Wouldn’t it be nice if we all had the time and resources to engage in the gold standard of self-care? Massage, “me” time, and saying “no” to extraneous demands on your time? Sounds fantastic. But what do you do if you have a crazy 90-hour-a-week job as a professional, a never-ending 168-hour-a-week job as a mom, or even a delightful combo of the two for working moms? Do you just lose it? Hide in a locked bathroom with a fresh pack of Oreos, begging for mercy? (Purely hypothetical!)
I understand why all these polished bloggers keep telling me about the wonders of their daily yoga practice, weekly facials and massages, and regular girls’ nights out. I understand that these things work to help you unwind because I used to have time to do them! Somehow working insane hours at a law firm afforded me approximately 487% more time to myself than I have now. At this point, I actually can’t even go to the bathroom without my 15-month-old following me. Multitasking is life. And most of the time, there’s nobody to delegate anything to. I don’t live close to my family, I don’t have a nanny, and my husband also has a demanding job.
These past several months have been particularly stressful for me, and I’ve had to settle for a new definition of self-care. I’ll discuss this more in depth in a future post, but until Theo was about 10 months old, he was nursing every hour and 15 minutes throughout the day. And he started boycotting the bottle at around 3 months old, so there was no point in trying to pump milk. What this meant was that I couldn’t hand Theo over to a babysitter for more than an hour without him getting hungry and wanting to nurse. I felt like I had absolutely no time to myself and no freedom for self-care. While the past several months have been a marked improvement because Theo’s nursing demands have lessened significantly, I’ve still found myself with very little time for recharging.
Any baby-free time I have is spent running errands, grocery shopping, cleaning up, organizing, planning, and researching. A couple hours a week are spent on beauty appointments that I’ve fought tooth-and-nail to keep, but I view those more as minimum mandatory maintenance than anything. So I started resorting to staying up really late catching up on shows and social media. It made me feel like I was making time for myself. But it also cut way into my sleep, and I was suffering.
Tips for the crazed, dazed, and overextended
1. SLEEP AS MUCH AS YOU REALISTICALLY CAN
I know that most of us will never be able to get our ideal number of hours, but what we can do is maximize the amount of sleep that circumstances will allow. For example, Theo goes to bed around 7 and wakes up to nurse around 5. I used to stay up until midnight so I could watch my shows and have “me” time after finishing all my must-do tasks for the day. I felt like a defiant teenager in the face of my husband begging me to stop torturing myself with such a late bedtime. Before I had a child, I used to go to bed at 10! We all know how important sleep is for one’s physical and mental health, but people…IT REALLY IS! Now I’m trying to keep myself accountable and I aim to go to sleep by 10 every night. It really helps when I’m able to stick to it! My fuse is longer and I feel less murderous overall.
2. IF YOU MUST EAT TRASH, TRY TO EAT SOME HEALTHY STUFF, TOO
I’ll admit it. Before I got pregnant, I was annoyingly healthy. Somehow I managed to work like a psycho, work out like a psycho, and view homemade low-sugar high-protein açaí bowls as a decadent post-workout treat. Since having Theo, I’ve subsisted mainly on Costco organic animal crackers, and it recently got to the point this summer where I was surprised that I hadn’t actually morphed into one. My point is that sometimes when you’re really busy and stressed, the easiest way to boost your mood is by eating junk food. And sometimes that’s ok. And while this is not a lecture about weight or body image, it is a reminder (mostly to myself) that as strong as you are and as healthy as you have been in the past, your body can’t run on fumes. I’ve tried really hard these past few weeks to nourish my body with fruits and vegetables and healthy proteins to the extent possible. I try to stock up on healthy options and eat those first, before I attack the Trader Joe’s Nutty Bits (OMG HAVE YOU TRIED THEM, THEY’RE AMAZING). Although I doubt that I’ll ever again have the time and energy to be as healthy as I used to be, I will stop lying to myself about how I’m treating my body. Oreos, animal crackers, and nutty bits do not a balanced diet make.
3. WHEN IN DOUBT, MAKE A NOSTALGIA PLAYLIST
This saved me last week. Things were looking bleak. And on a whim, right before I went to bed one night, I put together a playlist of all my favorite songs from college, post-college, and law school. It took me back to a simpler time and boosted my mood for days. The best part is that once you put in the work to actually make the playlist, you can listen and enjoy for hours on end while still getting everything else done.
4. PHONE A FRIEND
Well, obviously. But not just any friend. Call someone who gets it. Someone who doesn’t need 45 minutes of context or explanation. Someone you can bitch to who won’t judge you for it or try to make unwanted and unrealistic suggestions. My close friends are everything. You know who you are and I would be lost without you!
5. BE NICE TO YOURSELF
Believe it or not, it’s actually ok to lose it sometimes. You’re kind to and forgiving of others, so why not be kind to yourself? It’s oft-repeated advice, and for good reason. It’s true and it works. Stressing over being stressed has never helped anyone. Accept where you are and just try to do the best you can. It gets better.