11am comes around and you still haven't showered or eaten anything resembling a proper breakfast, your clothes are usually the first thing you saw in the wardrobe and frequently covered in baby vomit. You put baby down to sleep and then dash about from one waiting job to another - putting on the washer, cleaning the kitchen, preparing the next meal, writing an overdue thank-you note... Sound familiar?
Many mums tend to put their needs right at the bottom of their to do list, and of course it's an ever-replenishing list that most of us never reach the bottom of! The result is that you're trying to provide for everyone else's needs while running on empty yourself. This is ok for a couple of weeks, but you'll soon become run-down and unable to look after the needs of the rest of the family properly. You end up feeling like you're chasing your tail and not doing anything very well. If you're in this position then you need to move yourself right up the priority list with a little regular 'me time': Treat yourself well so that you have the mental and physical strength to cope with everything that family life throws at you.
One of the most important things about 'me time' is regularity. A rare week away at a spa hotel is an enormous luxury that will certainly recharge your batteries, but if you don't have regular time for yourself, you'll find that the benefits of your holiday are quickly lost and your batteries drained. Another thing to realise about 'me time' is that it doesn't have to be something big: You can put even a small amount of time to good use towards getting a little relaxation and calm. And finally, 'me time' needn't necessarily be time spent on your own; you can use it to focus on and connect with some of the important people in your life who don't usually get much of a look in, whether that's your partner, a good friend or your mum - whoever makes you feel better just by talking or spending time with them.
Here are a few pointers for making sure you get enough time for yourself, and some ideas for how to make the most of it.
Make 'me time' daily
Try taking twenty minutes and doing one thing every day that is just for you. You have a list of jobs as long as both arms to do, then put the me time onto that list and schedule a time for it. In the early days of being a mum this might be when baby goes down for her second or third sleep of the day, depending on when the sleeps are, but as you fall into a routine with your baby then it should get easier to find a regular slot.
Use the me time to do something that relaxes you, gives you mental stimulation or just a bit of a pick up. What works for you is quite a personal thing, but here are some ideas for starters:
Reading Make yourself a drink and settle down in a comfy chair with a book, magazine or newspaper and allow yourself to forget everything else but what you're reading.
Breathing It's incredibly simple, but concentrating on your breathing is a wonderful way to relax and acts as a great tonic for your body. Take long, deep and even breaths that draw in plenty of oxygen and use the exhale to consciously relax and breathe out any stresses and worries.
Yoga and meditation Yoga and meditation both harness the power of breathing for stimulation, relaxation and calm. Yoga has the added benefit of giving you a physical workout at the same time. If you're already familiar with either of these then you can use even just 20 minutes a day effectively. If you're new to the ideas then you might want to use one of your longer 'me time' slots to take a course or get to grips with the basics.
Water therapy Take an extra-long shower or a soak in the bath. Use the time to exfoliate, give your hair a deep condition or use a face mask. Aromatherapy can help you get the most relaxation out of this time.
Polish up Give yourself a home manicure or pedicure by soaking, scrubbing, sloughing off dead skin and cutting and filing nails. Skip the actual polish part if you're short on time, it'll only end up as a hatchet job and nails being clean, tidy and trimmed is far more important.</p><p>
Exercise There's nothing like a bit of exercise to put a zing in your step, and twenty or thirty minutes a day is enough time to get your heart rate up and pumping, just make sure you start of slow and gentle at first. We've got ideas for exercising for new mums here
Music Sometimes we're so busy as new mums that we don't even seem to have time to put music on as a pleasant background to another activity. Choose some music that unwinds, uplifts or inspires you, and that fits well into your timeframe. Then put your feet up, listen and relax.
Pick up the 'phone Chatting on the phone may be the last thing you feel like doing when you're exhausted, but if you talk to the right person it can be a huge lift, giving you a chance to talk over any problems, find out what's happening in their live, and hopefully see the funny side of your newly crazy life.
