As mothers it can be so easy to put ourselves last. Firstly, our children need so much from us that we can wonder how it’s possible to even THINK about ourselves, let alone do something about it. Secondly, most of us have been culturally conditioned to believe that neglecting our own needs to be of service to our children and others is being ‘a good mother’ and ‘a very nice person’. In the old paradigm various forms of martyrdom were somehow valued and honoured as heroic. Thank goodness this is changing and you no longer need to feel guilty about giving yourself some well-deserved self care.
This is not to say that we shouldn’t be helpful and go the extra mile for others. Instead it means that we should seek balance, have a more self-inclusive abundant mindset, and actively nurture ourselves in clever everyday ways. I call this extraordinary self-care.
The brain science today validates that self-care needs to be a priority. And by doing this you’re providing your child with a mother who is ‘in the green brain state’ more often. What this does for your child is have them feel safe and secure and more likely to feel calm and grounded. It helps them feel hopeful that ‘life is good’, and develop that deep inner trust the ‘everything is going to be ok’. Plus they have a mother who is more likely to be attuned to their needs, and able to bring play, joyfulness and vitality into family life.
Extraordinary self-care. I’m not talking about the luxury going on a 5 star weekend type (although this can definitely be a great form of self-care if it’s possible for you!), but more of the everyday, every week to a fortnight, and every-so-often type. You need the types and amounts of self-care that shifts your brain state into the green, protects your precious energy from being leaked, and adds delicious goodness to ordinary moments.
There are many forms of self-care. These might include massages, time to walk in nature, a whole weekend away or even just a slow deep breath. You’ll need to be getting constant mini doses of self-care as well as finding ways to schedule in bigger ones! …. and even Max it out occasionally! I love the system of having small, medium, large and maxi fill-ups. Just for fun I would liken it to a sip, a few mouthfuls, a glassful, and a large delicious drink of green juice for your brain!
What would these self-care ‘fill-ups’ look like?
A small fillup (a few secs-10 mins): slow deep mindful breath, embodiment practices, gratitude, intention setting, mama transformation practice, listen or dance to a playlist of your three favourite songs, hugs three times a day (releases enough oxytocin to combat the cortisol from stress), eye contact with someone who is calm (this directly calms your nervous system), sit down and look out the window, go barefoot on the grass, meditate.
A medium fillup (30-60 mins): a walk, swim, dance or run, read an inspirational book or blog, mama transformation practice, get out in nature (eg. moonlight walk after dinner), guided meditation, journaling, beauty treatment, your creative passion.
A large fillup (2 hours-1 day): picnic in the park, date with a friend, creative date with yourself (see ‘The Artist’s Way’ by Julia Cameron), a body treatment, watch a movie, go to a concert, activities for passion & pleasure (releases feel-good chemicals oxytocin & dopamine into your body), focussed time of studying, learning, working on your passion business or a meaningful cause.
A super-dooper maxi (more than 1 day): family holiday, health retreat, your passion conference or workshop.
Other things that will help you be in the green, come back to the green more quickly, and stay in the green for longer ……
As well as the fill-ups above you can also add tweaks to everyday things that take NO EXTRA time. These are the fill-ups of the clever kind. It can be extremely stimulating and energising to bring aspects of beauty, spirituality and pleasure into your day. For example you might choose to drink you tea from a fine china cup, or bring a flower into your kitchen, create and altar with sacred items for you to feel connected to special memories, choose a body lotion with a sensual scent to uplift you, take the scenic route to your destination, play themed music to energise in the morning and calm in the evening.
In any of these fill-ups you might choose to not only connect to YOUR unique essence (your spirit or soul) but also to a divine or greater presence to replenish and fuel you. This can be in the form of prayer or meditation. It can be through connecting with Mother Earth as a living energy source or from any form of spiritual practice. Some mothers find it helpful to surrender their problems and hardships to a greater power to heal and transform. This can instantly calm a worried brain and help it relax and expand into the green.
Be a grounded and present mother. You need to make sure your feet are firmly on the ground so you can meet you and your child’s everyday body needs. From this anchored place you will have the foundations to cope with the emotional waves and storms and have the best mindset to cope. Are you getting enough sleep, good nutritional food and movement? Physical exercise is vital. Your body is meant to be moving and produces ‘feel-good’ chemicals into your bloodstream when it does. How can you incorporate some form of exercise into your day? Even ten minute walks or dance breaks will make a big difference to how you feel physically and emotionally.
You might like to do an exercise class at home, or even better, arrange to have care for your child (even turn-taking with another mother) to attend a live class. There are so many options. I especially love movement practices that incorporate mindfulness techniques and breath awareness such as Nia and Yoga, the martial arts, the dance arts and the various forms of healing arts.
How is your physical and emotional health? Do you need a health check by a doctor or complimentary medicine practitioner? Have you been particularly sensitive, irritable, depressed for more than two weeks? If so you may need to check if you’re suffering from post-natal depression or other forms of mental or emotional un-wellness. This is tough, and yet there is treatment that can help. Even though it may be difficult to reach out please seek professional support. You don’t need to suffer this alone. In fact your child NEEDS you to get help. Your mental health has a direct impact on your child’s wellbeing.
Who else is in partnership with you as carers of your children? Do you have a partner who is directly involved? If so there is a relationship here that also needs nurturing and care. How are you treating this relationship? Do you need to schedule in time to ‘be’ together, to ‘have fun’ together? Through what lense are you viewing him or her? If things are strained and fairly negative you may need to shift your focus to what is going well and bring in ten times more appreciations than corrections. Maybe you need to create some time when you’re both ‘in the green’ to kindly and honestly communicate. Parenthood is one of THE most stressful situations that can happen to a couple. As you know it has a major impact on your life. Hence it deserves any sort of attention to help keep it moving forward rather than backwards. Many couples find relief and often a strengthening of their relationship when they seek professional couple counselling. Others choose other forms of personal support and healing to get similar positive results.
What are you passions and interests? What did you do to ‘chill out and relax’ prior to having a child? It’s important to find ways to continue to do some of these things and stay connected to your own sense of self. You are more than a mother. You are YOU. Don’t forget that. What else lights you up and makes your heart sing? Makes you feel excited and motivated?
Do what you love to do starting with the small stuff. Have fun. Be creative. Feel nourished. Rediscover adventure. Connect soulfully, Savour sensuality, and enjoy all the juicy deliciousness!
You cannot do this alone. Invest your time and energy into creating a village of support for yourself and your child. It’s SO WORTH IT. Our brains have evolved to be connected in community. Your child needs to have other adult role models to help them regulate and learn new ways of being in the world. YOU need to have the love and support of others.
Now its YOUR turn to personalise your ‘Green Juice for your Brain’ Fillups. Go to your playsheet and fill out the section, ‘My extraordinary self-care fillups’.