Organic or not? Daycare or nanny? Co-Sleep or Crib? These are all questions we may have contemplated, but there is certainly no debate that the struggle to juggle when it comes to working and mothering is a significant challenge that never seems to go away. As a mom of two and practicing family physician, I see hundreds of patients who are moms, and they are often on the verge of burnout. I try to gently remind them just how important it is to rejuvenate yourself and be mindful of your own health and well-being. Here are my tried-and-true ways to do that:
1. Don’t sacrifice exercise.
We always want our children to be active, but so often women forgo exercise for other responsibilities. The benefits of exercise are endless. This is the only non-pharmacologic way to boost your mood immediately. Even 20 minutes of some form of physical activity—i.e. walking, house chores, etc.—is better than being completely sedentary. Try to schedule physical activities before you get ready for the day or in two blocks of 10-minute increments.
2. Don’t skimp on sleep.
Research continues to show that poor sleep or inadequate sleep is linked to weight gain, irritable mood and abnormal blood sugars. Very often we stay up late and don’t get enough sleep. I recommend setting an alarm for bedtime just like you do in the morning. This gives you a reminder to wind down and stop what you are doing to go to bed.
3. Focus when you are with your kids.
It can be hard to manage work emails, texts and other social activities. As much as possible, when you are spending time with your kids, try to put your phone away, or at least set aside 30 minutes without your devices. You will be more present and find the interaction much more fun and less stressful.
4. Take a mini trip.
At times, our daily routine can lead us into feeling like we are in a rut. Even a small getaway (or even a staycation at a nearby hotel) for one night is a great way to recharge and rejuvenate to prevent burnout. By planning a mini trip with your partner or a girlfriend you can relax, get dressed up and get a good night’s rest.
5. Don’t over-caffeinate.
Many moms are fueled by caffeine. There’s a downside to consuming too much caffeine, as it can contribute to poor sleep, anxiety and dependency. Swap out your afternoon cup of coffee for a relaxing tea or sparkling water.
6. Eat what you give your kids.
Too often moms neglect their diet, but only give their children the best and healthiest foods. Focusing on healthy nutrition is the best thing you can do for your body. Whole foods make us feel better, improve our digestion and contribute to better long-term health. Ditch processed junk and sugars and try snacks like apples and almond butter.
7. Identify your support system.
Leaning on others for support is the best way to manage everything. If you’re finding yourself responsible for everything, from chores to finances to school events, see if you can share the responsibilities with your partner. Having a good friend you can call when you’re down, or a group of other moms that you identify with, is important to help you get through difficult, stressful or simply tiring times.
8. Use social media wisely.
Social media sites can cause anxiety and envy and make us compare ourselves to unreal ideals. Instead of focusing on what others have going on that you don’t, take a moment to identify the good things in your life. Write this down on a notepad or in your phone. Find inspirational quotes, or funny accounts you can follow for a pick-me-up with no comparison.
9. Invest in yourself.
Just like you want to offer your kids many opportunities through activities and events, consider yourself no different. Rather than splurging on a new pair of heels, find a seminar, self-care course or career coaching. This is a long-term investment and you are likely to come away with more confidence, and a great plan for your future.
10. Give yourself a break.
Living in a world where something is always going on, our lives get complicated. Being hard on yourself is easy, but take time to recognize your accomplishments and be proud of yourself and your family. Spending time in nature with your loved ones is the best time to focus on gratitude and let go of some of the mental chatter that is often present.