Nurture Yourself: A Guide to Midlife Self Care for Busy Mums

midlife woman overcoming obstacle in nature self care

Why is Self Care in Midlife is Crucial for Mums?

First up, what is self-care?

Self-care is any activity that we do deliberately in order to take care of our mental, emotional, and physical health.

It is different for each of us.

To find out more about why important, particularly in midlife when we can face unique challenges which can affect our confidence and mental health check out my previous post: The Power of Self-Care: 6 Benefits for Midlife Mums – Inner Expat and also this post with powerful insights from midlife women.

In a nutshell, Self-care is important for maintaining a healthy relationship with yourself. This is particularly the case in midlife as it is a time of transition and can be challenging for us all. Midlife women often face unique challenges related to aging, menopause, caregiving, and work-life balance.

Shockingly, in a survey, 41% of mothers reported feeling overwhelmed and stressed most of the time.

In addition, over 50% of women in midlife report experiencing symptoms of depression.

I had to read that twice when I first saw it. 50% of women in midlife. And if that is not enough….

 Over 60% of women in midlife report experiencing symptoms of anxiety.

“It’s also our collective delusion that overwork and burnout are the price we must pay in order to succeed.” 

Arianna Huffington

Debunking the obstacles to Self Care and How to Overcome Them

Time Barrier?

Midlife mums often face the obstacle of time (or perception of time) when trying to practice self-care. They are often juggling multiple responsibilities such as work, caring for children and elderly parents, and managing household tasks. This can leave the sense that there is little time for self-care activities, leading to feelings of guilt or neglect. Another obstacle that midlife mums may face is the belief that self-care is selfish. They may feel that taking time for themselves is taking away from their responsibilities to others. This can lead to a cycle of neglecting their own needs and feeling burnt out.

First up we need to be aware that we are doing this! Then, carving out even 1 or 2 minutes to do something throughout the day that can re-ground us whether it is simply breathing, getting some fresh air or having a cuppa.

Micro moments matter, self care does not have to take hours. Self care is not just a spa day or luxuriating for hours in the bath. It can be simple things we do throughout the day and our lives.

Break Free from Financial Fears?

Financial constraints can also be an obstacle to self-care for midlife mums. We may feel that we cannot afford to spend money on activities such as massages or spa treatments, or that we can´t take time off work to attend appointments. Self-care can so often be free to us; Whether it is saying no to an invitation to something we haven´t got time or the inclination for, deciding to have a walk at lunchtime instead of working through, having a connected conversation with someone rather than zoning out in front of the tv with a vino/chocolates. Finding what works for us is part of the fun and so often these things can be free! Remembering that self care is literally anything that takes care of our mental, emotional, and physical health.

Finally, midlife mums may face the obstacle of not knowing how to practice self-care. They may feel overwhelmed by the idea of self-care and unsure of where to start. This can lead to inaction and a continued neglect of their own needs.

Well, you are in the right place, here are lots of ideas of self-care, many of which many of us may not have even considered were self-care, but they all are!

midlife woman relaxing in a pool self care

Top 7 Self Care Strategies or Pillars for Midlife Mums

So these are considered the Seven Pillars of Self-Care: Basically to cultivate overall wellbeing in our lives. It is obviously up to you to think about what is most important to you and what feels GOOD to you too!

  1. Physical Self-Care:
    • Engaging in regular movement, such as walking, dance, yoga, or swimming, to promote physical health. Not to punish yourself or feel like you ´have´to do it – how about finding something you enjoy, it may even be something you used to do as a kid!
    • Prioritising tuning into your body and eating in a way that feels good to you. Only you know what you feel like eating and how much you want to it at any given moment. Listen and trust yourself and your body .
    • Ensuring sufficient sleep and practicing good sleep hygiene (switch the phone off!) for optimal rest and rejuvenation. Most adults need 7-9 hours sleep and prioritising this is pretty key for most of us. Establishing a consistent bedtime routine, avoiding caffeine and alcohol before bedtime, and creating a comfortable sleep environment can all contribute to better sleep quality.
  2. Emotional Self-Care:
    • Engaging in activities that bring you joy and fulfillment, such as reading, painting, or spending time in nature. Whatever you enjoy doing whether alone or with friends or family. It doesn´t have to be daily or weekly, just having it as part of your life.
    • This is a crucial one and requires lots of practice – Practicing self-compassion, self-reflection, and mindfulness to cultivate emotional resilience.
    • Reaching out for help to a friend, family member, therapist or coach if you feel that you might need some support. So important and people do want to be there for you!
  3. Social Self-Care:
    • Building and nurturing relationships with loved ones, friends, and community to foster a sense of connection and support. Having a network that feels good to you.
    • Setting healthy boundaries and practicing effective communication to maintain healthy relationships. This is a big one, especially for us women and mums. Saying no when we don´t want to do something or even just saying we will come back to someone if we are not sure. Giving ourselves the permission to review each invitation, request and think about them rather than just defaulting to ´yes´.
    • Volunteering can be a great way to boost our own mental health – yes we can often do a lot to help our families in our daily lives, but volunteering our time can also reap huge rewards for us too.
  4. Intellectual Self-Care:
    • Engaging in lifelong learning, pursuing intellectual interests, and challenging your mind through reading, personal development, languages, puzzles, or educational courses.
    • Stimulating creativity through photography, writing, painting, or exploring new or returning to old hobbies.
  5. Professional Self-Care:
    • Prioritizing work-life balance and setting boundaries to prevent burnout. So important that we set them and then STICK TO THEM. Switching our phones to do not disturb or not responding to emails outside certain times. It can be so hard, but we can never fully be rested if we are always checking in or not allowing ourselves to just stop.
    • Seeking professional development opportunities and fostering a positive work environment whether we like our desk set-up or choose to spend time with our colleagues.
  6. Environmental Self-Care:
    • Creating a clean, organized, and harmonious living environment that promotes relaxation and well-being – however that looks for us. This may mean having a family 15 minute tidy up a day with music on and getting the basics done so your environment feels better than it did. See what works for you and your family.
    • Connecting with nature, spending time outdoors, or bringing natural elements into your home like house plants.
  7. Spiritual Self-Care:
    • Exploring and engaging in practices that might be classified as spiritual (which does not necessarily mean religious. This could be meditation, prayer, yoga, tai chi, mindfulness. Experiment with different ideas to see what works for you.
    • Cultivating gratitude (even for 1 minute each day thinking of something you are truly grateful for), practicing forgiveness (especially for yourself!), and connecting with your inner self and what you want and need. These all require practice and there are lots of resources out there, find who and what resonates for you.
poppy in a field relaxing