Choose your setting
You'll find it difficult to relax and unwind if you're surrounded by all those jobs that are waiting for your attention. Try and keep one area of your home, however small, free from everyday clutter and reminders of unfinished business so that you have somewhere to escape to to clear your mind. If you can, combine the time with getting out of the house completely. This is easier to do with larger time-slots, but you can still get out of the house for a brisk 20-minute walk in the fresh air, or if you've got some pleasant outside space, sit out there with your book or music.
Make weekly 'me time' slots a habit
While you can use twenty minutes a day very effectively, taking a longer chunk of time to do something for yourself is important to re-charge your batteries. Try to set aside at least one session of two or three hours each week where you're footloose and baby-free - turn your baby over to your partner or someone in your family to care for. If you don't make this a regular time slot then the chances are that everyday life will take over and your relaxation time will fall to the wayside (we've been there). Taking this time will be far harder in the first few weeks, particularly if you're breastfeeding and aren't able to plan exactly when you'll be free, but you can still set a day and mark aside the amount of time you're comfortable being away from your baby for, and then take your relaxation time somewhere close by. It's good to set the precedent early on if you can. Once breastfeeding is well established you might want to consider expressing so that someone else can feed your baby if need be, giving you a little more scope for going further afield or taking a little longer.
With this weekly chunk of time you're looking to do something that isn't about being a mum. Here are some ideas for the first few weeks:
Get out for a read Take your book or some magazines and head off to the nearest cafe or park for some undisturbed reading time. Leave the parenting mags at home!
Catch up with friends Either ensconce yourself in a comfy place with the telephone and numbers of your closest friends, or get out of the house to meet neighbours or friends for coffee or afternoon tea nearby.
Go for a walk You're unlikely to be up to anything very energetic at this stage, but a good walk somewhere green and leafy - without worrying that baby will be woken by a passing fire-engine - can be very restorative.
Once you and your baby have settled more into a routine where she's less dependent on you - or you're happy expressing milk for your baby if you're breastfeeding - you'll be able to be increasingly adventurous with using this time.
Take a course Whether it's yoga, a gym class, a foreign language or even knitting, taking a course can really take your mind off everything at home and, of course, paying money for a class is one way to make sure your me time is protected.
Join a group Maybe you used to be in a choir or book club, play rugby or regularly meet with a particular group of friends. See if you can now fit it back into your family routine, or consider taking up something new.
Get a haircut Feeling good about how you look isn't usually easy as a new mum, but a good haircut can do wonders for your looks and self-confidence. Make sure your hairdresser knows that you're a new mum and gives you a but that suits your lifestyle by needing minimal daily attention to look good.
Book a massage Aches and pains are par for the course for new mums and, while it sounds corny, a good massage can really help to clear tensions and relax both body and mind. Get recommendations from friends and find a massage therapist who can tailor the massage to your specific problem areas if possible.
Go shopping For some people shopping is a relaxation session, for others of us it's a chore. Either way, it's likely to be an awful lot calmer and more rewarding if you don't have baby in tow.
Dedicated me time is important, but there are other times during the day when you can take the opportunity to relax and quieten the daily anxieties that might be preying on your mind.
Breastfeeding, for example, while taking it out of you physically more that you would expect, can be a wonderful time to relax and bond with your baby, and an excuse to have time away from the rest of the family if you have older children. There's nothing wrong with reading or quietly watching a bit of tv during a feed if it doesn't distract your baby, but why not take at least one feed, maybe before putting her down for the night, to just to focus on your baby, enjoy the connection between you, breathe deeply and forget everyday chores.
Of course, if you're struggling with positioning and latching on while baby screams her lungs out you might find the idea of relaxing during a feed a nonsense. But being calm and relaxed can also help you get a feed off to a good start: Nothing bad will happen to your baby if she doesn't get her milk in the next fifteen seconds, even though she might protest alarmingly. Try taking deep breaths and talking soothingly to your baby as you get ready to put her on the breast.
Make getting your 'me time' one of your daily priorities from now on, and see how much better you feel in a week's time. And if you've got some tips for quick relaxation ideas that work for you then why not pass them along to other frazzled new mums on the forum?
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