You can’t pour from an empty cup. Here are a few helpful mom self-care tips to keep yourself happy, healthy, and sane.
Easy, achievable mom self-care tips:
Go to sleep earlier
Sleep is essential for life. That extra episode of television is not worth the agony of next day exhaustion. Browsing through a cell phone before bed will make it harder to fall asleep and may even disrupt the quality of your sleep.
Insufficient sleep hurts mental health. There is a reason sleep deprivation has been used in history as a torture method.
Find a way to relax that works for you
For me, taking a bath is like flipping an internal switch from action mom to zen mom. No matter how crazy the day is, I can turn it off with a bath. I add a few essentials oils and bath salts and voila! It’s a makeshift spa session.
Eat more plants
A plant-based diet
Eat whole, organic foods, including many plants. There is no secret diet menu, no matter what the billion-dollar diet industry is telling you.
Instead of continually focusing on what you are eating, try the 90-10 rule. If you eat healthy nourishing food 90% of the time (plant-based, organic, whole foods), then you can relax and not worry about it the other 10% of the time (have some wine, yummy dessert, chill). On special occasions, it may be closer to an 80-20 rule (because mom needs to have a little fun sometimes too!).
The point is that the occasional indulgence is a beautiful thing so long as you treat your body well regularly.
Besides, we can’t expect our kids to eat well if we don’t. We are responsible for teaching our children healthy habits from a young age so that they grow up with the nourishment they need to grow, learn, and be amazing humans.
Limit your social media
By limiting your social media exposure, you unconsciously stop comparing your life to others, and in turn, decrease your stress levels. Also, reducing your use of social media will leave you less distracted and be more present in more critical daily activities.
We all know that social media is not a real representation of what is going on in people’s lives. It is a magnification of what people want you to see: slivers of primarily positive information that appears flawless, effortless, and often like never-ending, spontaneous fun (don’t we all want to project the best parts of ourselves).
Take the time that social media is stealing from you and read a book, go for a walk, or meet a friend for coffee.
Say no more often
Permit yourself to prioritize the things that are most important to you. Mom’s needs come before getting every little chore completed. The laundry can wait until tomorrow if needed. The toys aren’t doing any permanent damage by lying on the floor a little longer.
Sometimes when I put my daughter down for a nap, I have the intention of getting several chores out of the way. But I end up taking a nap myself instead. And I feel so much better as a result.
It’s impossible to do every little thing. At some point, we have to say no. No apologies, just no.
What are you going to do to take better care of yourself this year?
Additional recommended reading:
(This post may contain affiliate links. My disclosure page is super boring but you can find it here.)
Many nurses are very good at encouraging patients to follow a regular exercise routine and at teaching ways to manage stress for optimal health. Taking their own advice about healthy lifestyle behaviors though, well, not so much.
As an emergency room nurse who has worked as a resource nurse on various units all over the hospital, I see first hand the outstanding care that is being given to our patients. The nurses I work with bend over backwards. At times they even risk their own health and safety to care for total strangers.
The work can be back-breaking, literally. Most days are very physically demanding with little rest. Over time, the work is depleting to an RN. Sometimes even resulting in permanent injuries (hello, chronic back pain!), extreme burnout or even depression.
How much work does it take to be a nurse?
Being a nurse in the hospital demands a lot on the body. The job often requires moving non-stop for grueling 12 hours shifts (or longer). It can include lifting and turning patients several times throughout the day. In addition to physical stress, nurses are often multitasking multiple patients with unique medical issues and making clinical decisions in potentially life-threatening situations.
Yoga can help nurses take better care of themselves.
To say that being a nurse causes wear-and-tear on the body is an understatement. As a result of years of heavy lifting many RN’s are suffering from chronic back problems. I know several who have had to go out on disability and sadly still suffer from permanent chronic back pain.
In nursing school we are taught “proper body mechanics” that are supposed to prevent back injuries while moving, lifting or turning patients. Recently however, there is new evidence suggesting that their really is no safe way for nurses to lift patients.
