a blast together outside.
  • Invest in a swimming pool, Y membership or start being nice to your neighbors with a pool.
  • Find a yoga class near you. We host weekly prenatal, mom and baby and family yoga classes at our office in Kirkwood, Missouri. If life does not permit you to attend a class, buy a yoga DVD or look up yoga on YouTube. Get the kids involved. There are several family-friendly classes and exercise videos out there.

Get regular adjustments and check-ups.

We see it all the time—pregnant mom comes in for bi-weekly adjustments religiously throughout pregnancy, she gives birth to her beautiful bundle of joy, she brings her bundle in for their newborn exam and adjustment, but then we rarely see moms continue chiropractic care for themselves past that initial, postpartum visit.

  • Adjust the budget to include your adjustment and your other medical check-ups.

If your body is not performing at its best, how are you supposed to care for those littles that are depending on you?

Nursing moms especially–twisting and contorting in ways you didn’t think possible to calm your baby–need to be adjusted at least bi-weekly to maintain the best possible breastfeeding relationship.

Women amid child-bearing years, need to be seen regularly by a family wellness chiropractor to maintain balance in hormones, including reproductivity.  

Moms with bigger kiddos need to be careful when lifting and carrying our kids.  

  • Pain is the body’s warning light signaling that something is wrong. Don’t ignore pain. Don’t cover up your pain with OTC pain-relievers. Call your chiropractor and schedule yourself an appointment, girl!

If you don’t have a family chiropractor and you live in the St. Louis area, our doctors at 1st Step Family Wellness are always taking new patients. If you live out of the area, you can find a family wellness chiropractor here: International Chiropractic Pediatric Association.

Self-care is essential. Not only for your well-being, but for the well-being of your entire family. It may sound cliche, but you cannot pour from an empty cup. In order to love and care for others to the fullest, we must first love and care for ourselves, or we have nothing left to give. I hope you can implement some of these small changes from Part 1 of: Motherhood and the Daily Fight for Self-Care into your routine to start to work towards taking care of YOU; because you my love, are worth caring for.

Check back for Part 2 where we will cover some simple mental and emotional modifications you can make to implement better self-care. Plus, Part 2 has some awesome author recommendations to keep you inspired and thriving!