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Time comes at a premium for moms. According to a British study, parents on average get about 17 minutes of me-time every day. There never seems to be enough of it. And as a mom, when you think about your priorities, making time for self-care typically falls at the bottom of that list.
According to a survey by healthywomen.org, about 78% of women put themselves last, when it comes to taking care of their health. Most women ranked their care priorities in this order—children, pets, elder relatives, spouse or significant others, and then themselves. Now come on! Uncle Joe can definitely wait for you to catch a break!
Ask any mom, what is that she wants and chances are, most moms want their family and kids to be healthy, happy, and well taken care of. But here’s the thing. You cannot keep pouring from an empty cup. If you don’t take time out for yourself, in looking after your own body and mind, if you don’t pay attention to your prana, health, and wellness, how do you expect the quality of your caregiving to meet your own high standards? This leads to an unhealthy loop of dissatisfaction. How can you offer the enormous amount of love and caring energy that you are striving to give, every single day, when you are sleep deprived, sustaining on lasagnas and slapdash sandwiches, with little to no workout/yoga or mind-body practices?
Similarly, if you are a happy parent, you are more likely to contribute towards building a happy family. Stress, exhaustion, burnout, and even illness can take a toll when you aren’t getting enough of what you need. So whether you carve out a few minutes or a whole day, of a few days in a year, here are some ideas to get you started:
Intend it. When you are juggling between a career and taking care of a family, newborn, or a child in their early years, self-care can fall by the wayside, unless you INTEND it to be part of your daily or weekly routine. You have to simply want to be your happiest, healthiest self before you get down to taking care of the needs of your family and work. When you make it your intention (called Sankalpa in Sanskrit), you will see the way is made for you. You will find that nature will support you in fulfilling this intention.
Drop the guilt. Many mothers suffer from the guilt of either not doing enough or being selfish and unavailable, when they so much as step out for a hair cut, massage, or just a meal with their girl gang, leaving the child behind with a caregiver. Self-care is not a luxury. It is a necessity. Not giving yourself quality me-time can actually lead to resentment, fatigue, and emotional depletion. While your children need you, letting them be for some time in a day or a week, may teach them small lessons in self-reliance.
Eat well. It is known now that our digestive health is directly linked to the health of our brains and minds. And God knows, moms need their brains to be by their sides, in raising and taking care of a family, with the sheer pressure to multitask every single day. It is so easy to fall into the trap of trash eating while taking care of your kids, particularly in their early years.While you may spend enough time to prepare the healthiest meals, soups, and juices for your kids, if your idea of a ‘quick bite’ is frozen yogurt or a store-bought lasagna, because you are so spent from all the parenting, know that this is soon going to land you in unwarranted health troubles.When it comes to food and diet practices, take your health just as seriously as you take your kids’ diet. Sure, if you feel you cannot dedicate as much time, you can try out a few tricks to make sure your meals are loaded in nutrition while being easy-to-make.
- Make more meals at home from the scratch. Have small meals but more frequently.
-Go for vegetarian fare once or twice a week. It is light on your tummy, nutritious, and easy to prepare.
- Make sure you are eating on time and you are not skipping meals. This will go a long way in keeping your digestive fire strong and healthy.
- Stay hydrated. Drink at least 60 to 100 ounces of water each day. Chuck soda or any of the other dehydrating fluids from your daily habits.
- Load up on fruits and vegetables. Studies show, having fruits and vegetables is linked to ‘feeling positive’ in the day.
- Make sure your plate is colorful and at least half of it is filled with fruits and vegetables. Purple foods like berries and eggplant can help lower cholesterol and improve immunity. Red foods contain phytonutrients that are good for your heart health and fight against cancers. Greens are naturally a great source of antioxidants, B vitamins, important minerals, support bone health and improve vitality in the body.
- Make generous use of herbs and spices in your cooking. They are good for your immunity, sugar, and cholesterol levels. Spices like cinnamon, ginger, saffron, or turmeric are rich sources of antioxidants, good digestives, and anti-inflammatory apart from being amazing flavorful additions to your meals.