In addition, being a nurse often requires walking up to 15,000 steps or more in a single shift. A study found in the National Library of Medicine reported that many nurses walk up to five miles in an average 10 hour shift. However, in the Emergency Room and on many other units, I would argue that we actually walk much more then that. In fact, I wear a pedometer at work and I have logged up to 35,000 or more steps in a single day. That is the equivalent of walking 14 miles in a single shift!
The emotional and physiological drain of being a nurse can be overwhelming.
Being in the hospital is stressful. As a result, sometimes patients or families take their stress out on the people they are in contact with the most: the nurses. Yet it is our job to remain compassionate and continue to advocate for our patients in spite of this.
Burnout in the profession is common. Even I have questioned my decision to become a nurse for this reason on a few different occasions. I’ve tried to explain to friends and family how incredibly complex and stressful being a registered nurse can be. I think it is just one of those things that you really can’t understand unless you experience it for yourself.
All venting aside, I’m not going to run off and chance careers, or encourage anyone from not becoming a registered nurse. I derive an immense amount of pride and passion for what I do. I also enjoy working with intelligent people who have the same drive for helping people that I do.
It is, however, not a career for wimps.
Nurses need to practice yoga.
There are so many physical and mental benefits to practicing yoga regularly.
Nurses need to make self-care a priority. Not only does self-care result in better overall patient care, but ultimately it replenishes our depleted reserves. Yoga helps us take better care of ourselves and our families.
There is an endless amount of studies on yoga and its amazing benefits on physical and mental health. The Mayo clinic has stated that “yoga may help reduce stress, lower blood pressure and lower your heart rate” among many other benefits.
For the purpose of this article I am focusing on three of the biggest nurse health related issues. But don’t be mistaken, there several more benefits then I am not mentioning here.
Benefits of yoga for nurses:
As I mentioned earlier, nurses have a high workload in many hospital wards. The stress is compounded by managing patient healthcare needs and treatments, daily occupational stressors and even the many frequent changes in technology.
A study published in the National Institute of Biotechnology Information investigated the effects of yoga on stress coping strategies of ICU nurses. After only 8 weeks of yoga the results showed that the participating ICU nurses had significantly better focus coping strategies and a major reduction in perceived mental pressure. If that is what can happen after only 8 weeks, imagine the impact a regular, permanent yoga practice could have on stress management levels.
Prevent or eliminate chronic low back pain
Chronic back pain in the nursing population is a common ailment. An evidenced based review at the Texas Women’s University reported that estimates of chronic low back pain among nurses range from 50%-80%. Fortunately, the review also presented an overwhelming amount of studies that found that regular yoga significantly reduced symptoms associated with chronic low back pain and greatly improved overall physicality.
Yoga stretching not only increases flexibly, but increases muscle strength and prevents injuries such as chronic lower back pain. In a career as physically demanding as nursing, the more physically stable we are, the better care we can give to ourselves and our patients.
Prevent burnout and compassion fatigue
Urban Zen Integrative Therapy Program training at UCLA Medical Center. Nurses are learning how to integrate holistic healthcare like yoga with traditional medicine.
Lack of self-care can easily result in burnout and compassion fatigue in the nursing profession. As much as I hate to admit it, even I have questioned how long I can continue with the immense workload and emotional drain that is required of me as a nurse. Thankfully, I have found a productive way to manage this is through yoga and meditation.
A study published in Workplace Health & Safety on yoga for self-care and burnout prevention of nurses found that yoga participants “reported significantly higher self-care as well as less emotional exhaustion upon completion of an 8-week yoga intervention.” While the control group demonstrated no change throughout the course of the study, the yoga group showed a significant improvement in scores for self-care, mindfulness, and emotional exhaustion outcomes.
Yoga is good for you!
Yoga is a productive way to prevent some of the most common health ailments among nurses. Empowering nurses in self-care helps to create a happier, healthier and more productive work environment.
