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I've compiled a master list of 32 simple self care ideas for stressed out, busy, overworked and overwhelmed moms.
To me, self care means more than just journaling, meditating, or doing yoga (although those things are great). You can do self care in tons of different ways as long as you're being intentional to relax in what you're doing.
Keep reading to learn more and get some simple ideas for how you can care for yourself.
What is self care?
In its simplest terms...self care is caring for yourself.
This means caring for your physical health, mental health, paying attention to the food you’re putting in your body, and finding a supportive and loving community to surround yourself with.
Your health is kind of like a puzzle. Food is a piece of the puzzle, as is fitness, and mental and emotional health are pieces too. Without one piece, the puzzle doesn’t quite look right. But when we find the missing piece and put it in its place, that’s when it’s beautiful. It’s complete. And whole.
When one piece is missing, your health is thrown out of whack. You might start developing health issues, your sleep might be compromised.
You might notice your mood shifting from the positivity you once had naturally. Now you’re just irritated and you don’t know why.
Why is self care important for moms?
As moms, we constantly pour out whatever energy we have.
You care for your kids.
You feed them, clothe them, and help them learn everything they need to. All so that they’ll eventually grow to become independent adults. That’s the goal...right?
Pour out your life for your children so that they eventually won’t need you anymore.
You care for your husband. You do the laundry, clean the kitchen, and do the grocery shopping.
But what’s missing?
Time for yourself. To slow down and take stock of how you're doing. I mean...how you're really doing.
Four components of self care
I view self-care in four parts.
- Mental Health
- Emotional Health/Social
- Physical Health/Fitness
Too often us moms are told (directly or indirectly) that we need to have it all together, and that caring for everyone else around us should just come naturally.
But that’s not how it is.
We need to be deliberate in caring for our whole body.
In the introduction of Brene Brown’s book, The Gifts of Imperfection, she talks about how she has made the shift from continually pushing harder and harder, intentionally to slowing down when she's feeling drained.
She says, “I made a promise to myself that when I felt emotionally, physically, and spiritually done, I’d try slowing down rather than relying on my old standbys: pushing through, soldiering on, and sucking it up.”
And that sentence in itself, is a great example of exhibiting self-care. It’s being intentional to slow down, rather than push on when you need a break.
What do you need to do right now...to care for yourself best?
If what you need is to spend an hour cooking dinner by yourself to relax, be intentional and do it. Make it fun. Self-care is anything that helps you relax. But I think it needs to be an intentional decision.
Set the kids up with a 20 minute activity so you can have some time to yourself.
But you can’t half-way do self-care.
Here’s an example: If what I need is some good Netflix time, keeping it on in the background while I’m working on my computer is NOT self-care. Self care is saying “work can wait” and closing the computer.
Self care is a process
I’m writing this post as someone who’s in the trenches right next to you. I’m still learning the importance of self-care. And honestly, I’ve only recently been realizing how much of a toll stress is taking on my body, my health, and my mind.
In my searching for self care ideas for myself, I realized that self care doesn't have to mean journaling, or meditating, or doing yoga (although those things are great).
Self care can be anything you do that’s relaxing and fun.
With this list of self-care ideas in hand, let’s start prioritizing the health of our whole body.
When you don't have time to do self-care
If, when you read through this list, you think to yourself…”Yeah, I know I need to be doing that..but I just don’t have time…”
You might just need to change things up. Maybe you need new routines in your life. Some simple checklists or systems to allow for your husband and kids to help out more around the house.
Hilary over at Pulling Curls created a course dedicated to helping moms create family routines.
By implementing routines in your daily life (like a chore chart, or a schedule to show which kid helps with dinner on each day), you can free up some space in your life from having to keep track of everything.
Check out her course here. As I listened to her videos, I was struck with how much I can do now (even with young kids) to set us up for success (without the burden on ME).
Self Care Ideas - Eating Real Food
Most of what I write about here on Scratch To Basics is centered around food. Because I really believe that real food can heal your body.
1 - Make a meal plan
Meal planning is one way that I care for myself each week. It might sound silly. But when I compare my attitude and mood on the weeks when I don’t meal plan to the weeks when I do. There’s a noticeable difference in my stress level.
You know what's stressful? Starting to make a recipe, only to realize I don't have all the ingredients. Grab some meal planning templates here to get you started.
