Self-Care Strategies from the Busiest Working Moms
If you’re tired, stressed or prone to anxiety, these small and simple tips could have a positive impact on your "mom-sanity."
Busy working moms need all the help they can get when it comes to #self-care. You know it should be a priority, but with your job, school drop-offs, recitals, cooking and other responsibilities, the family's needs always seem to come before our own much-needed personal time. We asked working moms to give real advice and tips on how they balance work, motherhood and self-care—because you can’t give your family 100 percent if you don’t feel your best mentally and physically. Here's our favorite advice:
1. Schedule self-care!
“Block the time off your calendar,” says TEDx Speaker, Lifestyle Expert and Holistic Nutritionist Rebecca Cafiero. “If it isn't scheduled, it isn't real. I schedule my self-care during the work day, since evenings with kiddos can be unpredictable.” Other tips include inviting someone else along on your self-care plans, or simply locking your door and putting on noise-canceling headphones.
2. Get your mind awake before your body.
A few seconds of meditation in the morning can make all the difference, says mom of two and author of Mompowerment, Suzanne Brown. “I take a pause to intentionally make any mental adjustments before I even get out of bed,” says Suzanne. “I have also found this approach makes a big difference in my interactions with my family and colleagues.”
3. Prioritize previous activities that brought you happiness.
“Make a list of 10 things that have brought you joy in the past or things you’d like to try,” says health coach Angela Rocchio, who makes it her goal to help busy mothers get healthy and reinvent themselves after kids so they can feel strong, confident and happy in motherhood. Also make sure the list is easily visible by putting it on the fridge to remind you to try them.
4. Find fun activities that could also be good workouts.
“I always have made time to do things I love again to keep me sane,” says Director of Sales and Marketing Kiedra Tyson. “I play volleyball twice a week, mainly to substitute my workout.” Kiedra travels 80 percent for her job, so getting in a workout is a must.
5. Think about your day in manageable blocks.
“I try to look at the day and my choices in smaller chunks, whether it’s getting yoga or a run in first thing in the morning," says Katie Doyle, CEO of Swanson Health and mom to three teenagers. Katie also makes sure to park farther away for activities with her kids to have a moment to walk, talk and add more quality time.
6. Crack open a book when you can.
Show your kids how beneficial reading can be. Working Mother
“In the mornings, I sit and have a cup of coffee while I read a book,” says owner of Solstice Dental & Aesthetics and mother to triplets Dr. Krysta Manning. “I set a timer for 10 minutes in a place where my children can see it.” While she felt selfish at first, she says this has done wonders for her patience as mother and teaches her children the importance of reading at the same time.
7. Get familiar with self-care apps.
It’s all about the apps for working mom Rochelle Jacobs, owner and co-creator of June Jacobs Spa Collection. “Download the app Headspace, it is a game changer,” she says.” Fitness apps like MyFitnessPal cater to your lifestyle and curate a routine just for you.” Another recommended app from Rochelle is Zeel, which allows you to book an at-home massage for any length of time.
8. Create a "Brain Budget."
“With clients, I have them determine what brings them energy and what drains them,” says mindset coach Melissa Wolak. “We create a 'Brain Budget' so they are more aware of withdrawals and deposits.” Her method uses a concept called “brain dollars” to create a healthy balance of work and self-care by scheduling activities into the non-negotiable list of work activities. Melissa has 20 years of experience as a speech-language cognitive therapist with additional training in the areas of food as medicine, memory, mindfulness, anxiety and stress management.
9. Accept the fact you won’t do the same activities you did before you had kids—but find easy alternatives.
Certified Life Coach and author of two books Kathleen Ann Harper says she had a breakthrough when she distinguished the difference between self-care activities as a mother and those before having kids. Instead of long runs and massages, Kathleen now substitutes short bursts of self-care like of Tai Chi in the backyard. “These brief but necessary self-care moments add up and ensure I'm not just a bundle of resentment and exhaustion at the end of the day.”
10. Don’t ignore your beauty routine; just simplify it.
“When we look good, we feel good, so no need to completely ignore your own beauty routine,” says hairstylist and mom of two boys Michelle Schwartz. She recommends simplifying by finding a haircut you can style in 15 minutes like a short layered cut, or a long-lasting style like balayage highlights that grow out nicely and require less maintenance. Dry shampoos like Rene Furterer and Evo are also a must to have on hand, Michelle says.
11. Take advantage of early mornings.
Successful self-care happens in the early mornings, says President of Online Furniture and Antique Marketplace DESCASO Kendra Frisbie. While raising two kids she says, “I get up early (by 5 a.m.) have a quick meditation and set the day’s intention, clear the inbox and get in a tough, sweaty workout with friends who know me neither as a mom nor a colleague,” she says. “Conversations can be about any other topic than parenting or working.”
12. Multitask while working out.
Exercise is a common challenge when it comes to self-care for working moms, but Kristen Tobey, co-founder for Revolution Foods, says she takes that time to do some quality thinking for the day ahead on quick walks or runs to work. “Although it can be tricky to fit in a workout, I’m committed to growing my business and raising my three girls.”
13. Get into the habit of caring for your skin.
Something as small as sun damage can put a huge dent in long term self-care according to working mom and co-founder of Block Island Organics, Kelly Hsiao. “In fact 90 percent of skin aging is caused by the sun,” she says. Kelly recommends making it a habit to apply sunscreen or a 2-in-1 product that acts as a moisturizer and has SPF protection.
