I recently listened to this great Deliciously Ella podcast interview with Michael James Wong on how to ease stress and bring mindfulness into our day. I’ve also been reading Brooke McAlary’s newest book Care: The Radical Art of Taking Time, which urges us to rediscover the act of ‘small care’ and small pleasures to weave into our daily lives. Both the podcast interview and the book have really confirmed this thought I’ve had lately about self-care in motherhood: it’s not so much about carving out the time for yourself as it is about being mindful while doing everyday things.
Self-care has certainly become a buzzword in the last few years, and while it’s really great to prioritise the care and attention we give ourselves, I think it can also add this extra ‘to-do’ to our list, which can end up making us feel even more overwhelmed. I’m a huge, huge believer in taking care of ourselves as mothers, and I really believe that the more we take care of ourselves, the better care we give to our children and others. But… how can we prioritise ourselves, when we feel like there’s just not enough time in the day?! The answer, I believe, is to do it in small doses.
In her podcast interview, Ella explains how she has started to turn her daily 10-minute walk to the cafe into a moment of being more mindful. She intentionally leaves her phone at home, she pays attention to what she sees on her walk, what she hears, what she smells and how she feels, and she pays attention to her breath as she walks. She says it allows her to feel present and mindful in what is an ordinary daily task. I really love this idea.
For the last couple of years I’ve tried to apply this mindfulness practice to some of my daily tasks, and I love that I have these moments throughout my day where I check in with myself. For example, each morning when I grind the coffee beans, I try to stand up straight, feet firm on the ground. I pay attention to how my body feels and where I might be holding tension. I often do some gentle neck stretches and pay attention to my breath while I do this. It’s just a 3-minute moment in my day where I pay attention and am present in my mind and body. I’ve been trying to do the same exercise in the shower each morning as well. Instead of rushing quickly through my morning shower, I try to be really mindful of the thoughts in my head. If I’m feeling overwhelmed with work, why am I feeling stressed? If I’m feeling insecure in a friendship, I ask myself why those feelings are coming up for me. If I’m feeling rested and positive, I try to be grateful for this feeling. It’s just a moment in my day where I sort of check in with my emotional state; sometimes I need to give myself a pep talk or a reminder, while other times I just have a moment of gratitude. Either way, I usually come out of the shower feeling conscious of my thoughts and emotions, which usually helps me be more mindful in my actions throughout the day.
Obviously these are small things, and it might seem like they’d have very little impact on my overall wellbeing, but I do believe these little moments make a big difference. Motherhood is crazy busy. It requires incredible levels of patience and commitment. We give so much of our time to our young people, often with very little thanks or acknowledgement. I really believe if we start taking small moments throughout our day to focus on ourselves, it has a knock-on effect on our overall mental health.
I have a friend who told me she’s recently turned the task of hanging laundry on the line into a mindfulness exercise. Each time she reaches up to hang an article of clothing up, she stretches and does it with intention. When she grabs a piece of laundry from the basket, she squats down and makes it an exercise. I have another friend who told me that she tries to squeeze in 10 minutes of stretching while sitting with her kids in the lounge room while they play in the evenings. Another friend does ab exercises while her daughter reads out loud to her. I love these little acts of ‘me time’ in what is otherwise a busy motherhood moment.
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