10 Little Things You Can Do for Yourself, Mama

The best thing we can do for our children is to be our healthiest selves.

Let me say it again...

The best thing we can do for our children — and for our husbands/boyfriends/life partners — is to be healthy. Emotionally, mentally, and physically healthy. When we're healthy, we can think clearly. When we're healthy, we can rise above our reptilian survival-mode brains and make better choices. We can be our BEST selves.

If you're anything like me, the self-care/self-love stuff might not be as intuitive as it should. We've been taught that love is selfless and requires sacrifice, which, yes, we all need to make compromises in life and marriage. And yet there are certain things that should never be sacrificed — our well-being is one of them. Because if our health/minds/lives are compromised, what do we really have to give?

It's a balance, and setting up these boundaries and self-care practices can take time to figure out. It also requires us to stand up and shake off the assumption that we belong at the bottom of a to-do list.

We deserve to take care of ourselves. We need to take care of ourselves.

So how do we do that — especially with limited time and money?

The following is a list from my own self-care efforts, as well as some input from the Early Mama community. Here's what we do for ourselves. What will YOU do?

1. Start a gratitude journal

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No matter what's going on in my life (and there's been some shit going on), a key to happiness is taking time to acknowledge my gratitude. Gratitude for my health, gratitude for a beautiful Autumn day, gratitude for specific lessons I'm learning through the hard moments.

Typically I do this in my head, but when times are really tough, jotting down my gratitude in a notebook helps keep me grounded and focused. Try it. It helps.

2. Get your vitamin levels tested and be conscious of what you're using to fuel your body

I'm severely deficient in Vitamin D and it's taken me an embarrassingly long time to take care of the issue. But I'm happy to say that I've been regularly taking Vitamin D3 drops, Magnesium, and Calcium for a few weeks. Maybe it's all in my head, or maybe it's the act of putting something healthy into my body, but I feel so much better about myself. It's like the mommy in me is taking care of myself in the same nurturing way I take care of my son. And that feels nice.

If you're wondering what kind of supplements you might need, I heard Dr. Rhonda Patrick, Ph.D., on a podcast recommending:

  • Omega 3 with 600 mg EPA (an anti-inflammatory) and 800 mg DHA (helps cell membranes in the brain)
  • Vitamin D3 (4 - 5,000 IU/day)
  • Magnesium

Of course check with a doctor if you're wondering about your specific deficiencies, but according to Dr. Rhonda, most people could benefit from those supplements.

Also...WATER. Water water water water water. There's nothing stopping you from drinking more water, whether you're nursing your baby or chasing after a house-full of toddler tyrants.

3. Find time to exercise

I have a really hard time finding the time and motivation to exercise, I'll be honest. This photo is from the ONE Soul Cycle class I took with my friend, and I was pretty sure I might die mid-way through the class.

But many of you are better at this than I am, and I know (I know I know I know) that it's important for my mood and health to move my body rather than sit in front of this here computer with a gallon of coffee.

So instead of me, listen to THESE Early Mamas who have their fitness priorities in order:

  • Nadia from ChildMode.com told us that fitness is the only thing that really and truly works to help her feel better and take care of herself. You can follow her fitness inspiration on Instagram and on her blog.
  • Early Mama Victoria G. said that she finds time to exercise almost daily, and she makes time to go salsa dancing. (Go Victoria! Shake it!)
  • A young-mom friend of mine, Kelly, always found time to take out her jogging stroller with a brand-new infant and squeeze in at-home fitness videos, even as a full-time teacher.

IT CAN BE DONE. (Now I just have to do it.)

4. Clean, organize, purge

I thought it was just me who feels antsy and stressed in a cluttered, dirty environment, but apparently so many of us feel the same way. I feel LIGHTER after purging my closets and cabinets. I feel happiest in an organized, pretty setting. Creating a happier home = a happier me.

I admit that sometimes it's hard to keep up on everything, especially during the work week. But tackling the household drudgery is always a mood-booster for me, and has become a non-negotiable in my life. Sometimes it's a "rage clean," sure. But isn't it important to recognize our anger and emotions, and channel that energy in a productive way? Yes, I should probably go for a run to release some of that bottled-up energy, but mopping the floors and hauling out garbage is immensely therapeutic for me.

