Being a mum is a full-time job but there are ways to relax without adding to your to-do list, writes Rebekah Borucki
Whether you’re a mother of a whole crew of little ones, like I am, or a new mother of one, your time is valuable and in short supply.
The last thing you need is more tasks added to your already full plate. That’s why I’m offering you simple ways to ease your stress without adding to your to-do list.
I might break a rule or two with my suggestions, but that’s okay.
Your self-care routine doesn’t have to follow the rules, especially if you’re tailoring it to your schedule.
Toss whatever you’ve heard about bubble baths and long mid-week brunches with friends (unless those are your thing), and get ready to receive realistic self-care tips that fit into your real life.
And as you should do with every bit of advice from a stranger, take what works for you and toss the rest into the rubbish bin.
Here are my 7 simple ways for busy mums to de-stress.
1: Follow your breath
I’m a meditation guide by trade because meditation is what saved me from crippling anxiety and deep depression as a young woman. And today it’s my most valuable tool as a busy mum.
If the idea of meditating intimidates you, or if you’ve tried it before but quit because you felt you weren’t doing it right, I have great news for you.
For a lot of people, meditation means sitting still and thinking about nothing.
In 25 years of daily practice, that’s never been my goal.
My personal definition of meditation is simply taking the time to say to myself, “Yes, I see you. I recognize that you’re a thinking, feeling person, and I’m here to listen.”
That’s it! Meditation is taking the time to check in with your feelings and create a little oasis of peace and calm in your day.
here are as many effective ways to meditate as there are people on the planet.
There’s no wrong way to practice. If you can breathe, you can meditate.
Here’s what to do: follow your breath as it moves in through your nose and fills your lungs.
Allow your entire rib cage to expand and your belly to soften as you inhale.
Allow yourself to settle even more comfortably in your seat with every exhale. Each breath cycle will end with you feeling more relaxed. There’s no need to apply any extra effort.
Just observing your breath will cause it to become smoother, longer, and deeper on its own.
2: Get creative
Colouring books for grown-ups have been all the rage the past few because they’re a great way to express creativity without a lot of effort. Both online and traditional bookshops carry scores of titles, so you’re sure to find one that fits your tastes.
My favorite adult coloring books feature motivational quotes and images from nature.
If you have the opportunity, a local art class might be a better choice for you.
There are so many accessible ways to express yourself: watercolors, sewing, knitting or crochet, pottery making.
The list is endless.
3: Get outside
I’m lucky—I live on a beautiful farm with lots of land, far away from the noise of the city.
I can take a walk around my property, or I can visit with my barnyard friends.
Getting out of the house and into nature brings me back to a calm state every time.
Even if you are miles from the countryside, you can find some peace in a local park, by a pond, or even on a small patch of grass outside.
If you need to de-stress fast and can’t get outside, bring nature inside with cut flowers and houseplants.
I keep a houseplant in every room of the house, and I delight in watching them flourish with my care and attention.
Bonus tip: Go barefoot. Connecting to the earth through a method called “grounding” or “earthing” for just 30 minutes a day has been shown to reduce stress and even chronic pain and fatigue.
4: Just say no.
I like to say yes to things that serve my happiness and bring me joy, but sometimes the best way to de-stress is to say NO.
Setting boundaries around my time is empowering, and creating a calendar that serves my energetic and emotional needs is one of my favorite tools for managing stress.
I also use a visualisation technique to plan my calendar.
Here’s how to practice. Picture a stream flowing along a forest floor.
The stream is your day.
The small sticks or leaves being carried downstream are the random things that happen during your day, like a call from the school that your kid is sick.
Imagine the big stuff on your list—tasks, appointments, or events that require a lot of mental, emotional, or physical energy—as boulders. If you take a giant boulder and stick it in the middle of the stream, the water has to go around it, but it’s still flowing fine.
However, if you toss a bunch of boulders in, you create a dam, and nothing is getting by. The water will keep splashing up against the rocks and dropping all the rubbish it was carrying right there in a great big pile. Obstruction has completely stopped your flow.
Only one boulder (an energetically-taxing event like a speaking engagement or another conference with my teenager’s physics teacher) is allowed per day (if I can help it). If it’s a crazy-big boulder, I might skip a day or two before I book another one.
Rocks and pebbles (minor tasks like phone calls, errands, and things on my to-do list) get scattered here and there on the dates when they actually need to be done.
I’ve gone to bed on too many nights feeling like a failure because I didn’t get all the things done, even when most of those things didn’t even need to get done. When your schedule is packed with a ton of to-do items that aren’t priorities, you’re setting yourself up for disaster.
Your only options are to hustle in spite of your well-being or feel like crap because you didn’t finish what you set out to do. Toss the rocks and pebbles where they belong, not in a big pile that blocks your healthy flow.
5: Start your day with gratitude.
Every morning when I wake up, I say, “Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.”
I believe so strongly in the power of gratitude and its ability to drive more abundance and joy.
When I’m stressing out and wanting to shout and throw a toddler-level epic tantrum, feeling grateful can be the furthest thing from my mind, but it’s when it’s often most effective.
Even in the toughest times, there is always at least one blessing to count.
Gratitude shifts my mindset from irritated to joyful. Say, thank you. And mean it.
6: Multitask to combine self-care with child-care.
I know, I know! Multitasking is usually a big no-no.
It creates more physical and mental stress and should be avoided at all costs.
Focusing on one thing at a time is healthier and more efficient.
But for every rule, there is an exception.
I don’t always have the opportunity to indulge in my favorite self-care activities because many of them require a lot of time.
For instance, I love reading, but I rarely have time to sit down and read undistracted.
One solution I found for this is listening to audiobooks on the go. I used to dread driving the kids to and from their activities, but now those long hours are time for my books.
Another practice that I only recently started is combining my reading time with the time I spend reading to my little ones at bedtime.
’ve finished three incredible books over the past month by reading one chapter at a time out loud to my four-year-old. We start with a quick book of hers and then move onto one of mine.
She’s asleep within minutes, and I’m blissfully turning the pages of my latest literary discovery.
7: Give up and give in
No, not in the “toss everything and set it on fire” sense (though, it’s tempting sometimes).
But when all else fails, I remember that I can only control what’s mine to control.
Everything else requires surrender.
That might be the biggest lesson I have gained from motherhood: the terrible, no fun, joyous act of surrender.
I didn’t get there easy; no one ever does. The whole point of surrender is that we are giving up the fight, which means we were busy fighting in the first place.
But surrender isn’t just about waving the white flag; it’s about understanding that everything we’d like to be in our control is not necessarily ours to manage or protect. It’s knowing our limits and connecting to the truth that all experiences—even the ones belonging to the little people in our care—are not our experiences.
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