When you think of Self Care – do you think of a day spent at the spa, long luxurious massages, facials, foot scrubs, followed by lunch and a nap? Sounds awesome, right? I know. I agree. Those do sound awesome. Here’s the thing, though. I’m gonna go out on a limb here and guess that most of us can’t afford a massage or pedicure every day, in time or money. Lucky for us there are so many other ways in which we can practice self care on a daily basis that are just as effective and FREE!

In this day and age, we can become inundated with images and ideas of self care that either cost a lot of time or a lot of money. And if you are a parent, self care can often feel like a luxury we no longer have the time, energy, or childcare for. Mamas are notorious for pushing self care out the window as soon as our babies are born. That’s exactly why it took me 11 months after my daughter was born to get a haircut. EEEEEEP! Anything remotely resembling self care felt extremely selfish to me. I thought that if my time wasn’t being spent directly caring for my daughter, that it was being wasted. Ohhhhhhh you silly, sleep-deprived mama! And oh how many other mamas are feeling the exact same struggle…?

Why do we associate self care practices with being selfish? There is so much pressure for women, and especially mothers, to “do it all”. (insert eye roll here) What does that even mean?! Who knows. It seems to mean something different to each of us, which only adds to the pressure we put on ourselves. Awesome.

You know the saying “You cannot serve from an empty vessel”, right? It’s by Eleanor Brownn. But did you know the first part of that quote? Her full quote is: “Rest and self-care are so important. When you take time to replenish your spirit, it allows you to serve others from the overflow. You cannot serve from an empty vessel.”

Yes. YES. YES!

If we truly want to help, care for & serve others, whether that’s our kids, our partners, our families, our friends, our communities, our clients, etc., we are doing all of them a huge disservice by NOT practicing self-care. We are of no good to them if we are burnt out, exhausted, and have nothing to give.

I encourage you to try a different perspective when thinking of self-care and your relationship to it. There are so many ways we can practice self-care that don’t require much time, energy or money, and that can potentially have a huge impact on our spirit, energy levels, & relationships.

Here are my top 10 ways you can add a little self-care practice into your day! 

1. Wake up 15 minutes before your alarm and do a super short yoga practice. Yoga by Adrienne is a FREE youtube channel with tons and tons and tons of videos. They range from 5 minutes to 45 minutes. She guides you through practices with a very gentle, introductory feel. Scroll through her videos and you’ll find everything from ‘yoga for morning practice’, to ‘yoga for grief’, to ‘yoga for back pain’ and everything in between.

2. Turn off all devices 30 minutes before bed & read. OK OK OK… this one is still hard for me. My husband & I like to watch TV before bed (right now we’re loving Making It. If you enjoy Parks & Rec and The Great British Bake Off, you should totally watch it, just not right before bed) Totally fine, right? But then I lay in bed scrolling through Facebook juuuuuuuuust for a few minutes….and do you think I feel nice and rested after that? NOPE. I’m agitated, comparing myself to everyone else & completely not ready for sleep. So, yes, I’m still working on this one, but I always feel (and sleep) better when I leave my phone in the living room and open a book, a magazine, hell, even the Ikea catalogue, for a few minutes before lights out.

3. Take a bath. Skip the bubbles because sitting in soap isn’t good for womens bodies… but a soothing, warm water bath for 10 minutes after your day is incredibly relaxing. I turn off the bathroom lights and close my eyes. It’s magical.You could turn on music, but how often do we sit in silence and let our minds truly find calm? Try sitting in silence and focusing on your breath.

4. Go for a walk. I am not one to exercise much so I won’t tell you to workout when I don’t 😉 although if you have a gym membership & enjoy working out, hit a Zumba class! For those of us without a gym membership, or time/funds to get to a gym on a regular basis, start small. A little fresh air, no matter how cold it is, does wonders to clear the mind.

5. While you’re outside – LOOK UP. How many of us city-dwellers walk looking down, never make eye contact with people we pass by, or are rushing to get somewhere? How often do you look up to see what is around you? Do you know what kinds of trees you just walked by? How many birds are there? What sounds do they make? What shape are the clouds in? WAS THAT A BUNNY!?!? (That’s what I’m usually looking for.) My daughter started hearing a woodpecker outside our kitchen window and I never would have because I’m always rushing around. Remember what Louis said?

6. Call a friend you haven’t talked to or seen in a while. Do you hate talking on the phone? Try Facetime or FB messenger video chat. Grab a glass of wine or a cup of tea and you’ll be amazed how catching up on old times fills your heart.

7. Write out your gratitudes for the day. I’m also working on this one. I used to keep a gratitude journal and before bed, I would write at least three things I was grateful for that day. It could be as simple as “I’m grateful for a warm home” or as specific as “I’m grateful that I can make my own schedule and work from home on my own terms”. Mine has shifted into a family practice now at dinner time. We go around the table and each of us shares the best part of our day. It’s so lovely to spend even 5 minutes thinking or talking about the things we are grateful for & love best about our days.

8. Cook or bake something. Creating something that nourishes our bodies also has a very nourishing effect on our minds & spirits. Wanna take it one step further? Invite friends over for dinner or bring the meal to a family in need. Do you know anyone who just had a baby? (and that includes anytime in the past year – new parenthood is longer & harder than just the first 3 months) They could definitely use a meal & a visit. You wanna see gratitude in work? Bring a mom a meal.

9. SOLO DANCE PARTY! Do you have a Spotify playlist for when you need to get out of a funk? I highly recommend this. Take a little time to create a playlist of all your favorite songs that really make you wanna jump up and move. When you start to feel the funk come on and you need to shift out of it quickly, BLAST that music, get up and DANCE for 10 minutes. I dare your bad mood to hang on when you’re jamming out to I Wanna Dance With Somebody or Uptown Funk.

10. Say No. We’re all super busy. We all have FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out). So when things come up – work related or social – we worry that we will miss out on something fun or the potential for a new business opportunity if we turn it down. However, there is so much to be gained in learning how to say “No” every once in a while. Look at your schedule for the week ahead. How many nights are you booked? Can you keep at least 2 of them free to be at home and refuel yourself? Trust me, you deserve it, so does your business & all your relationships. Remember, Look up.

*If you’re a mama in Chicago looking for some guided self-care this week – join me & Cindy Huston of Yoga Body Elements on Wednesday night for a Mama’s Time Out. An hour of self-care designed for YOU. There will be hand scrubs, restorative yoga, tea, conversation and a much needed break. Grab a mama pal and reserve your ticket. You deserve it.

If you are interested in a complimentary skincare or makeup consultation, please email me at melissaengle25@gmail.com. If you enjoy skincare & makeup tips, trying new recipes, entering raffles for free products, & reading silly memes about being a mom, you are invited to join my private Facebook group. (Fair Warning: I let my daughter pick the winners of all my raffles) or follow me here & here.

Melissa is a Chicago mom, actor, entrepreneur & PPD advocate. She runs a monthly group for moms who struggle with PPD/PPA and a monthly mom-to-mom meal train in her neighborhood.

Content provided by Women Belong member Melissa Engle