February is the month we typically carve out time to show appreciation for the people we love. Many of us spend significant time and money showering others with our affection, particularly the people we too easily take for granted the rest of the year. By definition, this is most moms, yet many women are reluctant to take time to love themselves like they love the people around them, and that can lead to trouble.
The instinct to put everyone else first is something many mothers know well. Nearly 80 percent of women put off taking care of themselves because they are so busy taking care of others, and each year, mothers somehow manage to give more while taking less. Since 1975, women have nearly doubled the amount of time they spend with their kids each week, and in the process, are working more outside the home than ever before. Few would argue that this trajectory is unsustainable, but many women don’t know how to find balance in the mayhem. If you are feeling depleted, here are five easy ways to love yourself this month – and every month.
Breathe. If your day, week, month, or entire parenting life has felt stressful, breathing deeply to calm anxious nerves will help. In addition to making you feel more present, breathing has been proven to intercept emergency signals that set off stress alarms in the brain and replace them with calmer ones. Spending five minutes every morning – or when stress begins to mount – to consciously breathe will change your brain’s activity level, and alter your entire state of mind.
Move it. Only half of adults get the recommended 30 minute of exercise, five days a week, and moms have an especially difficult time finding time to sweat on their own terms. If carving out big chunks of time is too hard, start in 10-minute increments, and always opt for something over nothing to get important health benefits.
Indulge your own needs. Putting everyone else’s needs first often means putting your own last, and that can take a toll. Adding yourself to the distribution chain, even for something as small as what to eat for dinner, can help drive feelings of happiness and fulfillment, while teaching your kids they’re not the only ones with needs.
Take a timeout. Moms across the board (94 percent of working moms and 97 percent of stay-at-home moms) say they need a break from parenting, but many still resist asking for help. Forget being a martyr and find ways to take a break – whether it’s skipping the chaotic dinner routine or taking a vacation for one to recharge your battery.
Reclaim sleep. Less than half of mothers get the recommended seven hours of sleep each night, and each additional child decreases the chances of getting sufficient sleep by 50 percent. This deprivation adds up over time and triggers all sort of other health complications, so make shuteye a priority over other tasks, and divvy up managing nighttime disturbances that go hand in hand with parenting.
Before you put everyone else’s needs before your own, stop to consider why taking care of yourself is really the best gift you can give the people you care about, and try these fast fixes to put yourself on a path to better balance all year long.