- Make more meals at home from the scratch. Have small meals but more frequently.
Are you working out? The value of carving out half an hour to 45 minutes for a workout cannot be overstated. It energizes you, clears your head, and gets the endorphins pumping for a busy day at work and home. But if that seems like a pipe dream, you can make outdoor activities a part of your daily or weekly routine, so you get to stay physically active along with your kids.
You can go cycling, swimming or climbing with them. If you can manage a few rounds of deep squats, jumping jacks, a few rounds of surya namaskars or sun salutations each day, you will feel the benefit of the movement all day. We suggest, you check with your physician about what type of workouts you can or cannot do if you are a new mom.
Here’s a sequence for new moms, who need a routine that makes up for the lack of sleep and a foggy head.
- Diaphragmatic breathing. You can start with pranayamas to let in more oxygen into your system. When you undergo stress particularly during the period of newly adjusting to parenthood, you may tend to switch to shallow breathing often. Deep breathing practices help you oxygenate your system.
- Pelvic lifts—these will strengthen your lower body and abdomen region while giving sufficient rest to your back and spine.
- Cat and cow poses. This combination of asanas help you get rid of muscle stiffness and get moving again, gently.
- Baby camel pose helps you open up your chest a little more and rebalance the body after staying in a slumped posture for too long in the day, from activities like feeding, rocking, swaying etc.
- You can follow this up with a downward-facing dog pose, plank poses, and knee tucks. End the routine with Shavasana and a short Yoga Nidra session.
- Just 15 minutes of Yoga Nidra will energize your body, freshen up your mind and give you deep meaningful rest that you may be running short on, as a new parent.
Get your health tests done. The survey we mentioned above also states that about 78% of women put off taking health appointments because they were too busy taking care of family and kids. About 86% of mothers scheduled most of the healthcare appointments for their kids. The downside to this trend is, more women are jeopardizing their own health and safety, ignoring signals, neglecting their own bodies, in this bargain.
Do not miss your annual checkups, smear tests, mammograms, flu shots, and other health screenings. Your family needs you healthy, hale and hearty, as much as you need them.
Are you sleeping enough? What a silly question, right? But studies show those who sleep less than six hours every day experience weight gain, potential heart problems, and are at high risk of type 2 diabetes. To avoid that, stick to a bedtime ritual to help you sleep on time and well. It could be a warm shower, reading a good book, listening to some relaxing music, journaling, and keeping devices away a couple of hours before hitting the bed. Make sure the quality of your sleep is good enough.
Make time for meditation. Did you know, 20 minutes of meditation can give you rest qualitatively as deep as 4–5 hours of sleep? When as a parent you are constantly running on very little sleep, meditation can be your segue to good rest that rejuvenates your mind and body. Meditation as a practice does not take more than 20 minutes each day, but it can give you a host of benefits for your digestive system, brain, sleep, overall health both physical and mental. Regular practice of meditation increases the supply of feel-good hormones like serotonin and endorphins while reducing the release of stress hormones like cortisol.
As a mother, you are used to doing something or the other all day, working towards something. But meditation is the delicate art of doing nothing, total relaxation, letting go, which gives you a booster shot of deep rest. Studies suggest regular practice can give you benefits such as
- Improved physiological response to stress
- Lowers oxidative stress
- Reduces blood glucose levels
- Lowers risk of heart diseases, where stress is a risk factor
- Reduction in hormonal releases caused by stress—cortisol, corticotropin, blood lactate, ACTH, and plasma MDA
- Acceptance of the present moment
- Stability of mind
- Trains you to stay calm in the midst of chaos
- Increases happiness, enhances mood
- Improves metabolism
- Better sense of well-being
- Increases connectedness and empathy
- More creativity and better decision making
- Better brain health
- Pain management
- Calm mind that lets you be a good observer of how you are adjusting to new parenthood
- More capacity to embrace opposites.
The benefits of self-care are twofold—you’ll feel reinvigorated and your family gets a healthier, happier mom.