I have a talent for self-care. Looking after myself and making sure I feel good is something I prioritize do well, always have. I’m a giver, but not in the sense that I only give to those I love generously. That is something I most certainly do, however I also give to myself a whole lot. I am happily selfish in this way. Are you nodding and high-fiving in my direction, or are you the kind of person to burn the candle at both ends and maybe put yourself last? I wouldn’t say I put myself first, especially now that bubs has come along, however I have an innate ability to determine what needs to be done to keep my family trucking along, while still slotting in “me time”. I think it comes down to the fact that I am more rooted in the present moment than future ambitions – I like to enjoy the now. And I’m not even sure if this is due to losing a loved one at a young age…surely that sharpened my reality and resolve, but I think I have always been really good at keeping myself happy. And while my “me time” looks a little different now that I don’t have multiple free hours to watch BBC Jane Austen adaptations, I am aware that now, more than ever, those moments for myself are important. Because I am literally being drained of energy and nutrients as I breastfeed a small human being.
Have you every done personality tests? I did a bunch a couple of years ago because friends of mine were discussing it, and as an ESFJ (through and through), I like to make my loved ones happy and I suppose this extends to myself. I know how to make sure I feel my best so I can be productive and a good person to those around me. Being selfish in this respect is a good thing, I feel. As a stay-at-home mum of one, I do not have too much on my plate and most days can fit in self-care fairly easily. Some days are busier than others and the ways in which I can be selfish are limited, but it’s not a battle at the moment to find the time (talk to me in the future when I’m back at work and hopefully have more kids and am knowing what it’s really like to feel tired). But even if you are incredibly busy, I know that we can make some time for ourselves, not matter how brief the moment. We have to. Ignoring ourselves only means we are more likely to feel drained, glum and resentful.
With complete awareness that my life is not full of challenges, here is my own little example of fitting in “me time”. Even in my own cruisy world, these acts of self-care make a huge difference in the way I feel. You see, recently baby Joan had her first cold, leaving her more clingy and demanding than usual, and as a result I was quite time poor. I was also incredibly tired from very wakeful nights and more than ever needed some self-care. That’s the way, isn’t it? The days when you have the least amount of time are when you need more than ever to sit in a hot tub and fill up your cup (with wine). But I sacrificed a few things to feel good – the laundry waited because I decided a shower was more important. I defrosted a crappy batch of lentils I had made for Ben and I instead of prepping a fresh dinner, because I felt I needed a super smoothie to get through the afternoon. And I skipped an appointment in favour of playing with bubs on our bed, because giggles are the best medicine and I didn’t fancy car travel dramas. These choices sound like no big deal, right? But they kind of are…I know from working with clients over the years that many individuals are not this way inclined, they will push through and clean or care for others, they’ll feel guilty about cancelling commitments even if it serves them best to do so, and they wind up leaving themselves last. I like doing things for my family, it makes me happy to give, truly. But I also like to do completely selfish things too, like sitting in the bath watching documentaries on ballerinas and sipping coconut water, or googling“celebrity house tours” while eating peanut butter from the jar with a stick of celery. I sincerely love seeing what Hilary Duff’s lounge room looks like. Some days, standing alone in the kitchen, stirring a pot of porridge while sipping a cup of coffee is all I need to feel like myself. A quick google definition search informs me that I may have chosen the wrong word here, as “selfish” means holding no concern for others around you and being chiefly focussed on your “personal profit or pleasure”. I’d argue that by being selfish in the respect of prioritising self-care, you are in fact nurturing those around you. These restorative practices make me happier to give. By making time for yourself and doing whatever it is you need to feel centred and alive, everyone around you benefits.
Here is a list of my self-care practices. I hope it may serve as inspiration for ways in which you can be selfish too. As I said above, the number I am able to do (and the time I can pour into them) varies, but I always make sure to do something every day. It makes me a better mumma, a better partner, a better person. And please, let me know how you look after yourself in the comment section. I’d love to get more ideas.
♥ WALK OUTSIDE. I remember during one of our initial first-time-parent group sessions, our Maternal Child Health Nurse moderator spoke of the importance of doing something every day for ourselves. For her, it was a shower. For others, it was knitting or watching a favourite show. For me, it was going on a walk. Lacing up my sneakers and listening to a podcast while going on a brisk, energising morning walk was something I always did pre-baby Joan, and it’s something I’ve continued doing since she was about a month old. It makes me feel alive and happy and excited for my day. Early on, I’d wait until bubs was asleep and then strap her in the Ergo carrier for our walk. A few months later I’d time it so she fell asleep in the pram on our walk. Now, at almost 7 months old, she forward-faces in the Ergo carrier for the majority of the walk and towards the end, when nap time is nearing, I face her inwards and she falls asleep while I walk home. I still do it every morning, listening to podcasts and feeling alive and happy and excited for my day. If all else fails and I can manage only one self-care practice for the day, I make sure I’ve had my walk. There may be fewer vegetables on my plate and I may be stinky and unshowered all day, but gosh darn it I will have gone outside for some fresh air.
