The term “self-care” seems to be getting more and more popular among moms, but a true definition for it is as elusive as the time many mothers feel they have to practice it.
The New York Times humorously defines self-care as “The practice of taking action to ‘preserve or improve one’s own health,’ according to Oxford Dictionaries. Self-care is for anyone who wants it. It can be as easy—and as free— as taking a walk, or as complex as learning a trade. Self-care can include, but is not limited to: saying no; buying things; refusing to buy things; taking a long walk, helping others; exercising; crafting; stockpiling and organizing things like coins and arranging them meticulously into Ziploc bags; stretching; listening to disco; spending time alone; singing karaoke (sometimes, alone); intending to one day start meditating.”
Thai-An Truong, a local therapist and mother, said a great way to take care of yourself is to stop trying to stay on top of the parenting game. That’s especially true at the holidays.
“There’s no competition and you will burn out continuing to try to stay on top,” she said in our Ask the Experts column. “Let go of external comparison with other moms. Look inward on your inner joy and sense of connection with the kids to gauge parenting health.”
She suggested moms who feel spread thin should give themselves grace, stop chasing perfection and simplify their lives a little. Mindful moments with no distractions or technology can be very restorative, she said, even if that means saying “no” to some extracurriculars or other activities. In some cases, it may be necessary to even see a therapist to discuss how to take care of yourself, she said.
If you’re not quite to the point of needing a therapist but you know you need to take better care of yourself in order to pour into others, practicing some simple routines and rituals can help.
Angela Hodgkinson is a local mom of two and the co-owner of Solare, a Plaza District shop focused on natural beauty. She’s learned first-hand that although women are often taught to take care of everyone but themselves, spending a little time focused on herself goes a long way.
“I think mothers have a really hard time in general taking care of themselves,” she said. “I’m learning myself that I have to take care of myself to have something to give to work, to my family and my other relationships.”
Being in the beauty industry, Hodgkinson has realized the connection between looking good on the outside and feeling good on the inside, so she has a handful of simple beauty routines she recommends for moms who are short on time. With 4-year-old Nico and 1-year-old Cy getting ready with her every morning, she makes time to do just a few beauty rituals that help her feel cared for, including using a body brush and oil on her skin and a copper tongue scraper. Here are the essential self-care practices she makes time for and recommends to other moms:
Copper Tongue Scraper ($6): Hodgkinson spends just a few minutes each morning scraping her tongue. This Aruyvedic detoxification practice improves breath and overall health by removing bacteria build up that brushing doesn’t address. Simply scrape tongue from back to front 6-10 times before brushing.
Everyday Oil (2 oz. $22, 4 oz. $48): Hodgkinson avoids wasted time with multiple products by using this everyday/everywhere oil as a moisturizer, cleanser, in hair, on scars and even on babies and kids with sensitive skin.
Leaves & Flowers teas ($14-36): For moms who can find time to sit down to a cup of tea, Hodgkinson believes it’s a great way to start the day slowly and with intention.
Gua Sha Scraper (Jade, $12): Rather than using an anti-aging product you’ll have to buy again and again, Hodgkinson spends a few moments each day with this ancient Chinese medicine technique. After rinsing/cleansing face, add a small amount of facial oil and pull tool flat against the skin (along cheekbones, forehead, chin, neck, shoulders, etc.) to encourage lymph activation and drainage, tighten skin and waken up the entire face.
Body Brush ($14): Find a few minutes before your shower to show your body some appreciation. This brush exfoliates and circulates blood and lymph, detoxifies and refreshes entire body.
Women are often conditioned not to tell others exactly what they want or need, but adding items like this to your Christmas list or even buying them for yourself is a great first step toward self-care this season.