One Mum’s self-care reset

Mother Wild Retreat

It’s easy for our own needs to slip by the wayside as we navigate looking after our families needs – here’s one mother’s approach to rebalancing via a self-care reset.

 

 

As we slide towards the school holidays and I begin to feel the load lightening with homeschooling, I’m feeling a sense of emerging from something.  In lots of way, the gradual reducing of lockdown restrictions hasn’t made much difference to us with the boys still at home and our day to day not really changing.  So the end of term feels like the real shift and one we’re really welcoming.

I’ve been checking in with myself over the past few days, acknowledging the need for a bit of a reset on the self-care front.

After years of learning how to tend to my needs and make good choices that keep me well and in balance, I’m pretty good at knowing what I ought to be doing.  I’ve learnt many times over to tend to my own needs before something starts screaming at me (hello lower back, we’re old friends at this hey).  But there’s knowing and there’s doing and when we’re tired or the days feel overly dominated by other things, when I’m needed more than I’m not… it just feels really hard to get to it.

The thing that never fails to make me laugh at myself is that I know my own non-negotiables so well that I can somehow convince myself I’m doing them when I’m not?  That might sound mad, but take drinking water as an example.  I heard myself say the other day ‘I don’t know why I’m feeling like I’m dehydrated, I’m drinking loads of water’.  My husband bravely asked ‘but are you actually?’.  Hmm, maybe I wasn’t.  I guess when some things are such habits you don’t always notice them slide.

Bedtime is another one of those things that easily slides for me.  My own bedtime gets later in direct proportion to how busy and noisy our days are.  I use the quiet of the evening to rebalance and stretch it out way past the hour that I’m happy with.

So since I’m working on a reset for myself this week I thought I’d shared some of the self care rituals and routines I’m returning to and some I’m leaning a bit further into with the curiosity of ‘what if… how would this feel if I did this?’.

 

The basics

I almost typed ‘the non-negotiables’ and then laughed and got back in my box.  I negotiate them plenty, but I know they are the cornerstones of feeling good in myself and present in my days.

 

  • Drinking water – it’s such an obvious one, I know, but when I don’t (or when I rely more on herbal tea which ends up not being in the same quantity) I really notice the brainfog and tiredness creeping in.  This week I’m back to the 8 glasses of water minimum a day.

 

  • Nutrition – I could write a book on this one but I’m not qualified to so I’ll just say this – after years of learning I know what good looks like for me.  I never stray too far or I know about it, but the odd things do slip.  This week it’s out with refined sugar (once again) and curbing the wheat intake, plus I’ll be making good use of the spinach spilling out of our veg patch with daily green smoothies again.  If the idea doesn’t sound that appealing to you – trust me, my kids love them – I’ll share the recipe here in another post soon.

 

  • Sleep – there was a time when I had little control over this one since my littles were not great sleepers.  Even so, I was often my own worst enemy, staying up late into the evening if I could swing it to bank something of ‘an evening’ and going to bed just when they were beginning to hit the restless part of the night. So so basic.  Gone are the days when I thought I was achieving something in staying up late, riding the second wind and feeling like I was winning.  I am never winning if I’m not getting a decent sleep.  I never was.  I was just running on adrenalin so didn’t notice how rubbish I felt.  Or just really desperate for some alone time.  Something that sticks in my mind from a book I read is that hours of sleep before midnight are worth double in terms of quality compared to hours after midnight.  I don’t have a scientific source for that but it does seem to ring true for me.  This week I’m clawing my bedtime back from midnight (yes, the need for quiet rebalancing time got really bad) to ten o’clock, or even half 9, with a book.  Knowing it’ll do me so much good to get back there.  If you’re at a stage with your children where you can make good sleep decisions for yourself, it’s really worth looking at them.

