Four ways to sneak in self-care throughout your busy day
By Sarah Ezrin, author, yoga educator, and mom of two
I require a lot of alone time and self-care. I’m a huge introvert, so a busy home has been kind of antithetical to my energetic needs. I crave extended periods without distraction (ahem, my husband or children) and quiet time to fuel up. When I first became a mother, I felt guilty to have those needs and feelings. Today, as the mother of two energetic boys, I know that taking care of myself and practicing self-care is not selfish. I take care of myself precisely so I can take care of my family. I just had to get creative about how I was sneaking that time into our days.
With my first son, I assumed that motherhood meant setting any parts of myself aside to wholly care for him. I sacrificed my deeper needs, always putting him first. I skipped my yoga practices and forwent showering. I didn’t speak up when I knew I needed a break. I thought my personal needs would just dissolve when I took on this new role of mother.
My mental health suffered greatly. I experienced anxiety so severe that I would be frozen in parking lots, with my baby in tow, unable to make a decision of what we needed to do next. I was so overwhelmed that even in those rare instances he did sleep, I would be wide awake mulling over my endless to do list. That foray into motherhood nearly swallowed me, but when I started to reincorporate daily self-care practices, everything changed.
I no longer resented my husband for being freer than I was as a breastfeeding mom. I felt clear on my boundaries of what I would say ‘yes’ and ‘no’ to. Another bonus of identifying needs and asking for them, is that I was teaching my son (and now two sons) how to vocalize his needs, too.
I think many of us moms have self-care all wrong. We think it needs to be these huge overt experiences like a girl’s trip or spa day that require chunks of time away from our family. But the most effective way to fill your energetic bank account is by making tiny, kind choices for yourself throughout the day. The best way to do that is to turn your routines into rituals.
Here are 4 creative ways to weave self-care throughout your day as a busy mom:
1. unapologetic personal hygiene
I am of the camp that washing our face and showering are not self-care, but basic needs. That said, you can take an approach to your grooming that may help satisfy your spa cravings without the financial burden or time commitment. The trick? Take your sweet time and don’t apologize about it!
How-to tips: Mothers of very young children may have a tougher time carving this out, but if you get a chance to shower or wash your face, take full advantage by using all of your favorite products and then try not to feel bad about those extra minutes. I will even pause with a hot towel on my face for five breaths every morning and that changes my whole day.
2. parking lot pause
There has been a lot of talk recently about moms hiding out in their cars in parking lots for alone time between errands. Moms are filming TikToks of themselves enjoying their Starbucks hot before their Target haul. I call this the “Parking Lot Pause.” Even if your kids are with you, you can turn your car into a Zen den and give yourself a much needed break from the hustle and bustle of everyday mom-ing.
How-to tips: Before you rush into the store to do a supermarket sweep, pause in the car and listen to a song you love from start to finish. Option to pick a song you enjoy dancing to. Or, once everything is loaded in the car, rather than driving home as fast as you can to relieve your partner or childcare, sit and enjoy the quiet for five full minutes (or as long as it takes you to finish your coffee).
3. Move your body every day
It doesn’t matter if it’s ten minutes or an hour, research shows that moving your body every day has a huge impact on our overall well-being and happiness levels. Exercise is also something we can do with our kids. You don’t need an hour or even a quiet spot to do your workout. You just need to move.
How-to tips: If your kids are old enough where they ride scooters or bicycles, jog or speed walk alongside them. If you are open to screen time, stretch out or do some core work while they are watching their show. Turn cleaning into a dance party. The key is to move in ways you enjoy and look forward to, even if you are doing it during chores you don’t necessarily love.
4. Eat first and eat mindfully
I know this sounds outrageous and maybe even impossible, but serve yourself first before your children. Most of us eat last and as a result, we are operating on hunger and adrenaline before the meal has even begun. It’s no wonder, we are quick to temper when our child rejects that day’s menu! Taking a few mindful bites of food before feeding the whole family can be a self-care practice.
How-to tips: Snacking has mixed support from dieticians and the medical community, but if you can slow down and savor every bite, you can turn snacking into a meditation practice. This is called mindful eating and only a few minutes and a few morsels can have long-lasting effects, such as improved mood and increasing self-trust. Just remember to do this before you feed the rest of the family.
Many of us equate self-care with being selfish. It can sometimes feel as though we are choosing our needs over our families or we think self-care requires us to be away from our family for extended periods. Self-care is not just bubble baths or manicures. It is a daily practice of both listening to and honoring your needs. The better you take care of yourself, the better you will take care of your family.
Sarah Ezrin is an author, world-renowned yoga educator, content creator, and mama based in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her debut book The Yoga of Parenting releases Summer 23 from Penguin Random House-Shambhala. Sarah loves guiding people along their wellness and parenthood journeys. Her words, classes, and social media are supportive, healing spaces where people can feel seen and heard. For more information on Sarah please connect with her on Instagram and TikTok.