Breast cancer is the most common cancer in North American women. It makes up almost 30% of all female cancers and is the leading cause of death among women 40-55 years old.1 There are numerous risk factors that are associated with breast cancer. However, one of the most well established is increased exposure to estrogen.2 Women that experience early menarche and a later onset menopause have a higher risk of breast cancer due to the lengthened exposure to estrogen during their lifetime.3 External sources of estrogen such as hormone replacement therapy and the birth control pill have also been linked
When thinking about self-care as a mom it’s easy to fall into the trap of “mom guilt.” We tend to feel bad about taking time for ourselves when we could be doing something for our kids or our home. But as we’ve all heard, it’s more detrimental to our mental (and physical) health to neglect our own needs. When moms put themselves on the back burner for too long resentment can build and/or we can burn out.
Sometimes we know what to do when we do get “free time.” As I write this my own little one is upstairs taking a nap. She could be out for 20 minutes or two hours. I really have no idea, and typically my first thought is, “What do I do with this time?” Do I lounge on the couch and watch Netflix? Do I clean the kitchen or throw in a load of laundry? Sometimes I’m just so amazed that I have a free window of time that I’m paralyzed with the decision of what to do with it. I’m also afraid that that window could close at any moment.
All of that said, we moms need to seize these opportunities. More than anything, these free windows, as short or long as they may be, should be devoted to our own self-care. Part of the problem is that we feel we need to get more done, be more productive. There are always things to get done at work or around the house. The answer is to ignore those things, even if only for five minutes, once each day in order to give yourself some love.
So what does self-care look like for a busy mom? It can really be anything that allows you to do something for yourself and something you enjoy. However, do your best to avoid social media. Facebook or Twitter time isn’t self-care. It only takes one emotionally charged post to fly by your eyes to change your mood for the worse. Drama should not enter your self-care time. Instead, depending on how much time you have, try one of these:
The very short window of opportunity: When you have 5-20 minutes
These little tidbits of time should be available each and every day for you. Yes, that’s right – EVERYDAY. If the day starts getting away from you, plan to have 5-10 minutes for yourself before you go to bed.
- Sit back on your couch or a comfy chair and put your feet up. Maybe add some music. Do nothing other than relax.
- Check in with a friend or relative who brightens your mood
- Take a quick shower, and use the fancy soap. If you don’t have fancy soap then perhaps you could use this time to online shop for fancy soap.
- Write in a journal. This doesn’t have to be like diary writing. Maybe it is, but you could also literally use “The five minute journal” by Intelligent Change, a daily gratitude and reflection book that will only take five minutes of your day. There are dozens of other types of journals out there that only require you to fill in the blanks making journal writing more simple and less tedious for the non-writer.
- Grab your body butter or lotion and give your feet a rub, and then cover your soft, relaxed feet with your coziest socks or slippers
- In summer months: If you have a grassy yard, go walk barefoot in the grass
- Read! Grab a magazine or a book. It doesn’t matter if you get through one page or one chapter, just start and pick it up again the next time.
The middle ground: When you have 30 minutes to an hour
This decent chunk of time could be when your kids are at school, a class or when you’re at home and your little one is taking a nap. With a slightly longer period of time you could:
- Watch a full episode of a show
- Take a long shower or a bath. Light some candles, toss in a bath balm and relax.
- Lay down and listen to a guided meditation. If you fall asleep, let it turn into a decent nap.
- Do something creative: write, draw, color, paint, etc.
- Workout: Go for a walk or jog. Do some at-home yoga or other workout video. If you don’t have your own video library there are plenty of free workout videos available on YouTube.
- If cooking or baking brings you stress relief, steer yourself toward the kitchen and have at it. Look through recipe books, blogs or online videos and try something new or an old favorite.
- Work a puzzle. Maybe it’s a crossword, sudoku, or a literal table top jigsaw puzzle – whatever floats your brain boat.
- Sit outside and enjoy a glorious cup of coffee or tea. Or invite a friend over (or go out) for a beverage and delightful conversation.
The long run: Taking a few hours, a day or an evening.
A break like this doesn’t happen too often but when it does be sure to take full advantage. You may be shaking your head thinking “How do I get that kind of time for myself?!” You will likely have to call in some reinforcements. Drop the kids off with their grandparents or another family member or hire a babysitter for a few hours.
- Go for a massage, a pedicure or other body treatment
- Have a date night (and do your best not to talk about the kids)
- If you’re a exercise enthusiast or want to train for something like a marathon, take this time and go for a long run or cycle
You can use these tips or create your own. Figure out what works for you, but try to accomplish one act of self-care daily. If it helps, log your one act of self-care in a journal or agenda to keep yourself accountable and to track what you’ve been doing. It’s also a great way to self-reflect at the end of the week, to look back and see everything you’ve been able to do for yourself. And best of all, giving yourself some time and love will allow you to recharge so you can handle the next busy day. Whether you’re a brand new mom or a veteran mom with older kids, tackling each day is a bit easier knowing there’s something in there for you.