Suzy Reading, the author of ‘The Self Care Revolution’, shares her wisdom on self care for mothers.

Self-Care for Working Mums

Self-care seems to be the buzzword for 2018! While there has been a growing, natural thirst for it, the concept remains a little fluffy and the practice is still illusive for many of us, especially working mums. I’m thrilled to see that awareness of self-care is vastly growing, with many keen advocates on social media promoting the idea that ‘self-care isn’t selfish’. I think while it’s fair to say that we all know it’s important to tend to our health and wellbeing, some clarity around what self-care is and practical tips on how to actually do it would help bring it to life. I’m on a mission to deepen your knowledge of self-care as a practice and to blow those self-imposed barriers away… No time, no energy, mum guilt? Stick with me. There is a way!

Defining Self-Care

So what does self-care actually mean? I think of self-care as health care. The simplest definition of self-care is ‘nourishment’ – it’s a life-giving act that restores, sustains or improves your health. By health, we’re not just talking about the physical body, but our emotional, energetic and mental health as well. One of the reasons why it can be hard to define self-care is that everyone’s needs, interests, preferences and goals are different, so what one person finds nourishing differs from another and even our own needs will change over time. The most effective kind of self-care is an individual and proactive approach, a bespoke response to the needs of your head, heart and body, on a daily basis. Having a broad self-care toolkit to turn to in times of need will serve you well.

The Energy Bank

A concept that helps bring self-care to life for me is to think of having an ‘energy bank balance’. Just like a car needs petrol to go, we need reserves to get us through our day. Self-care is the means by which we make a deposit into that energy bank. Take a moment to reflect – what are the things that top you up and have you feeling full of zest? How can you factor more of those into your week? It’s worth also reflecting on the things that deplete you. If there are some that you can avoid or minimise, take action. If they’re unavoidable, know that you’ll need to engage in some kind of nurturing act to make up for the shortfall. Proactively keep your energy bank balance healthy and you will be more resilient in the face of life’s inevitable challenges.

Is Self-Care Pampering?

Coming back to the definition of self-care, I think there’s a little confusion between self-care and pampering… Yes, pampering is part of self-care but it’s not the whole truth and we would be doing ourselves a great disservice if we equated the two. I want to be really clear, self-care is not always comfortable or pleasurable. Self-care is not always the easiest thing. Sometimes the true act of self-care is the last thing we feel like doing! It might be going for that planned run rather than putting our feet up with a mug of coffee. Self-care might be seeing a coach and examining our unfinished business or taking a look at why Scary Mummy is showing up. Self –care is sometimes soothing, sometimes relaxing and at other times it is doing the work, tiling the soil to nurture our blossoming future self. Seen through this lens, there’s an additional defining factor to self-care that will stop it from turning into self-sabotage. Self-care meets your needs in this present moment AND it also nourishes the person you are becoming. This is a useful distinction to make. One glass of wine savoured in the evening might be self-care, if that turns into three and a late night, your future self is hardly going to thank you. Have a dialogue with your future self and you might just be amazed at the wisdom and compassion you tap into.

Why Do Mums Need Self-Care?

I think its five-fold and reflecting on these reasons might help blow away some of those self-imposed barriers we feel so keenly as mothers.

  1. We need self-care to help us cope during times of trauma, stress, loss and change. There is a plenty of that for us mums to deal with, whether it was trouble conceiving, a difficult pregnancy, a birth that felt traumatic or just differed from expectation, the throes of parenting a newborn and the feeding/settling issues and sleep deprivation that ensues, all the parenting burden from toddlers to teens, navigating the changes to our body, self-concept and relationships, and the return to work in whatever shape that now takes.
  2. We need it to help us heal and recover from these challenging times and if your nervous system got fried like mine, this can be a process that takes years.
  3. We need to engage proactively in self-care to keep us energetically topped up, so that we are resilient and resourceful when curveballs hit. Remember, positive events can be seriously depleting too – launching a business, planning a wedding, holiday, renovation project, moving, scoring a promotion, having more children…
  4. We need self-care to give us access to our best self. Lovingly tend to yourself with self-care and you give yourself the best possible chance of being the person you aspire to be. Think of all the roles you play in life – mother, partner, daughter, sibling, neighbour, friend, business owner/manager/professional – self-care helps you function to your optimum in all of these spheres.
  5. Lastly as parents, if we want to raise resilient and compassionate kids, we need to be role modelling self-care for them and teaching them their own self-care toolkit. Even better, engage in collective self-care and boost the health, happiness and wellbeing of your family, together.

Making Self-Care Happen

To make the commitment to daily self-care, I created a framework that helps us identify some kind of nourishment that is available to us when we need it the most. I call this the ‘Vitality Wheel’ and it has 8 spokes each reflecting a different way we can top up our energy bank. These spokes include: sleep, rest, relaxation and breathing, mood boosters, coping strategies, physical environment, movement and nutrition, social connection, goal setting and accomplishment, and values and purpose. Use these categories to get thinking more broadly about what self-care means for you and you can read more about practices that will bring to life each spoke of the Vitality Wheel in my book ‘The Self-Care Revolution’, available here.

Remember too that self-care needn’t be elaborate, grand, expensive or time consuming! Seek out little ‘micro moments’ of nourishment and that might just have stress bouncing of your shoulders with greater ease. It can as simple as a swoosh of your favourite lippy, scent you love, a piece of music to get the happies flowing or just watching the moving cloudscape for 30 seconds. Follow along on instragram at @SuzyReading and @selfcareforkids for lots of simple and accessible self-care inspiration.

I hope this clarifies the concept of self-care for you and encourages you to think of new ways that you can nourish yourself: head, heart and body. Fire away if you have any questions – the dialogue will help us all! We’re in it together.

Lots of love,

Suz x

Suzy is a mother of two, a Chartered Psychologist, Yoga Teacher, and Health Coach. She specialises in self-care, helping people manage their stress, emotions, and energetic bank balance. It was her life experience of motherhood colliding with the terminal illness of her father that sparked her passion for self-care which she now teaches to her clients, young and old, to cope during periods of stress, loss and change and to boost their resilience in the face of future challenges. Suzy is a contributing editor for Psychologies Magazine and the Psychology Expert for wellbeing brand Neom Organics. She figure-skated her way through her childhood, growing up on the Northern Beaches of Sydney, and now makes her home in hills of Hertfordshire, UK. Her first book ‘The Self-Care Revolution’ published by Aster, is out now.

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