14. Use your family as an outlet for joy and gratitude.
Take the love from your family and channel it into your life. Working Mother
When I get home each evening, I set my phone in a drawer and sit down for family dinner with my husband and boys,” says another co-founder of Revolution Foods, Kristin Richmond. “From there, I read my son's a book before bed.” This allows Kristin to be more present with her family and helps her business life by approaching colleagues and families with more empathy.
15. Keep a journal handy.
“To stave off the sense that time is going by too quickly, I started using a daily, one-sentence 5-year journal,” says small business owner and mother of two Nicole Harkin. “Every evening, just before I go to bed, I write one sentence about the day in this journal.” Each entry captures the day and calms the anxiety of losing time with the little ones.
16. Remember self-care isn’t only good for you—it also sets a good example.
Froswa’ Booker-Drew works a full-time job and has a 17-year-old daughter about to graduate high school. “Between preparing for prom, college admission dilemmas and helping her with last minute life lessons, we are busy doing a lot for the present and still trying to make memories as we prepare for the future,” she says. “I've modeled for my daughter the importance of stepping away to take care of self.”
17. The 30-30-30-30-Rule.
CEO of the Little Breathing Space Clarissa Hughes says its important to make a list of your to-do’s and block out chunks of time to get them done. “30 minutes to really listen to the kids, 30 minutes to connect with your partner, 30 minutes to get ready for the next day and 30 minutes of quiet time for you. That way you can enjoy self-care without the guilt.”
18. Work out WITH your kids!
Include you kids in workouts and spend some quality time with them. Working Mother
Barre Enthusiast and Founder of Honestly Modern Jen Panaro says exercise is her self-care savior, and interval training specifically is her favorite. “Push ups, jumping jacks, jump rope, planks, and burpees are all exercises I can do at home while my kids are nearby,” she says. “The breaks between intervals give me time to address any needs or questions they have as well.”
19. A massage can make all the difference.
Busy mom of four Rhonda Klein is a dermatologist with her own practice and has her own line of skin-care. “An occasional massage or pop-in to a local foot reflexology center can be the difference between a stressful, anxiety-packed day versus a relaxing evening.”
20. Release the tension of the day with a quick morning face massage.
Even a short 90-second face massage can make all the difference according to Founder and CEO of VERTERE Skin Care. She says, “A quick facial massage releases tension and improves circulation—it helps to relax you for a better night's sleep and revitalize you for your morning." Recommended areas to focus on are under your chin, under your cheekbones, nasal labial folds, temples and between the eyebrows.
21. Plan out a quick morning and nighttime self-care routine.
Professional Counselor and Author Heidi McBain is a mother of two who likes to start and end her day with some form of self-care. “I exercise, do a three-minute meditation and journal, each and every morning,” she says. “ I also make sure I do something relaxing before bed every night—if I have a lot of time, it might be a show on Netflix, if it’s been a busy day, it might just be reading a book for a few minutes.”
22. Think about the domino effect from no self-care.
Lisa Akers is a spaceship engineer, herbalist and mother. Her strategy to ensure she makes time for self-care is shifting impact away from her own needs. “Instead of allowing myself to put off my self-care because something else seems more important in the moment, I reflect on how doing that will affect others,” she says. “If I don't get enough sleep, I won't be able to perform the next day, letting down my colleagues.”
23. Make a “relaxation corner” in your bedroom.
”If it's not easy, simple and flexible, self-care won't happen,” says Creator of Bombshell Business and author Amber Hurdle. “The 'relaxation corner' of my bedroom houses my yoga mat and accessories, essential oils, self-treatment tools like a foam roller, my journal, a comfy seat, a scented candle and other tools that allow me to take a mini retreat from being a working mom.”
24. Remove people-pleasing guilt, and remember you’re the boss.
You will never get around to your own needs if you continue trying to please everyone. “Let's face it, there'll always be something or someone needing your time and attention,” says licensed therapist and relationship expert Natasha Oates. “Revisit or discover the activities that rejuvenate you.” Natasha owns her time by scheduling self-care activities weeks in advance.
25. Know your pressure points that reduce stress.
Director at the Training Institute for Mental Health, Dayna Kurtz has an old but efficient and quick self-care method to reduce stress. “Developed nearly 5,000 years ago, acupressure is similar to acupuncture, but instead of using specialized needles, points on the body are treated with touch,” she says. “The pericardium points 5, 6, and 7, found on the inside of the wrist, for example, are known to reduce anxiety.” Massage in a circular motion for 30 seconds to a minute.
26. Keep an emergency self-care kit with you wherever you go.
Mom of three Jennifer Bickerton works full-time and runs JJB Public Relations. During her busy schedule, she always makes sure to have something on hand for self-care. “If I can’t make it out for a mani, I always have a small kit in my desk and I will go full force on my own with the mini-mani with quick drying formula.” Other convenient kits she recommends are the “Happy Feet” Exfoliating Foot Treatment and a ZIIP Beauty facial treatment.
27. Recognize that sleep and rest are not the same thing.
Physician and author of Sacred Rest: Recover Your Life, Renew Your Energy, Restore Your Sanity, Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith used RestQuiz.com to determine what type of rest she needed after being extremely sleep deprived. “When you only focus on getting physical rest like napping or massages, you will still suffer from the anxiety and excessive cerebral background noise of a restless mind.”
28. Splurge on self-care products you can reuse.
You definitely deserve a little indulgence. Working Mother
“I make self-care a priority because if momma's not happy, nobody's happy,” says Operations Manager for ONNO T Shirt Company and mom of three Emily Jones. “I treated myself to a fancy espresso machine that I can use to have a delicious cappuccino in the mornings.” Waking up to a fresh cappuccino every morning is definitely something to get on board with.
Written by Makenzey Shank for Working Mother and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.