 

And the other important things

I’ve separated these two lists out to give myself a base line to begin with.  I’m certain that having the basics above in place makes it a little bit easier to get nearer to what follows here, even when I’m feeling really time poor.  When the basic stuff isn’t happening all that well I can’t really see the woods for the trees.  But after those, comes this…

 

  • Time outside – between the boys, our dog and the garden / veg patch this one has been fairly constant but with the days freeing up in the holidays I’m holding out for a bit more.  Long, whole days outside from morning until bedtime are balm for my soul.  I might be more plant than human.  Natural light and good air are the best medicine I can think of.

 

  • Moving my body – this is feeling like an area of growth for the Summer.  I already walk a fair bit but I’m itching to move my body more and I’m open to what form that takes.  Some experimenting maybe.  The nearby mountains are calling especially.  I loved the wild swimming we did recently – more of that please.  Also, consistent yoga would be so good.  I’ve tried for years to build in a daily short yoga practice and it feels amazing when I do but it’s just not happening right now.  An intention for the holidays and perhaps daily is a high bar to reach for.  I’d actually be really happy with 3-4 times a week so that’s where I’m beginning.

 

  • Finding headspace – two things that do this and I have such a lot to say about the effect they can have on wellbeing that I’ll write a fuller post just on them soon.  I’ve started with eliminating noise and I’m finding that by dealing with some practical stuff I’ve been carrying around in my head for too long, it’s becoming quieter in there.  Also has an impact on anxiety – I think they go hand in hand.  With that happening, I had enough space in my mind to seek out even more space and so I’m a week into a Deepak Chopra 21 day guided meditation programme.  I wish I could just sit and meditate silently but I seem to really need the hand holding of a good guide to fully drop in and I’m really wanting to stick to it and do the whole 21 days this time.  Last time house guests arrived on day 19 and that was that, dammit.

 

  • Creating – Answering the call of inspiration is a form of self care for me and this is something I’m hoping to carve out more time for over the summer.  I have things on the go that I dip into in short lulls and snatched moments but I’m longing for a good chunk of time to just make for the joy of making.  The list is long and I’m going to have to narrow it down.  Maybe the entirely indulgent few hours at a sewing machine making myself a dress from the pattern I’ve had for 6 months will win.  It should win, yes?

 

Self care can sometimes be viewed as self indulgence.  As if it’s a negative thing.  What would be wrong with indulging ourselves anyway?  When I look down this list I see most of it is about meeting our simple human needs to be in a good place – physically, mentally and emotionally.  Just as we’d look to do for our children.

The thing is, for a family to be in a good place, every member of that family needs to be having their needs met.  Too often that can play out as ‘everybody except mum’.  Worse, side-stepping our own needs is often lauded as ‘being a good mum’ and I’m sorry but no.  As the centre of our little people’s world we need to be thriving rather than just surviving.  Firstly, it’s exactly because they need us so much that we need to take good care of ourselves.  We are not infallible and neither should we be.  And secondly, it’s because they are learning from us how to take care of all the parts of themselves.  Just as we take time over showing them how to brush their teeth well, we can positively instil in them what it means to be a well-nourished, whole and thriving human.

Side- note: If you’re reading this and you’re sleep deprived or in a difficult place, I’d urge you to catch yourself before you take what I’ve just said and make your lack of self-care another thing to feel crappy about.  It is so so hard sometimes to do all the things for all the people in your life and still take care of yourself.  Above all else, hold yourself in kindness and acceptance.  We are always doing the best that we can.  And another true statement is that we often back ourselves into corners where because we’re so depleted we can’t do anything to feel better.

When that feels true for me, I pare it all down to this:  what ONE thing could I do that would make a difference to how I feel today?  What would help me breathe a little more easily and allow me to soften?

A nap.  A walk in the fresh air. Ditching something I ‘should’ be doing to do something I know will fill me up a little bit.  Calling in some help.  Talking things out with a good listener. Drinking extra water.  Pulling out my yoga mat / craft project / dancing music despite having no child free time because it’s good to show my littles what makes mummy feel good, calm down or light up.  Or some other simple thing that would work for you. 

Starting with one thing that feels possible one day can lead to one thing each day – like a gift to yourself – which in time can add up to taking a whole lot better care of ourselves.  But today, if it helps, just focus on today.