2 - Ask your family to help with meal prep/clean up
Even if your kids are young, they can have a part in dinner time clean up and meal prep. Enroll your kids in this cooking course if you're looking a little assistance teaching them how to cook. Katie (the creator) is all about getting kids in the kitchen.
I used to just think cooking with my kids was just a fun activity. But it’s not. It’s a way you can teach your kids valuable life lessons. All while easing the burden on YOU.
And if your kids are ALWAYS asking for you to make them something to eat, grab these 20 healthy recipes that they can make by themselves!
3 - Eat a piece of dark chocolate
Chocolate is touted as a self-care treat for a reason. You’ve seen the commercials…”treat yourself to some chocolate…”. Chocolate tastes great, but it also helps calm your body. Dark chocolate is healthy. So enjoy some as a form of self-care today.
4 - Start a garden
There’s a study I read about recently that shows when you work with dirt, something incredible happens in your body. It’s healing. And incredibly therapeutic. Start a garden (herbs or vegetables are a great way to start) so you can get free therapy. Kind of like dirt therapy.
5 - Eat a bowl of berries
Berries are delicious. And they're really healthy, too. Grab yourself a bowl today. Sit, relax, and enjoy.
6 - Order meal kit service
Take a couple nights off from planning and grocery shopping and just order the ingredients & recipe to be delivered. When you order from Sun Basket you’ll be getting delicious recipes organic ingredients, as well as meal choices that work with your family’s way of eating.
We've used Sun Basket in the past, and plan to use them again in the future for those nights when I just want a night off from cooking, but don't want to settle for drive-through.
7 - Visit a farm
A farm can be a really peaceful place. It can take you back to the simplicity of where your food comes from. Visit a farm with a roadside stand, and buy some produce from them. Then when you eat your next meal, you can be thankful for the specific farmer who grew those vegetables and raised the animals that contributed to your meal.
8 - Pray before you eat
The act of pausing before you eat your food is a centuries old tradition. Say a prayer of thanks before your meal as a way to say “thanks”. To God and to everyone who helped your food get to the table.
Self Care Ideas - Mental Health
Self care is often all bundled into the mental health bucket. So many of these ideas, you've likely heard of already.
1 - Journal
If your journaling habit has fallen by the wayside, grab one of these gratitude journals and get back in the habit with a simple sentence each day.
2 - Free-write
Sometimes when the thoughts are piling up in my head, all it takes is sitting down for ten minutes to get everything out of my head and onto the paper. By giving somewhere for the thoughts to go, you'll free up mental space to think about other things.
3 - Pray
Are you a person of faith? Make time in your day to pray. Here's a daily devotional from Max Lucado to help you work prayer into your daily life.
4 - Meditate
I've found some great free meditation apps that offer guided questions and phrases with soothing music to assist. Or, grab a book like this one with 75 meditations.
5 - Read
Find a book that you enjoy. A story that draws you in. And take some time to enjoy it.
6 - Netflix
Binging on Netflix can totally be self-care, if it's something you're doing intentionally. Find a show you want to watch, then put everything else to the side and watch it. Bonus self-care points if you cozy up with a blanket and a hot drink.
7 - Take some time to do something crafty
Do you enjoy crafting? Drawing? Painting? Knitting? Or creating something festive for your home during the holidays? Do it! And enjoy it!
8 - Take a bath
What better way to wind down at the end of the day than relaxing in a warm bath? Soak your sore muscles in a soothing bath. Bonus points if you put some soothing essential oils in your bath water.
9 - Clean or organize your house
Organizing those stacks of papers on your desk and finding ways to clear off your countertop clutter can make a big difference in your stress levels.
Take some time to clean and organize your home and be productive with your self-care times. And if you need a little help coming up with realistic ways to manage your home, reduce clutter & clean less, check out this course on keeping an organized home.
10 - Go to your local coffee shop and just sit.
In silence. Get the kids some time with grandma, or go while they're in school. If you can’t manage that, carve out twenty minutes before they wake up, or after they go down for some reflection/silent time.
11 - Hire a maid
I haven’t personally tried this one. But if the day-to-day cleaning is stressing you out, consider hiring a cleaning crew to come once a month to do the deep cleans.
It’ll take one thing off your plate so you can have time to reflect, de-stress, and focus on what’s important.
12 - Listen to an inspirational & encouraging podcast
I've found that listening to an inspirational podcast while I cook dinner, do laundry, or run errands is a really helpful practice. Here are a few podcasts that I've been enjoying lately.
