"The soul has an absolute, unforgiving need for regular excursions into enchantment. It requires them like the body needs food and the mind needs thought."
Mom, nurturing yourself isnít a luxury; itís downright essential. And now is the perfect time to start, to find room in your life for yourself, and use that time to do what most replenishes and energizes you.
In order to "be all that you can be" to those around you, you have to take a little time for yourself. For some time each day, give yourself a reprieve from family obligations and the demands of time with your children. At first, it may feel like stolen moments of time from all the concrete details of your work and your household responsibilities, from raising your children and giving them the primary focus of your energy. Moreover, it often feels counterintuitive that by looking out for yourself, youíre actually helping your family.
Remind yourself of the instructions about the use of oxygen masks in the event of a drop in cabin pressure in an airplane: "Be sure to secure your own masks first, before putting a mask on your child." When you hear that, at first it seems so selfish and self-serving. Look out for yourself first! But then you realize that if you pass out, you wonít be able to affix your childís mask either. Similarly in life, you cannot care properly for your children if you canít get enough oxygen yourself.
Take Care Of Yourself
1. Finagle lunch with a favorite friend-- and in the process buy yourself a bouquet of flowers and an extra one for her too to celebrate the restorative power of close friendships. Call up or drop an e-mail to a long-distance friend you havenít been in touch with for a while. Reconnect, catch up on life, and laugh. Make staying in touch with friends a priority. It can be as simple as a weekly e-mail or phone call, or sending a card once a month. Friends will reciprocate the gesture, making you feel connected to and cared about by others.
2. Build into your week activities that boost your self-esteem, and that make you feel strong and confident. These could be things that you do well, things about which you feel passionate, or things that you did well in your youth that you still enjoy, such as swimming or doing crossword puzzles.
3. Exercise, even when you donít feel much like doing so. Staying fit and conditioned gives you the foundation to counter the stresses of parenting and running a household. It also will lift your spirits and boost your self-image. If the type of exercise youíve been doing isnít for fun for you and is another chore you add to the weekís schedule, try something different such as tennis or a spin class. Drag out your bike and try a new route. Walk the dog and the whole family with you in the evening. Aim for a half hour of physical activity a day, and even walking counts!
4. Comfort food doesnít always have to be macaroni and cheese, gooey grilled cheese sandwiches, fresh baked cookies, or a decadent pint of gourmet ice cream. Instead it can be soups that simmer on your stove (add bouillon cubes for more instant rich flavor), roast turkey or chicken (throw some lemons or oranges into the roasting pan), or bread baked in the oven (you can even buy uncooked dough in your grocery storeís freezer section).
5. Are you caffeine-dependent? I know I was-- so much so that I thought I should invent a caffeine patch that Moms could wear on their arms and simply tap to get activated in the morning. The problem is that caffeine affects your sleep, leaves you jittery, and saps your energy when it wears off. So ease yourself off it, giving yourself more time to sleep and substituting natural energizers such as fruit in its place as a quick pick-me-up.
6. Surround yourself with energized friends. Find people with whom you feel refreshed and inspired, and who make you laugh-- and make these the energizers you seek out. Energy is contagious, both positive and negative. Make sure that those around you on a regular basis are energetic and positive. Identify those people who primarily act as energy-vampires or are toxic for you to be around, and get them out of your life. The same goes for toxic colleagues and friends: use polite evasion to keep them at armís length.
7. Let go of perfectionism. Give up the ideal of having a spotless house. This is a never-ending series of battles you will keep losing. Kids by their very nature create chaos in their wake, even those trained as toddlers to take their plates to the sink and clean up their rooms.
8. Give up hoping to have a body that leaps straight off the pages of a fashion magazine. Unless youíve inherited amazing genes or do yourself the disservice of eating too little, you will likely find yourself consumed by a very demanding part-time job of losing weight. Your scale, bathroom mirror, and smallest jeans should not become the arbiters of your happiness.
9. Toss out clothing that doesnít fit or that you havenít worn in the past two years. Give it to Goodwill or a local charity. Keep only clothes in which you feel great.
Spice It Up!
10. Indulge your sense of smell. Experiment with different scents of perfumes, as they can switch your mood and give you a pick-me-up at much needed times. Treat yourself to some in the afternoon of a long day. Put plants around your house or office. Get some indoor flowering bulbs such as narcissus, tulips, and hyacinths. And grow sweet-smelling fresh herbs in your garden such as rosemary, oregano, sage, or lemon balm.
