MOTHERHOOD AND WELLNESS BY KEMI OMIJEH
We have all heard the old adage “put the oxygen mask first on yourself before others” This should be the number one rule of parenting.
The importance of parents, particularly mums, looking after themselves first goes beyond stealing an hour here and there, it goes beyond being a ‘selfish mama, it’s investing in a relationship with yourself.
After all you are going to be with you for the rest of your life. You were a person before being a mother and that person matters. Furthermore you owe it to your children to be the best version of you.
It is from you that they will learn to love themselves, the skin and body they are in. Anyone who has a child will tell you that their observational skills are much better than their listening skills. Well, that’s certainly the case for my children! They are watching; let them watch you invest in their mother.
Invest in your wellness; wellness as defined by the WHO (World Health Organisation) is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of illness.
Did, you spot that wellness encompasses, physical, mental and social?
Looking after yourself and your health should involve looking after all areas. Often we see people focus on one aspect, usually physical and neglect other aspects.
For example physical health and nutrition go hand in hand and I rarely see them being talked about together, unless it’s from a trained professional. Make sure you are ticking the boxes in all aspects of your life.
“Yeah yeah Kemi” I hear you say “that’s all good but I haven’t got time! I am a busy mum!”
Trust me when I say, I hear you, I get it. I fall under this category too.
However the day I made a conscious decision to make time for me was the day I felt less stressed about my long to do list which still exists whether I take that time or not. Without taking you down the doom and gloom path, stress is really harmful to your body which in turn affects your mental health. So whilst I hear you that it is difficult to find the time, I am also saying to you, were there is a will there’s a way.
Here are some simple suggestions on ways you can be all about you and your wellness.
- Know yourself – cliché coming from a Therapist but self discovery is the biggest gift you can give yourself. Write down when you are at your happiest. Where you are at your happiest. Write down what makes you unhappy. Write down what doesn’t make you happy. What are your strengths and your weaknesses? Who brings out the best in you? Who brings out the worst? Once you have gathered together a list of what works for you this will form as a guide to finding more moments of joy in your life.
- Explore your emotions – Notice when certain emotions come up. We spend so much time suppressing our feelings and getting on with it. Prolonged periods of suppressing your feelings leads to the inevitable- outbursts. That’s when ‘shouty mum’ might rear its head. Allow yourself to feel how you feel and where possible communicate those feelings. Come up with a plan for what to do when you are feeling a negative emotion. E.G. When I am feeling sad, I am going to take a time out and listen to my favourite song/ write a quick journal on my phone/take deep breaths. You will be surprised the positive impact this has on you when done consistently.
- Self care – incorporate that into your week, at least 2 times a week. Yes you heard at least twice a week. Self care can last 15mins, it can last 4 hours. It can range from a quiet cup of tea in a quiet space with no interruptions, face masks to a spa day. It can even be indulging in a guilty pleasure. Self care is very personal. Seek out what makes you happy and do it. Self care can also be setting firm boundaries – say no to what is going be a cost to your well-being.
- Feed your mind – stimulate your brain by engaging in creative activities that will keep those intellectual juices flowing. Intellectual doesn’t have to equate academic. You can take up knitting, painting by numbers, listen to a podcast, learn a Tick Tock dance move etc. So long as it’s new to you, you are stimulating your brain because you are flexing new brain muscles. Getting that personal satisfaction from learning and achieving something is good for your mental health.
- Eat well – I am no nutritionist but I know the food that my body responds well to and the food my body doesn’t. Our body likes a nutritious, healthy and balanced diet. I encourage you begin work on noticing the relationship between your body and the food you eat. Everyone’s body responds either positively or negatively to certain foods. For example, I absolutely love coffee, the smell, the taste, the burst of energy. However that burst of energy for me is short lived and I am cranky afterwards. As a result, I avoid coffee.
- Sleep well – Do not underestimate the power of sleep on your physical and mental health. Your body absolutely needs that recovery time. You know yourself that you are probably a better more productive person when you have had a decent night sleep. You need 7 -9 hours sleep consistently every night. Now I am fully aware this may not be easy to achieve with children, particularly little children. I also know if you are anything like me, a lot of mums stay up late just for the peace and quiet and the remote control to themselves. So baby steps, commit to trying to get 7-9 hours sleep at least twice a week. Or power nap when and where you can.
- Be active – This is not a suggestion to be active for weight loss or aesthetic reasons, I am sure that’s a bonus if that happens. Being active is good for your mental and physical health. Exercise releases serotonin which is basically a happy hormone which is needed for our emotional well being. You don’t have to be a gym fanatic; you can be active by dancing around to your favourite song, taking a brisk walk, or swimming. As long as you are doing it for a minimum of 20 minutes, you are getting those happy hormones flowing. Even better if you are doing it outdoors and getting some fresh air.
I suspect I haven’t revealed anything revolutionary new to you. I think deep down we know this but sometimes mum guilt kicks in and we sometimes feel we need permission to be a bit selfish.
Well, we don’t need permission. If you are a mum out there that feels you need to hear this then take this as my ‘permission’ dear mum, please be selfish.
Do what you need to be top mama for your little ones. They love you, so you have to love you too.