Self Care Ideas - Emotional & Social Health
Your social life is an important piece of the self-care puzzle. Surround yourself with a community that loves and supports you.
1 - Plan a coffee date with a friend
Usually coffee dates don't happen as often as we'd like. Text a couple of your close friends and get some coffee dates on the schedule. Why not make it a regular thing? Once a month? Every other week?
2 - Pick up the phone and call a friend
Call up a friend and chat. Take some time to laugh and have fun catching up. You don't need a sitter for this one, just a few minutes.
3 - Write a letter to a friend
Another way to de-stress and relax is to write a letter. Whether you write an email or a pen & paper snail mail letter, writing a letter is a great way to stay connected to your friends.
4 - Take a class at the local community college
I haven't done this one, but I've certainly thought about it. If you look through the adult education listings, you'll likely find a few topics that you'd be interested in learning more about.
5 - Join a club
Another great option for meeting your emotional and social needs is to join a club. Look on meetup.com for local meetups that you'd be interested in. I've seen running groups, gardening groups, clubs for reading, writing, and knitting. Bring a friend and get to know other like-minded folks in your neighborhood.
6 - Volunteer at a local charity
Nothing forges a bond between people quite as fast as working towards a common goal. You can volunteer at your church, or a local charity. Believe it or not, taking a little bit of time to put others first can really help give perspective and is nourishing to the soul.
7 - Reach out to your neighbors
If you're looking for people to connect with...why not start with the people you share a property line with? Instead of just waving as you drive by them on your way home, take a few minutes to get to know them.
Fight the urge to keep to yourself, and find a small way to connect. This can really improve your outlook and possibly even start a new friendship.
Self Care Ideas - Physical Health
Physical health is an important pillar of self-care. You may not think of physical health as self-care, but it certainly is.
1 - Go for a walk in nature
I read once that when you take a walk in the woods, it's actually better for you than if you just walk around the block. It was something about the oxygen in the air being a higher concentration in the woods. So go for it. Take some time in nature and breathe deeply while you're out there.
2 - Take a yoga class (online or in person)
If you're looking for yoga classes, you don't have to look any farther than You Tube. Or if you'd rather do it in person, ask around for a local yoga studio.
3 - Take some time to stretch
I did these neck and shoulder stretches when a bad headache kicked in (probably from my bad posture or looking down at my computer too much). They loosened my neck and shoulder muscles enough for the headache to completely go away!
Get FREE access to the video I used here from Jen (she's awesome).
4 - Spend some time in a sauna
Did you know that sweating is actually really good for you? Yep. Sweating removes toxins from your body. So take an extra twenty minutes at the gym and sit in the sauna.
Don't have time for a gym? Find a couple square feet in your house that's free and put one of these saunas in. My sister and her husband did that (and thankfully she lets me use it whenever I want).
5 - Make time for exercise
Whether you choose to exercise using free You Tube videos in your living room at nap time, or you pay for a gym membership, it really doesn't matter.
I'm anti-gym. Meaning...I'm too cheap to pay the money for a monthly membership, and also too lazy to pack up the kids and deal with the stress involved. So for ME...a gym is a no-go. Instead, I choose to run up and down our driveway (it's really long). And then I'll do some squats, push-ups, and planks.
I think it's important to do something to get your heart rate up. And I've heard the best time to do strength exercises is when your heart rate is already up. So this routine works for me.
I encourage you to find something that works for you. It doesn't have to be an hour long every day. But it needs to happen. One component of self care is caring for your physical body through exercise. I've used these free exercise videos in the past, and recommend them.
What do you put in a self care package?
Do you have a friend who you think could use a little more self care in their life? What better way to help them, than to send a self care package.
This can be a really great gift for new moms.
When you make up a self care package, follow this simple formula to figure out what to include something...
- cozy to wear (like these cozy slippers, a super soft spa robe, or these Dr. Scholls soothing cozy socks)
- yummy to eat (dark chocolate, fresh fruit, etc.)
- relaxing to do (a movie, a book, a puzzle, etc.)
- that smells good (candle, your favorite essential oils, soap, etc.).
How do you maintain self care?
The times in my life when I’ve been way too burnt out are the times when I’ve neglected to take time for self-care.
I think it's essential to work in daily habits that enable us to be intentional about relaxing, de-stressing, and reflecting on our thoughts and feelings.