11. Expand your mind. Treat yourself to a class at a local community college or center: an hour of pottery or oil painting or dancing. Get an adult education catalog and see what catches your eye. You sign your kids up for lessons on everything under the sun, why not try something new for yourself? Try a cooking class, start a garden in the backyard, go for an afternoon of golf with that friend who keeps offering to teach you, or try yoga, tai chi or even karate lessons.
12. Set aside a half hour a day to read more books. It keeps your mind engaged and challenged, absorbed and intrigued. Carefully think about whether participating in a book group makes sense for you: how much passion do you bring to the books you read? If you can only read a book or two a month, you have to consider whether feeling obligated to read books that donít interest you will be a drag rather than an inspiration. Keep great reading material in a bag in the back of your car: something that you consider decadent and fun, be that a magazine or an engaging novel, to read when you wait.
13. Plan a surprise weekend getaway so that you can come back as good as new! Make time for your partner, as your relationship needs connecting time to be nourished. Make regular dates, swapping with friends if need be to get the babysitting coverage. Spend time alone with each other even on family vacations. Raise this back up to the top of your list of priorities.
14. Think slow every once in a while and take your time in life. Treat yourself to some moments of luxurious, leisurely time. When you are overwhelmed, stop and just breathe. Give yourself pockets of time-out from the fast-paced world in which we live. Make time for yourself-- and running errands doesnít count! Take time out particularly when you feel rushed, behind, or in crisis mode.
15. Are you sleep-deprived? Itís so tempting to steal hours from either end of our days, to get that final load of laundry folded, or to curl up with a novel, that you wind up getting less than the optimal seven or eight hours of sleep your body needs.
16. Ease yourself off "quick fix" foods. Snacks high in sugar, caffeine, or alcohol actually bring your mood and energy level down further once they wear off. Reach instead for a glass of ice water with a couple raspberries thrown in, a cup of green tea, or crisp vegetables that appeal to you.
17. Take a shower or bath every day. It sounds simple, but this is often the first luxury to go for a Mom! Plus, once a week, indulge in a bath during which no shaving or shampooing is allowed. Light a couple of candles, drop in scented bath oil, and luxuriate. Be really decadent and throw in a few rose or gardenia petals. Nothing like a really warm bubble bath with scented soap or gel to soothe your body after a long day running around and meeting everyone elseís needs. Dim the lights, grab something fabulous to read, or put on some of your favorite music, and spend twenty minutes soaking out the dayís stress.
18. Pick up soothing music to listen to in the car or during your commutes, or check out some books on tape from your library to have some escapist time listening on the go. Transform this otherwise lost time into something soothing.
19. Hiring help can sometimes be money well spent. Spend a few extra dollars to have someone help you clean, organize, or finish a project. While this may take some creative planning and budgeting, the extra time it will give you, for yourself or with your family, may be just what you need.
20. Do something that makes you feel exuberant. Seek out adventure: it can be simple as an afternoon wandering and exploring a nearby museum or small town. It doesnít have to be a week of hiking in Tibet. Approach your own town as a tourist might. What havenít you done or gone to see? Go to it.
21. Make your bed a comfort zone. Choose some soft or silky sheets, a fluffy down comforter, lots of plumped-up pillows for nighttime reading, an afghan to curl up in, soft lighting (switch to a 25 watt bulb), and music in your bedroom (even if just a portable radio or CD player). For a treat, scent your sheets by adding a couple drops of scented oil on a washcloth thrown in with them in the dryer.
22. Rethink your interior space at home or at work, and take a second look at how youíve arranged things. Paint a new color on your walls or ceiling. Get room-darkening shades if the light wakes you up. Create hidden storage spaces such as under your bed for things cluttering your life. Buy woven baskets to store papers.
Free Up Your Time
23. Free yourself from the endless flipping through catalogs. Thereís all that time spent perusing, flagging items, deciding what to get, and finally ordering the ones you want (not to mention all that time spent on returns of sizes that donít fit or products that donít live up to their catalog pictures).
24. Buy a weekís supply of paper plates, cups, and plastic silverware, and give up doing the dishes. Instead, go on an after-dinner walk or bike ride with your family.