Mother Wild Retreat

Dear Mama – an excerpt from my June Newsletter

I send out an occasional newsletters to my lovely subscribers list and they often seem to come out of me like a letter to a friend.  I thought it’d be nice to share excerpts of these here sometimes.  To get the full version at the time I send them, with info about retreats and offerings as well, you’re really welcome sign up via the home page.


Mother, Nurture & Wild

 

Dear Mama,

I’m finding these days of lockdown / post-lockdown (I’m not entirely sure what this time even is) that how I answer this question depends on the very moment of the day I’m asked it.  It changes moment to moment some days.  Is it the same for you?  If I’m out on a long walk in the sunshine with my boys or watching them play or invent things in the garden or the schoolwork went well it’s one answer.  At other times it can be the complete opposite.  Like you, I’m just having to roll with it day to day and moment to moment.

Yesterday I was thinking how the constants right now are that I’m tired, time-poor and I don’t get to finish many thoughts.  This is motherhood in general, yes?  But very much heightened right now.  The other constant is that I’m incredibly grateful for our health, the time I’m getting with my loves and the opportunity to slow down and take stock.  It’s ‘both’, ‘and’.

The swing between emotions seemingly at different ends of a scale – between frustration and joy, struggle and gratitude, overwhelm and happy moments – can itself be exhausting, giving us that dizzy-making rollercoaster feeling.  For me, it presents as a brainfog that somedays I can’t shake.  Do you ever have that?

What helps me is to ground myself and check in with my feelings; acknowledge what the heady mix is formed of and separate it all out to make better sense of it. 

Some ways that I go about re-grounding are: literally going and standing on the grass in the garden with bare feet and taking a few slow, deep breaths; taking the dog for a walk on my own to just be with my tangle of thoughts; sitting mindfully for a few minutes and letting everything begin to settle – breathing, thoughts, emotions, energy.

My check-ins will sometimes be the unravelling of thoughts and feelings while taking that walk.  An extra-long shower sometimes helps (not always possible when you have little ones at the door though, hey).  Journalling – writing down how I’m feeling and what I need – has been really helpful recently.

The June date of the Mother Wild retreat has just gone by.  The group that would’ve been in the woods together were, of course, all at home without the break they’d been anticipating and we were all sorely missing the magic of the woods and of that that time away.  I made them a couple of virtual gifts to help support them to ground, nourish and connect with some elements of the retreat while still at home – one of which were some simple journaling sheets.  If you’d find them a helpful way to check in with yourself, watch this space – I’m going to make them available as a free download soon.

These are stretching and confusing times and we’re all experiencing them in the unique way that our own situation presents to us.  As Mothers we can have a tendency to expect ourselves to be ‘fine’ when it’s entirely normal in times of change or stress to be not fine.  I think the key is to check in with your self (the self-inquiry of: how are am I really?), to allow whatever comes out to come out, to soften towards yourself and lean towards a few simple things that help you feel a little more grounded and able to breathe a little slower.

What are the simple things that don’t take up a huge amount of time, but help ground you and slow your breathing?  Could you weave any of that into the next few days perhaps?

Sending solidarity hugs to you x

Summer Solstice Ideas for Mothers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summer Solstice falls on Saturday (20th June 2020) and while looking for inspiration I found a list from a Summer Solstice gone by I’d shared on my old blog.  It was lovely to revisit and remember the Solstices when my two were really little and had no idea what we were celebrating but loving it anyway.  Now they run with the celebrations and have plenty of suggestions of their own.  In case it’s useful for you Mamas, I thought I’d revamp that list to share here.  I’ve added suggestions for how you could combine marking the solstice with doing something lovely for yourself.  The cycles of the year can provide a lovely opportunity to check in with yourself and tend to your own needs and nature connection, as well as marking it with your children.

