What Moms really need this Mother's Day!
To all the busy moms out there, Happy Mother’s Day!
This month’s blog focuses on the top health and wellness challenges busy moms face. I conducted a survey of 20 moms, and this is what I learned:
45% indicated that exercise was the most challenging aspect of their health and wellness, with sleep coming in as second at 25%, nutrition at 15%, stress management at 10%, and self-care at 5% (though really all of these are forms of self-care).
50% said time and 35% stated energy when asked why they found a particular area of health and wellness most challenging.
When asked about the one thing they wish they could improve about their health, some common themes included: consistency, physical fitness, better stress management, more sleep, and self-care.
As mothers we face different challenges based on the season that we are in. During the baby season we are often sleep deprived. During the toddler season we may feel run ragged chasing after our kiddos all day or trying to balance our role as full-time professional and full-time mom. Once they hit elementary school, extracurricular activities start, and time becomes slim as you are running to a different activity/practice/lesson/game multiple times per week. Then once the children aren’t children anymore and start their path into adulthood, this season brings with it a whole new level of stress and worry. Finally, you reach a point where maybe your babies start having babies and then you experience the whole cycle all over again through a different role. Now don’t get me wrong, motherhood is amazing, but each season comes with its own unique joys and challenges, and what’s often consistent across them all is that if you are not careful, you can forget to take care of yourself.
Below are some tips and strategies for busy moms to care for themselves during these seasons of life.
Exercise might look different now than it did years ago before you became a mom. Maybe you don’t have time or energy to spend an hour a day at the gym, and that’s ok. Here’s some tips to squeeze more physical activity into your day.
Make family time active time. Take every opportunity you can to be active as a family. Maybe it’s an after-dinner walk, or playing in the backyard after school, or taking time on a Saturday to do a family yoga class online. Being active together is a great way to bond and connect with your family while still moving your body.
Increase your NEAT. NEAT (or non-exercise activity thermogenesis) is any activity outside of formal exercise. Just because you didn’t “workout” doesn’t mean you didn’t burn calories. Some ways to increase your NEAT include parking further away from the office or grocery store, using the stairs instead of elevator when possible, and having a dance party in your kitchen while making dinner.
Plan social activities around fitness. Looking for something fun to do for your next Girls Night Out? Why not consider a group fitness class at a local gym. Planning to meet a friend for coffee? See if there’s a coffee shop near a walking path so you can walk while you sip. Looking for a Date Night with your Spouse? Go for a hike and romantic picnic afterwards or try something new like a dance class or rock climbing lesson.
Ask for help. Do you have a spouse, parent, or friend that could maybe help with the kids or take something off of your plate so you could do a 30-minute workout a few days a week? Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Remember you are strong, but that doesn’t mean you have to do it alone.
The key to exercise is progress over perfection. Start with one day a week. Then build in an extra walk here or a yoga session there and before you know it, you are doing more today than you did yesterday and tomorrow you’ll strive to do even more.
Never underestimate the value of a good night’s sleep. Sleep plays such an important role in our overall mental and physical health, from regulating our hunger and satiety hormones, to clearing out toxins in the brain. As such, the Institute for Integrative Nutrition recommends the following 9 steps to optimize sleep:
Set a consistent bedtime and wake time (even on weekends)
Exercise in the morning or as early in the day as possible
Get some fresh air and sunshine in the afternoon
Turn off screens at least 45-60 minutes before bed
Create a wind-down routine
Avoid naps during the day as much as possible
Set a comfortable sleeping environment in a cool, quiet, and dark room and use your bed for only two things: sex and sleep
Avoid eating or drinking, especially anything heavy or caffeinated a few hours before bed
Consider holistic sleep supplements (after consulting with your doctor of course)
You might think you have too much to do to sleep. Deadlines at work, laundry piling up, volunteer commitments, etc. Those things all need to get done, but not at the expense of your mental and physical health. Try making small shifts to prioritize sleep. For example, pick one item from the list above and just focus on that for now. You’ll be amazed at the amount of energy and clarity you’ll have after getting a few nights of some good Zzzzzs. Again progress, not perfection.
It can be hard to eat a balanced diet, then throw a spouse and some kids in the mix and it can become much more challenging. Especially if you are dealing with picky eaters and any sort of food allergy/sensitivity. So when it comes to healthy eating, make an effort to focus on one thing at a time to start crowding out the less healthy options with more nutritious foods throughout the day.
Aim to add fruits and vegetables to all meals and snacks throughout the day
Increase your water intake
Strive to eat whole foods whenever possible
Eat plenty of fiber
Reach for whole grains over refined grains whenever possible
Prioritize lean and plant-based proteins and healthy fats
Reduce sodium and added sugars
There’s no such thing as a perfect diet. I’ll say it again, focus on progress, not perfection.
When cooking for a family, keep it simple and use strategies like meal prepping on weekends and cooking once, eating multiple times to help save time during these busy seasons of motherhood.
Being a mom is stressful. There I said it. And while acute stress can be helpful (think of that nervous feeling you get before speaking in front of a group), it’s important that we don’t find ourselves in a state of chronic stress. Simple activities such as diaphragmatic or belly breathing, meditation, prayer, expressing gratitude, and gentle movements like yoga can make a big impact in stress reduction. This is another area where you shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help. Talk to your spouse, a friend, or family member about how you are feeling and if that’s not enough seek out a professional counselor so that you can get the tools you need to stress less. The biggest thing is to not stress about managing your stress. Start small by implementing one technique and grow from there. Remember, (you guessed it) progress, not perfection.
Did you ever hear that saying, “You can’t pour from an empty cup?’ It’s the idea that if we are constantly “pouring out” and taking care of others, and never “pouring in” and investing in ourselves, that eventually we’ll have nothing left. Self-care isn’t selfish. Remember that the next time you start to feel guilty when you do something for yourself. All the areas discussed above fall into self-care. Taking time for exercise, prioritizing sleeping, eating a healthy meal, and meditating are just a few examples of self-care and the possibilities are endless. Essentially self-care is anything that you do just for you. Even if it’s just a few minutes. Taking that time for you will help recharge you for the rest of the day. Some simple self-care ideas include going for a walk outside, drinking a cup of your favorite tea, listening to some relaxing music, or getting a pedicure. Start with 5 minutes a day, then identify pockets throughout the week where you might be able to do a little more. You are stiving for progress, not what? Perfection!
This Mother’s Day, give the special moms in your life what they really need: time to do something to take care of themselves. Offer to watch her kids for an afternoon or take an activity off of her plate so she has a little more margin in her day. Some additional gift ideas include:
A home cooked meal or a meal delivery service gift card so that she gets a break from cooking. For my local NoVa readers, I highly recommend MightyMeals.
A spa gift certificate for some self-care in the form of a massage or facial. My favorite spa in NoVa is La Sheida Spa.
Some skin care essentials and pampering items from Beautycounter.
A gift certificate to a local yoga or Pilates studio, or maybe just some free babysitting or help around the house so that she can go for a run or get in another workout.
As a special gift, Be Well Health Coaching is offering all moms the exclusive “The Busy Mom Survival Guide” packed with tips on how to “Be Well” during every season of motherhood. To receive your complimentary copy via email, complete this simple form.
If you are a busy mom and are reading this, I see you, I am you, and I want you to invest in your health and wellness so that you feel your best! Now is the time to prioritize you. You will be a happier and healthier mother, spouse, friend, and person if you take time to care for yourself. You deserve it!
Happy Mother’s Day.
Until next time, Eat Well. Live Well. Be Well.