By: Serena Schembri*
Self-care can be seen as a guilty pleasure to some. Some women even struggle to talk about self-care as we are natural carers and nurturers; it can sometimes feel unnatural to take time out for ourselves to relax, recharge and unwind.
When was the last time you felt really good? When was the last time you sat and didn’t write a to-do list in your head? When was the last time you went out and did something purely for you? If you answered months ago or can’t remember it’s ok.
You need to remember you need those moments to help you get through your day your week, as you are giving so much of yourself to other human beings - big or small.
Whether you work or not, whether you are parenting alone or not, it takes its toll on you mentally, physically and spiritually.
There is no ‘off’ button to parenting - you are on call 24/7. You have moments of total bliss, love and laughter, and it is nothing like you have ever experienced in your life.
You can read all the books and articles there are out there on parenting, but when you prioritise looking after yourself first, you will find out just how invincible you really are.
What is self-care, and why do we need it?
The best way to describe self-care is by comparing yourself to a mobile phone. Every day your phone gets put on the charger, and sometimes it needs to be rebooted. When your phone is left on 24/7 and has had no break, it doesn’t work as well. Guess what? We’re the same, we are not invincible, and we too need breaks to be the best version of ourselves.
Why mums need to look after themselves
Being a new mum, the last thing on your mind is self-care – after all, you’ve just been thrown into being responsible for a teeny tiny fragile human. I am hoping by the end of reading this, you will understand the necessity of taking some for yourself, as you need it and you deserve it.
When you’re not eating or sleeping well or even showering like you used to, you don’t feel good about yourself. Your life has been tipped upside down by this little bundle of joy that takes up every minute of the day.
Having a new baby in your life is a beautiful experience, whether it’s your first or fourth child, you need to look after you too. The healthier and more rested you are, the more you are able to put energy into loving and caring for your family. As the saying goes, put on your gas mask first, before assisting others. I know that as a new mum, this sounds easier said than done, right? Let’s start with some simple tips to help you on your journey.
Starting from the inside out with nutrition
So, you’ve just had a baby or have young children, you feel like you’re stretched to your limit, like you will snap, exhausted, hungry, but yet don’t have an appetite?
- Get back to basics.
- Try to eat nutritionally dense food that doesn’t take hours to prepare. Think casseroles, stews and soups, one pot or pan recipes.
- Drink eight glasses of water as a minimum especially when breastfeeding. To help you, why not invest in a litre water bottle or large jar so you can keep track of the water you’re intaking, without having to keep refilling glasses?
- Try not to live off coffee or soft drink drinks as you will only crash and burn once the sugar and caffeine have worn off. Having more than 1-2 coffees a day and in the late afternoon can impair sleep.
- Eat 2 cups of green vegetables for their nutrients as well as fibre; this doesn’t have to be in one sitting, it can be throughout the day. Be sure to add a variety other fruit and vegetables to your meals as well.
- Why not add a handful of chopped capsicum, mushroom and onion in your scrambled eggs. Or throw ½ frozen banana, a handful of berries or spinach into your breakfast smoothie.
Super simple wellness recipe ideas to keep you feeling fine in the colder months
- One tray vegetable bake
The easiest way to get a variety of vegetables into you with minimal cooking and cleaning is roughly chopping up tomato, sweet potato, zucchini, onion, spinach, beans and add a can of tomatoes, basil and garlic into a roasting pan and bake for 45 minutes or until the vegetables are cooked to the texture you desire. There is minimal waste, and you can even freeze the leftovers for another day.
Cooking in one pan ensures the nutrients are kept and not lost through straining or transferring from dish to dish.
- Mexican inspired salad
In summer, salads are quick, easy and get you in and out of the kitchen in no time.
The below is a guide, and not a must-have list so please use your imagination and whatever you have in your kitchen to substitute.
Roughly chop up parsley, lettuce, rocket or spinach, a small handful of red or black cooked beans, ½ red capsicums, ½ tomato handful of your choice of protein, ¼ avocado and add your choice of dressing. Place all ingredients in a bowl and enjoy.
- Chicken soup is an absolute favourite of mine
I don’t follow a recipe and never make it the same unless it’s been requested.
There are so many variances out there from chicken and corn, chicken and veg, spicy Thai flavoured.
Traditionally chicken soup would take hours to make when the chicken carcass was used. To save time, buy chicken drumsticks or chicken thigh. I brown my chicken with chopped brown onion.
I put a few carrots, celery, leek, onion, garlic through the food processor to save time on chopping and cooking time. I also invest in a good quality chicken or vegetable stock or even use a broth for added nutrients. Google ‘recipe for quick chicken soup’ for more ideas.
Looking after your mental and spiritual health
Here are some simple, but sometimes hard to achieve with small children, self-care ideas that can help you feel good.
You may look at this list and think the list is pretty basic, but if you have young children, chances are you haven’t been doing the things on this list often or lately. Try to tick one thing off this list every day:
- A warm shower
- Soak in the bath with a book
- Blow dry your hair
- Practise a 10-minute meditation
- Indulge in a home face mask
- Paint your nails
- Walk around the block to get fresh air and sun
- Watch a comedy movie
These are basic activities, but when you can’t find time to do them, you remember how quickly you took them for granted. Make time and enjoy them when you can.
- Try not to fill your head with negative thoughts, remind yourself of what you have achieved every day.
- Don’t compare yourself to other mothers and remember, what other people think of you is none of your business.
- Stop looking at social media and comparing your life to someone else’s highlight reel.
- Remember your body created life; be proud of your tiger stripes. You are not your weight, your thoughts or your body shape.
- Instead of beating yourself about your diet, make small improvements and remind yourself you are doing your best.
Be kind to yourself and remember your own needs
Self-care is an extremely hot and important topic at the moment and for good reason, as there is large number of people suffering from mental health disorders, and this number is growing.
It can take as little as 20 minutes a day to rest, relax, exercise, read a book, meditate or do whatever it is you need to put you in a better state of mind. Remember, everyone’s version of self- care is different.
If you do feel down or anxious and feel it is not improving, it doesn’t hurt to speak to a professional or book an appointment to talk to your GP.
Try not to isolate yourself and put on a front to friends and family, if someone offers help accept it – those who love you will be glad to do it.
Enjoy people’s company, make sure you make time to catch up with loved ones, laugh and remember who you are and how you are more than a mother. Nourish yourself from the inside out.
*About the author:
Nutritionist Serena has worked in the health and wellness space for over 15 years. Serena is passionate about helping people understand the need to look after themselves through nutrition and lead a more mindful life. Her positive and realistic approach to food teaches you that eating a healthy diet doesn’t need to be restrictive, boring and that it's achievable.