A romantic night out with your partner? Afternoon coffee with a friend? A couple of hours of indulgence at the bookstore cafe? Sounds lovely, but in the times when I most desperately need a couple of hours to myself, I’m lucky to get a chance to pee alone, let alone time for a massage! This last week has been incredibly stressful: stitches and an MRI for our three year old, finals coming up, and trying to care for the rest of my family on one or two hours of sleep each night. On those days when you really have to be there caring for your littles, but need so much to care for yourself, too, try these quick ways to help you catch your breath.
Take a deep breath and stretch. Chances are good that your muscles are all in knots from walking an unhappy baby or sleeping in an awkward position during the night (or both). A full, deep breath, taking in as much oxygen as you can hold, and then slowly exhaling will help you feel more energized.
Use essential oils. Rub your favorite blend on your wrist, the soles of your feet or under your nose. I alternate my favorites according to my most pressing needs: a grapefruit-vanilla blend that always makes me feel happier, a cool mint blend that makes me feel refreshed and lavender to help me relax. You can also use essential oils to help relieve many issues or symptoms with your children.
Check the mailbox. Sunshine can make you feel better, but getting everyone ready for the park might be too much of a challenge. Even a few seconds outside to check the mail can bring a moment of light into your day, and it doesn’t require a change of clothes. Water your plants. Take a second to spot something of nature outside—singing birds, the scent of the grass, the play of light and shadows on the sidewalk.
Remember a more peaceful time. Think back to a time when you were happy, calm and relaxed. Soak in that moment, that expression on your face, the lightness in your heart. As you relive those moments, you will experience again some of the joy and peace contained in those memories.
On a related note, visualize the most relaxing nature scene you can imagine. For me, there are certain images that burned themselves into my mind during some stressful times: a deep green tropical pool, and feeling the cool water close over me. A twilight beach, with lacy purple shadows from the palm trees on the sand. The cobalt blue of a crisp winter sky, sprinkled with a fairy dusting of stars.
Pray. Meditate. Even if you are too tired to form coherent thoughts, just take a second for your heart to cry out. Meditate for a moment and let that stillness sink deep into your soul, regardless of what is going on around you.
Affirmations. Your favorite nugget of philosophy, a beloved Scripture verse, a positive claim of strength or peace. Sometimes we just need to hear it, even from ourselves. During our incredibly stressful week, I had lines from old songs, favorite Psalms, and loving words from friends that became my mental soundtrack and helped me to hold on.
Just like tickling yourself, massaging yourself has its limitations, to be sure. Even so, slow pressure along your shoulder blades, rubbing your feet, a hand massage, or even squeezing pressure points can help your muscles to unclench a little bit.
Beware hostile takeovers. This may not seem like self care, but for me it is. When everything else seems to be spiraling out of control, my nature is to seize power over anything I can, even things that I would normally be pretty laid back about. Suddenly, I freak out over minor things and insist that others do exactly what I want when I want it, just to give myself the illusion of control. Problem is, they don’t particularly appreciate that, and it leaves me feeling crummy afterwards. Being mindful of that tendency and recognizing it helps me to let go and be more tolerant.
Sometimes, taking a day off simply isn’t possible. Yet by sprinkling enough of these mama moments throughout your day, you can bring some desperately needed refreshment and peace. All of these can be done one-handed (helpful when your child is nursing) or in the few seconds it takes to count for a game of hide and seek. They won’t take the place of a massage, a coffee date with friends or dinner out with your partner, but they just might help you hang on till you get there.
For more on balancing your own needs with the needs of your family, check out the fabulous resources here!
Dulce is learning to walk in grace with her amazing husband and four wonderful kidlets. She is a perpetual provider of magic mami milk who practices gentle discipline, shares a family bed, homeschools, teaches Spanish, and blogs at Dulce de leche. Each day brings plenty of iced coffee and a fresh lesson in trusting her children, herself and the Love that surrounds and fills us. Sometimes it feels like livin’ a vida loca, but overall, life is incredibly sweet.