For better or worse, nurses serve as role models in the healthcare community. We need to practice what we preach. Why would a patient listen to our advice on how to life a healthy life if we are not living one ourselves?
Sarah, Mother Nurse Love
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(This post may contain affiliate links. My disclosure page is really boring but you can find it here.)
An app for meditation? Huh?
Those were my thoughts when my husband told me about an app called Headspace that he had been using for 30 days straight. And then he suggested that I start using it too (apparently he can tell when I’m not handling stress very well).
Headspace is an app that has many different meditations each lasting 10 minutes. So I really don’t have an excuse that I don’t have time because it’s only 10 minutes!
Meditation is harder than it looks.
Meditation is harder than it looks.
I have been practicing yoga for about 11 years on a regular basis. In that time I have probably meditated (or attempted to meditate- it can be a challenge!) hundreds of times.
The only thing that is consistent for me in meditation for me is that it’s always a little bit different each time. In other words, it’s not consistent at all.
Some days when I reach Savasana at the end of my practice I drift peacefully and effortlessly into the depths of meditation and I feel like I’m floating on a cloud.
On other days, my brain won’t stop reminding me of my to do list or rehashing a conversation with a really mean, difficult patient from my last shift at the hospital.
Like yoga, meditation is a practice. There is no good or bad. It just is what it is at the time. You can keep practicing to train your mind to do better the next time. And then eventually your brain is rewired by the habitual repetition of meditation and it becomes easier.
Setting aside time for meditation is the first step.
Since the birth of my daughter 20 months ago meditation has been a stretch for me and it than it has in a really long time. It’s hard to train your brain to relax when your mother of a toddler with a career as an RN.
And I really just don’t have a time like I used to (isn’t that everyone’s dilemma?). Since Zoe graced us with her presence the only times I have really truly been able to meditate have been when I have been lucky enough to squeeze in an actual studio yoga class. Which to be honest, is not frequently.
I do some yoga at home every day. But it’s mostly some stretching, a couple a sun salutations, an inversion or two, and then I call it a day. Sometimes I may even get to do it twice (usually next to my daughter if she’ll play long enough by herself) for anywhere from 5 to 20 minutes or so.
Thing is I never actually get to the meditation part. And I am really craving more meditation in my life.
So one of my new goals is to try and fit in 10 minutes of meditation every day. No excuses!
This is where the app, Headspace, comes into play.
Mediation requires at least a few minutes of uninterrupted time. Don’t confuse meditation with taking a nap!
As I mentioned earlier, my husband introduced me to this app a couple of months ago. He had just completed 30 straight days of practicing meditation with it. I had noticed that he had been chill in recent days, and now I know why.
I had thought he was just laying down to take a quick nap. Ha! He was actually listening to the app on his headphones under the covers. Sneaky…
I dabbled with the app for the first time a few weeks ago. I tried sitting still with my headphones on while sitting on my couch while my daughter was napping. But my heart wasn’t in it and I just couldn’t get into the idea of using an app for meditation. So I quit.
But this week I got some interesting news that reminded me that I need to be taking better care of myself and not stressing myself out to the max! I won’t go into that now. But the point is it can be a good thing to get a little nudge of consciousness that says the only person responsible for your health is you!
Funny, that’s the exact thing I say to my patients. Hmmm….
So now I’m giving this Headspace app thingy a whole new chance. If it works so well for my husband, why am I not all over this thing?
I tried it tonight and it was, well, nice actually. I definitely chilled out, felt my muscles melting into the floor, much like I used to after yoga class.
The instructor has a nice soft British voice that was calm and cool and walked me through the process of letting go of my thoughts.
It felt really awesome to be meditating again actually. I’m going to try to do it tomorrow before I get out of bed. If I happen to wake up before Zoe does.
Ill let you know how I feel after 30 days!
Sarah, Mother Nurse Love
8 Ways Nurses Can Stay Healthy
Nurse Life: How To Find A Work Life Balance
Why Nurses Need To Practice Yoga: Self Care For The Caregiver
7 Ways To Beat Nurse Burnout