National Eating Disorders Association

5 Ways Moms Can Self-Care This Mother’s Day

Dianna Chillo-Havercamp, LCSW-R

With Mother’s Day approaching, I began to think of the moms in my life as well as the moms I treat in my practice. A running theme for many of them is the struggle with balance, happiness, and the demands of motherhood. More often than not, self-care is the one area that moms tend to let fall by the wayside. One reason moms often give me for not taking better care of themselves is that they feel it’s selfish, in addition to being too busy, therefore, putting themselves last.

What moms tend to overlook is that their own self-care is a way to make them happier and healthier, which, in turn, makes them a more effective member of the family. It’s also an opportunity for them to model health and balance for their children. I often use the airplane analogy with my clients when they tell me that they don’t take care of themselves because their family’s care is more important. I say to them that when we are given in-flight instructions, we are told that if the oxygen masks drop, we are to put them on ourselves first, then assist our family. 

After all, if we do not have oxygen for ourselves, we are of no use to anyone. The same thing goes for our lives; we can’t get water from an empty well.  I’ve come up with a list of five self-care tips I’ve used myself, and share with my clients, as ways to make them feel more balanced and happier in their lives.

1. Move your body.

I’m a huge proponent of exercise for the many health benefits, and I encourage clients to find anything they like to do or can tolerate. Whether it’s walking, stretching, hiking, yoga, or running, find what speaks to you. If you like the idea of a gym, but are unsure, most gyms have a free trial, as do many specific workout programs in the community. If you don’t know what you like, sometimes trying these free trials can help you choose. If you are someone who prefers exercise at home, there are a number of programs that can be found on the internet and many offer a trial offer. At the end of the day, physical activity helps with overall energy, sleep, and mental clarity.

2. Say no.

These days, the common response to “How are you?” is “Busy!” As moms, there are often a number of competing demands and trying to be everything to everyone. It’s important to begin to think about what nourishes you and what is ultimately depleting. Think about what you really want as opposed to what you feel you need to do. Now of course, there are things that are necessary. I know this, but your needs override the unessential responsibilities and obligations. Give yourself the opportunity to think about what’s really important and say no to what’s not ultimately important.

3. Keep connected with your family and friends.

Many times, spending time with your spouse and/or friends takes a back seat because of the daily to-do’s. Before we know it, the week is over, and then the month, and we wonder where the time went. Time with family, time with your spouse, and time with friends are certainly a juggling act. First, it’s important to evaluate what’s lacking in your life. For example, do you rarely, if ever, get together with friends? Or are you with friends so often that you aren’t with your spouse or family quite as much? 

Whatever the situation, it’s important to pause and think about what you are needing. Whether date nights with your spouse, game night as a family, or a night out with the girls, these things need to be carved out, or they won’t happen. Yes, it would be great if it was more natural, but when life gets busy, one must be intentional in order to have that time. The bottom line is that it’s important to remain connected and not fall into a pattern of isolation.

4. Reconnect with yourself.

We are ever-evolving in each stage of our lives, but as moms, life gets busier and we often forget who we are and what makes us happy. Life gets defined by daily routines, work (if you work), household chores, bills, kids, extracurricular activities, etc. 

Think about what you love, what might be missing, or where you want to be. Start a journal in order to reconnect with you. It doesn’t have to be every day, or for hours, but carve out 30 minutes a week to self-reflect. Put that in your schedule, like you would your daughter’s track meet, or your son’s piano lesson. You know you would never miss those things, so consider this on the same level of importance.

5. Schedule your regular doctor appointments.

It’s all too often, I hear moms say that they haven’t had a physical in years, their annual gynecological exam, or necessary follow-up tests suggested by their doctors. It’s hard to juggle and life is busy, but how much will you be able to enjoy life if your health is compromised. All too often, I see women who wait, ignoring signs of illness, failing to go to their doctors. The results can range from having a longer recovery from a sickness or a serious health issue. Just like you would be a good mommy to your children and schedule their annual checkups, be just as good to yourself and do the same.  

Dianna Chillo-Havercamp has been practicing psychotherapy for close to 18 years. She specializes in the treatment of eating disorders in private practice and provides individual, group, and family treatment. She has provided lectures and educational seminars on eating disorders to schools and colleges, and has also been a regular guest on a local talk radio show, Health Matters. After close to 20 years in recovery, and as a mother to a young daughter, her views on treatment with her clients, educating others, and promoting awareness are clearer to her and her passion is stronger than ever.