Mental Health

A Mom’s Guide to Self-Care

August 1, 2023

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I'm Michelle — health coach for women who want to escape diet culture and find the health they deserve.

Meet Michelle

Moms have so much on their plate, especially when their kids are younger and so much time is devoted to their upbringing.  Finding the space to actually prioritize your own health and wellbeing as a mom can feel impossible and overwhelming. 

Robynn Powers is a health coach who works with moms to help them implement daily strategies to improve their energy, strength, and confidence.  She’s passionate about helping moms become the healthiest versions of themselves so they can feel good in their bodies, and feel free to live their lives the way they deserve to. 

Robynn shared several pieces of advice on how to re-balance busy mom lives so you can still get things done without sacrificing your health. Today, I want to share her valuable insights into the small changes that can make a huge difference. This can really apply to anybody choosing to prioritize their health needs for the benefit of not just themselves, but their families too.

How to get started with making changes to your health

Make yourself a priority

So many moms feel guilty if they put themselves first. They want to do everything for their kids and their families, and end up putting themselves on the back burner. They can’t help feeling selfish for taking time for themselves., but the reality is that when you take that time for yourself and do the things you need to do for your health, you become a better mother. It doesn’t mean you’re neglecting your kids! It actually makes their lives better because when you feel better, you’re less moody, and you have more energy for them. They also see you living a healthy life, which encourages them and influences them to do the same thing as they grow up. So it really is a service to them to take care of yourself.

One step at a time (Sleep is #1!)

When we think about living a healthy lifestyle, there’s so much that we think we have to do all at once. There’s sleep, proper nutrition, movement, having some downtime, and having some time for self care. Balancing all of this alongside having quality time with your family, partner, and friends can feel so overwhelming that people end up not doing any of it at all. Not trying to do them all at once is very important – start with one thing at a time.

If you’re not sure where to start, sleep is usually the best place. It really sabotages everything in your life if you are not getting enough sleep because you don’t have any energy, it affects your hormones, your mood, and your relationships. Prioritizing adequate sleep is the place to start, because it will make the most difference. 

Mothers in particular struggle with this piece so much because their days are so busy that by the time the kids are in bed and everything’s done, that is the quiet time in your day. It’s often the only quality time you have with your partner and so you don’t want to give that up to go to bed. If that is the case, it’s important to look at all of the things that you’re sacrificing because you’re taking that time and neglecting your sleep. You are changing your hormones, impacting your mood on a daily basis, and affecting your relationships throughout the day. It’s really about finding that balance and asking ‘what is the priority here?’ Try to switch the mindset from that immediate gratification of having some alone time right now versus the longer term outcome of having more fulfilling relationships, where you can actually be present.

Step outside of the guilt 

When people are offering to help you ,you have to believe them and set aside the guilt. Let people who love you help you out. 

This is another mindset shift that’s needed because when you look at it from the perspective of feeling healthier, being in a better mood and doing better in your life, it’s going to reflect in your parenting and be better for your kids. So you can’t feel guilty about giving yourself that time and accepting the help that’s ultimately helping your kids too.

Accept that there are no rules 

It’s so important as moms to put aside any “rules” about how you feel this health journey has to go. Exercise is the perfect example of this. It doesn’t have to look like going to the gym, taking a class, or running on a treadmill. It can be creative things like chasing your toddler around all day or going out to the park and being active in that way. Let go of the rules about how you think some of these healthy habits should look and embrace what’s actually happening in your life.

And don’t forget that the best workout is the one that you’ll actually do! If you’re dreading something or struggling to fit it in your schedule, you end up skipping it all the time or it creates more stress for you, which is not helpful in your health journey. Whereas if you’re getting movement naturally through your life and the things you enjoy doing, you don’t have that extra stress and it’s actually more beneficial.

How to prioritize nutrition

If you take the time to do the planning, you can make it work – even if your husband or your kids are eating a little bit differently than you. Kids can certainly be picky but you still have to adjust and make it work for everybody. You can’t just put yourself last and pick at the kids’ plates after they’ve finished. You still have to think about what is going to be right for you.

People often hear the word ”planning” and immediately think they don’t have the bandwidth for that. But once you get into the habit of planning ahead, it does give you more time and space throughout the week. Not only does planning reduce decision fatigue because you’re not constantly having to make decisions throughout the day, it also allows you to be more realistic if you know for example, that your kids all have after school activities on a certain day.

Sleep also has a huge impact on your nutrition too, because if you are not getting adequate sleep, it actually makes you feel hungrier. There’s a hormone called ghrelin, which makes you hungrier, and makes you crave those sugary, fatty foods. Ghrelin levels rise the more sleep deprived you are, so it makes it feel like more of a struggle to eat healthily. Sleep deprivation also decreases the leptin, which is the hormone that causes satisfaction and fullness, so not only are you craving all this stuff, but you don’t get satisfied as easily. 

Willpower and discipline

Motivation and willpower are something that are in short supply and so this is where decision making comes in. As the day goes on, you become tired of making decisions, the willpower is going down, and you just can’t resist anymore because you’re exhausted. And so you just make the easiest decision, which isn’t always the best decision. 

If you’ve already planned your week out, you don’t have to rely on motivation anymore. The habit just becomes a part of what you do. You don’t have to think about it, you don’t have to decide, it’s already planned and so it just happens at some point. Yes, in the beginning it takes a little bit more effort and you are making more decisions, but then in the long term it becomes easier and you don’t have to think about it as much.

I think one place where some loving discipline can be employed more often for women is saying “no”. Moms in general are already super busy and have so much on their plate. If somebody requests something else from you, understand that it’s absolutely okay to say “no”. If they’re really important people in your life and they care about you, they’ll understand that you need to prioritize yourself and your mental and physical health, instead of just saying “yes” to everything. 

Do I need to worry about losing baby fat?

Try not to focus on extra weight that you want to lose. The number one priority is thinking about the healthy habits that you can have in your life that are going to provide you with the energy to be a mother and live your life in the way you want to live it. Weight loss will inevitably come if you are taking care of yourself. If you’re focusing on hating the way you look and getting rid of this weight, that just causes extra stress, which increases cortisol, and leads to your body storing more fat, and so ends up being counterproductive to what your goal is.

I think we all understand on some level that we should be prioritizing ourselves, even if we have some resistance and some guilt around doing that. It just comes back to the idea of making the decision to actually do it for yourself. Look for the little places you can start that will make the biggest difference. Prioritizing sleep is a great place to start, and taking a  bit of time each week to plan ahead can go a really long way too. Being a little bit intentional and making some of these decisions ahead of time leads to better choices overall. Be the role model that you want to be for your kids as they grow up into adults who prioritize their own health and self-care.

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