Maybe you don't feel the same, but I know a lot of us do. As Early Mama Katie M. said, "I power clean/purge junk from my home when I am stressed or feeling down. It is probably some mechanism to create a sense of control, though I just enjoy how clean my house is!"

According to Kamryn D., "I feel like if the house is messy, I can't breathe. I try to keep up with the house/laundry/cleaning so it never gets to that point, but sometimes life just happens! Cleaning and cooking is great therapy. Especially for us moms because both cleaning and cooking is necessary, we don't get a lot of time for other things we enjoy."

Finding therapy and peacefulness in our daily responsibilities is a GREAT way to add a little "me time" into our (sometimes monotonous) days — whatever that means for you. Often I'll listen to a podcast while I'm doing the dishes, or I'll rock out to some Michael Jackson/90s pop while cooking dinner. Insert moments for us, even when it's all about them.

5. Get outside

Sometimes it's impossible to get away from the daily responsibilities of life, but we can usually take the kids outside for a walk or some park time.

There's no reason that the things we do for ourselves HAS to be alone. Finding small ways to insert ours needs and wants into daily life is important and, believe it or not, doable. Getting outside, breathing some fresh air, feeling the sunshine on our skin...it helps.

6. Take yourself on a date

Early Mamas Taeko C. and Emma M. take themselves out for dinner. As Taeko said, "Wednesday night I wasn't feeling my best, so I put the kids down, kissed my guy goodnight, and headed to my local theater to catch the 10 pm show of Guardians of the Galaxy. Sometimes I do dinner, shopping, just a treat for me. It works wonders!"

No apologies. No guilt. No shame.

7. Pamper yourself

Finding moments to de-callus my feet and give myself a quick pedicure during yet another showing of Ice Age.

Steaming my face with a pot of boiling water and a towel, before putting on a face mask and chasing my son around as Doctor Doom.

Slapping on some pretty lipstick and indulging in some silky-smooth lotion while I wait for Noah to find his damn shoes.

(My monthly Glossybox subscription has been like a box of self-care delivered to my door, AND I LOVE IT SO.)

Pampering doesn't just have to be in the form of makeup and nail polish:

  • Early Mama Emily G. goes to a Turkish bath where she lays in a beautiful, historic, therapeutically quiet steam room and has a Turkish lady scrub her whole body before soaking in a hot water pool. She leaves feeling fresh and relaxed and WHERE IS MY TURKISH BATH?
  • Emma M. makes time to bathe, and keeps an emergency stash of Godiva chocolate in the freezer for such an occasion.

8. Meditate and/or start a mindfulness practice

If you're looking for a place to start, I really enjoy the Headspace app for quick 10-minute guided meditations that you can squeeze into your day.

9. Ask for help and delegate

You cannot do it all. Your partner will rise to your expectations — don't assume all of the responsibility all of the time, just because you have ovaries and a "mommy" title. And if you're a single mother, find people in your life to give you a hand when you need it, and don't be too proud to say, "Help please."

And if you feel like you need professional help for depression or a tough life circumstance, please find someone to talk to. Seeing a therapist was a huge turning point in my life. You don't have to handle this all on your own — sometimes it's not possible. We all need help at times.

10. Do whatever you need to feel like YOU

For me that's writing and reading. Making weekly/monthly trips to the library (with my son) has been a really positive thing I do for myself (and for him).

  • Victoria G. schedules time for acupuncture because it forces her to relax and focus on her body and the present moment for an hour.
  • Liann needs to find time to get out of the house each week, whether for a pedicure with a friend or just to spend some time alone, away from her homemaker/mommy role.
  • Several Early Mamas mentioned losing themselves in a good Netflix binge to relax and disconnect.
  • And I know there are a lot of you who need to schedule some time to get out of the house and have a little fun. Don't apologize for that; embrace who you are. Embrace what you need for you. As long as you're not hurting or neglecting anyone, there are no Rights or Wrongs to being a mom. No matter what you do or don't do, you're still a valid, valued, REAL mother.

No more feeling victimized by your roles and responsibilities.

No more playing the martyr mom, thinking it's what a "good mom" is supposed to do.

Take care of yourself, mama — even in the smallest and most thoughtful of ways.

It's the most loving thing you can do for the entire family.