 

Lovely Solstice Activities for Children

  • Eat outside – some summer veg for dinner, a bowl of strawberries and a jug of elderflower cordial with a few summer flowers in a jam jar on the table – lovely!
  • Light a candle and sing a summery song or read a poem – we love the National Trust book ‘The Seed that Grew the Tree’ for it’s simple and seasonal daily poems.
  • Make paper suns together to hang in your windows.
  • Light a solstice fire in your garden, toast marshmallows, sing, tell your children happy stories from campfires of your childhood.
  • Take a short walk after dinner in the evening light – make it different somehow so it stands out in your memories – a pyjama walk or all wear something sun-coloured!
  • Do something you wouldn’t usually do outside – bath the kids in a warm paddling pool or baby bath on the grass – make it fun.
  • Task your children with making a sun mandala on the grass – grab building blocks, crystals, play cloths, yellow and orange toys, or petals and arrange them into a sun – they’ll love it.
  • Glue torn strips of summery shades of tissue paper around a jam jar and take it in turns to write down something simple you’d like to do together this summer and pop it into the jar, for inspiration over the holidays.  Or make it a gratitude jar – write down some of the light-filled things around you.

 

Lovely Solstice Activities for You

  • A Solstice Bath

I know a bath is a cliché but I find it’s rare that I give myself the time to have a good long soak and by making it a really nourishing bath it feels like a real gift to myself.  You could use some summery floral essential oils like lavender and geranium diluted in a carrier oil, adding orange essential oil as well can be really uplifting.  Wild dog rose is abundant in the hedgerows at the moment and you may have calendula (marigold) or chamomile in your garden.  These flowers are all used medicinally as bathing herbs since they’re wonderfully nourishing for the skin and the spirit.  Scatter some in the bath (or dried version if you have them in the cupboard work just as well) and delight in bathing with the flowers.  I often add to cup of Epsom Salts to my bath for the magnesium. I find I sleep really well afterwards, if children allow.  Tip: have a sieve ready to scoop out the petals afterwards!

  • An evening ‘alone time’ walk

If you crave some alone time, an early evening walk around a nearby nature spot is a lovely thing to gift yourself.  Go somewhere you feel comfortable and inspired.  Take it slow or power walk if it feels good to walk at adult pace for a change.  If you love taking pictures, making it a photo walk can be lovely and help you really notice the beauty that surrounds you.  Up the nourishing stakes with a flask of your favourite tea and a snack and take a pit stop.

  • Journal

The markers of the year can be lovely times to check in with yourself.  How are you feeling this Summer Solstice?  What do you need?  This is a time of long days and plenty of light, how would you like to invite that into your world right now?

  • Create

Making time to create something just for the pure joy of it can be the hard to manage but such a gift when we do.  Is there something you love making?  What could you create just for the joy of it?  Draw or paint something?  Make a nature mandala?  Blends some oils or tea? Try out that thing on your pinterest board you’ve been longing to try?

  • Watch the sun go down

It used to be my tradition pre-children to watch the sun go down on the longest day.  I ditched it when I wasn’t getting much sleep (and it might not be for you if you have wakeful babies or toddlers right now) but this year if it’s dry I think I’ll set myself up in the garden with a book, a drink and a blanket and soak up the evening.

  • Dream the rest of the year

I fully subscribe to Summer daydreaming.  With the light as it is now, the possibilities usually seem broad.  Coming out of lockdown, I admit, it all feels a bit different, but nevertheless.  It’s sometimes nice to take a wander around our imagination and dream our way through the second half of the year.  Come the Winter Solstice what’s one thing you’d like to have done, seen, manifested or experienced?

 

 

My advice always with this kind of thing is to keep it simple.  While lots of the suggestions might appeal, perhaps picking one thing to do with your children and one thing for you is the kindest approach.  I’ve fallen foul of trying to squeeze too much in and not being as present as a result.  And I freely spread these things over the days around the Solstice.  That way it’s a relaxed and easygoing thing rather than a slightly time-pressured tick in the box.

Ideas for Celebrating Summer Solstice with Children from Mother, Nurture & Wild

 

 

 

I’d love to hear if you’ve used any of these suggestions, in the comments here or over on Instagram or facebook.  Enjoy dear Mamas!