Now obviously this is a massive list of things and if we already have a lot going on in our lives. None of us want to add more stress or things ´to do´ on to our plates. But we do have to start where we are, think about what is most important to us right now. That may simply be to be aware that we are stressed, anxious, overwhelmed, whatever it might be and give ourselves some extra love and support during this time. Self care is as simple as that in any given moment. Giving ourselves what we need instead of expecting it from someone or something else.

If you read through this list and one idea jumps out at you as something you would like to do something about then that can be your priority for today or this week. You can then review that in a week or so´s time too and maybe consider adding another aspect into your life. Self care evolves with us and can be different from day to day, week to week. Why not come back and re-read this post in a week or so (you can even write it in your diary) and see how you feel then?

In a society that says, ¨Put yourself last¨, self love and self acceptance are almost revolutionary¨

Brené Brown 

How can I overcome feelings of guilt when taking time for self-care?

Whilst we may acknowledge that a bit of extra self care might be what we need and that we do a bit too much for others. It can be easier said than done to remember to do it. Whether it is a couple of minutes of deep breathing, having an early night, starting to learn a language or booking a girls´ lunch/night out. According to a survey, 75% of women reported feeling guilty for taking time for themselves. That doesn´t mean that we shouldn´t do it. It is just to normalise how prevalent this is amongst women and how we all need to work to combat something that is not helping us or our families.

It can sometimes feel to women that if we do something for ourselves we are neglecting others or being neglectful. Studies have shown that obstacles to self-care can include lack of time, guilt, and feeling like self-care is selfish. The fact of the matter is that the opposite is true. Self care is not candle-lit daily bubble baths for hours on end followed by a massage or a retreat weekend (although these can also be self care!) it can be something that is short and sweet, anything that nourishes us and makes us feel good whether it lasts a minute or a day. It is up to us.

Self-care is not selfish. You cannot serve from an empty vessel.
– Eleanor Brown

3 midlife women in community together

How to Create a Personalized Self Care Plan that Works for You

Five Steps to Self-Care: To incorporate self-care into your daily life, follow these five practical steps:

  1. Assess your needs: Identify areas of your life where self-care is lacking and prioritise the pillars of self-care that require attention.
  2. Set specific goals: Define actionable and realistic goals related to each pillar of self-care.
  3. Create a self-care routine: Schedule regular self-care activities and incorporate them into your daily or weekly routine.
  4. Practice self-compassion: Be kind to yourself and acknowledge that self-care is a continuous and evolving journey. Embrace imperfections as much as you can or even just acknowledge that you are human and imperfect. Also recognise that there may be setbacks along the way. In fact this step alone is perhaps the most important (but often the most difficult) self-care (or self-love) act that we can do for ourselves. It just takes patience, awareness and persistance! I would personally thoroughly recommend starting a 5 minute mindfulness, meditation or journalling practice to start with. Once we have awareness of our thoughts and patterns we can then start to make changes and be kinder to ourselves!
  5. Seek accountability and support: Share your self-care journey with a trusted friend, join online communities, or consider working with a coach or therapist for guidance and accountability.

Prioritising self-care is a transformative act of self-love and well-being, especially for those of us in midlife. By understanding the seven pillars of self-care, incorporating examples of self-care practices, overcoming obstacles, and following the five steps outlined, you can embark on a journey of nurturing your essence and achieving a more balanced and fulfilling life. Remember, self-care is not a luxury; it is a fundamental necessity for our overall health and happiness. I also love the idea that it is also a bit revolutionary! Embrace the art of self-care and empower yourself to flourish in every aspect of your life. You will see the positive knock-on effects in relation to other aspects of your life too.

It just takes a single step to start incorporating more self-care into your life.

What will your first one be?

footsteps in the  self care take the first step

As always, I would love to hear your thoughts, ideas, questions, practices around self-care, how to overcome our own fears and guilt and what works for you. Please do get in touch below and share – it is always so wonderful to hear what you have to say.
Thanks so much for reading!

Images: Michael Rosner-Hyman, raquel raclette, Haley Phelps, Centre for Ageing Better

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