Boston Moms is thrilled to share this guest post written by Sarah Harmon, a licensed mental health therapist, a certified yoga and mindfulness instructor, and the founder of The School of MOM.
There is a strong need for education, support, and tools for women to learn how to take better care of themselves and, more importantly, to actually do it. As a mom to two girls, a therapist who works with moms, and the founder of a company called The School of MOM (mothering oneself mindfully), I’ve seen burnout — I know this on a personal and a professional level.
COVID-19 hit our routines and families like a freight train. Stress and unknowns are at an all-time high, and access to traditional self-care practices and stress-management outlets are limited. This new reality is not short term, so it’s CRUCIAL for moms to focus on self-care strategies to stay grounded and prioritize our mental, emotional, and physical health.
Let’s get clear on self-care so you don’t roll your eyes and say to yourself, “Great… another article about self-care that I can’t actually do.” Self-care doesn’t need to be “big” events or practices. Think snacks vs. meals. We all know how important snacks are! I define self-care as an umbrella term that encompasses everything from the smaller practices (three deep breaths) to the bigger events (spa weekend getaway with girlfriends).
Here are three accessible self-care practices under my umbrella that I teach to my therapy clients and students in The School of MOM to help women avoid burnout and stay grounded.
1. Change your story.
Start with discerning between facts and thoughts. Our minds are very good at making up stories based on one initial fact. For example:
Fact: My kids’ school is going to be remote.
Thought: This is going to be the worst year ever.
Most of the time, we’re caught up in an unconscious STORY that leads us to feel overwhelmed, stressed, and hopeless. When you notice you’re feeling a challenging emotion, pause and write down your thoughts. Try to get back to the initial fact and then try choosing a different story.
Continuing the example above:
New story: While this is not ideal, we are going to take it one day at a time.
Notice how the new story may make you feel more at peace. Try coming up with alternative narratives with your mom friends.
2. Have a tantrum.
If you have a toddler, you know about big feelings. Remember that we all have a toddler in us, and we can experience big feelings too. My recommendation here may seem silly, but it is this: Give yourself permission to have a full-blown tantrum. If possible, you could try to tantrum at a time/place where you can fully unleash and be unencumbered. If you need to have it in front of your kids, it’s a great lesson in showing our kids that we have big feelings too.
Jill Bolte Taylor, author of “My Stroke Of Insight,” says we have a neurological process that she calls the 90-second rule. In a nutshell, this rule states that emotions have a 90-second shelf life if we allow them to move through us. It’s our thoughts/stories/judgments (see mind tip above) that block this natural flow and result in emotions getting backed up and stuck.
So if you are too deep in the thoughts and past a point of discerning fact from thought, let your big feelings flow. Have the tantrum. Hit a pillow. Yell at the top of your lungs in your car by yourself. Ride the 90-second wave of whatever it is you’re feeling. Feel free to set the timer for yourself and observe how you feel after 90 seconds of truly feeling your big feelings.
Bonus tip to help you ride the wave: Try narrating your experience — I’m feeling SO ______ (angry, sad, frustrated) right now!
3. Ask your body what it needs.
While we can practice self-compassion in many ways, I encourage you to start with your body. When you are in the midst of a struggle, what would being kind to your body look like? Going to bed early? Getting outside? Saying yes to a glass of wine? Saying no to a glass of wine? Taking three deep breaths with your hand on your heart? Choosing rest? Choosing movement/exercise? Think of your body as your number one resource to get you through this time. Continually check in with your body and ask what it needs.
Try out these accessible self-care practices for a week and see if you feel more grounded and at peace during these challenging times.
If you’re interested in learning more about The School of MOM and/or would like a free meditation to help you take care of YOU, check out www.theschoolofmom.com. For ongoing tips, follow @the.schoolofmom on Instagram, and feel free to reach out at [email protected].
Sarah is a mom to two girls, a licensed mental health therapist, a certified yoga and mindfulness instructor, and the founder of The School of MOM. She is passionate about providing women with the education, support, and tools they need to become the mindful, resilient, patient, and compassionate humans they want to raise.