♥ TAKE A SHOWER. Goodness this makes me feel brighter. Running around the house and weightlifting a small human can make you sweat and feel like you need a margarita. In place of tequila, I have a shower. Multiple times a day. I’m not a water waster, my showers take approximately 1 minute each (I just strip off, jump in, jump out, dry and re-dress, all in a minute or so), but these rinses help me feel fresh and good in my self.
♥ MOISTURISE. At least once a day I put coconut oil all over my body. I looooove it, it’s so simple, my skin sucks it up and it makes me smell delicious.
♥ A MORNING CUP OF COFFEE. I really needn’t explain this one. Stepping outside and sipping it slowly is a bonus, but I’ll take it any way it’s coming at me.
♥ EAT. I was never the kind of person who is busy to eat. Forgetting meals? Are you serious? But once Joan came along I found the hours ticked over quickly and before I knew it, three hours had gone by and I could feel my energy waning. If we’d had a rough night and I was more tired than usual, I particularly found eating regularly and eating well to be incredibly important if I didn’t want to end the day in a mess. And so, I made sure to fill my diet with meals and snacks made of vegetables, whole grains, nuts and dates, fruit, avocado, protein rich foods like eggs and fish, and then treats like raw cacao. The kind of food that makes me feel good and helps my brain function (because it needs all the help I can get). I’d also not eat too much at one time, never go more than a few hours without eating and ensure I stayed hydrated. And really, nourishing myself in this way makes such a difference to how I feel. As a dietitian and generally as a food-lover, I am so keenly aware how food affects our energy levels, mood and overall health and wellbeing. On those tired days when you can’t be bothered and just want a slice of cake for breakfast, that is when you most need a plate of vegetables and eggs. Rather than a second or third cup of coffee for afternoon tea, make a smoothieinstead. And instead of takeout fish and chips for dinner, make grilled salmon and roasted vegetables. Hahaha, no, I’m totally kidding on that last one, get the frikkin’ fish and chips if you want them. You’ve earned them, especially when fuelling so well during the day when all you want to do is eat gummy bears. But to ensure you don’t feel an energy slump, limit how often you get takeaway and pair it with a salad while keeping the portion regular and not monster-tired-lady sized.
♥ READ. We are so connected to screens these days, and I don’t know about you but I feel more like a centred human being when I pick up a proper book and read. Some days it will be a novel, other days a magazine or a cookbook, and most of the time I only read a couple of pages before baby care duties call, but holding words on paper grounds me.
♥ WATCH. If I am going to watch something on a screen, I try to make it intentional. Flicking through Netflix and landing on the best thing available at the time rarely leaves me satisfied and most of the time makes me feel dirty, to be honest. There’s so much crap on tv these days. And so I made a rule that I will only watch shows that make me feel good. For me, that’s Downton Abbey, Girls, Mad Men and the like. Shows that I connect with and make me feel good. And there’s no judgement here, if I felt good watching house renovation or make-over shows, I’d watch them unabashedly. The point is, rather than aimless flicking, I make sure to sit down and tune in completely so that I feel I’ve spent my free time wisely. And that means no phone scrolling while watching – isn’t is sad how difficult that can be sometimes?! While watching shows isn’t a part of my everyday routine, I felt it worth mentioning because I am definitely someone who loves watching movies and vegging out on the couch, as is my husband. And so, in our sleep deprived state I like to ensure we aren’t selecting some crappy movie that will leave us going “why did we waste our precious time watching Kate Hudson steal her best friend’s fiance?”. This means we often have to purchase a show off iTunes and so be it.
♥ STRETCH. Joan isn’t a large baby. In fact, she’s quite petite. But MAN can you get sore from looking after a small child. A few stretches morning and night, maybe a couple of sun salutations,makes me feel good.
♥ DANCE. It’s as simple as popping on some Billie Holiday and dancing around the kitchen while prepping a meal or putting away dishes. Sometimes I have Joan on my hip and I kindaprefer it that way. “I Cried For You” is our song. I guess that makes it more “us time”. Music is a powerful thing and I always find that by playing some sort of music in line with the mood in which I wish to be, I end up feeling it. Diamonds by Rihanna is on high rotation.
Heidi Sze is a mumma to a little girl, Joan. She is an Australian Dietitian/Nutritionist who specialises in pre & post-natal nutrition. Heidi loves to spend her days cooking for her family, developing recipes for clients and rolling around in the grass with her daughter. Heidi writes about her life on her blog, Apples Under My Bed. She is passionate about helping women feel their best, and believes that good nutrition plays a big role in wellness as you journey from mumma-to-be into motherhood. Heidi is available for Skype consultations, whether you’re thinking about having children soon, if you’re currently pregnant or if you’ve had your bubba(s).