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A Mother’s Guide to Self-Care

Cindy Kerr / May 12, 2019

When Ryan was sick and someone told me to “take care of myself”, my gut reaction was to roll my eyes. I’m a mom – of course I’m going to take care of my child first! But over the years, I’ve gained some wisdom.

Taking time to care for your emotional, physical and spiritual health isn’t just good for you; it’s essential for your kids. Caring for an ill or injured child is physically and emotionally exhausting. Yet you can’t be an effective parent or advocate when you’re running on fumes.

As one friend told me (and numerous flight attendants!), “You have to put your oxygen mask on first.” Stress and exhaustion take a toll on your physical health and immune system. They can also lead to irritability and resentment, making it hard for you to provide the emotional support your children need. 

Remember, being a caregiver is a marathon. You need to keep up your strength! So, this Mother’s Day, and every day, take a little time for yourself, if only for a minute or two.

Not sure where to get started? Below are a few of my favorite self-care tips. You can also find more ideas and advice under Taking Care of You.

Self-Care for Mothers

Ease Expectations

We all want to be Super Mom. But guess what – you already are to your kids. So cut yourself some slack! Your house doesn’t have to be immaculate and you don’t have to attend every activity.

Think of one thing you could cut out of your schedule that you wouldn’t miss. Then do it!

Connect with Friends

Strong relationships are critical for well-being. They can help combat anxiety and loneliness, and even improve your physical health. And the good news is, it’s the quality of time spent together, not quantity that matters most.

Try to schedule at least one uninterrupted hour with a close friend doing something you enjoy. It could be a simple phone call, coffee date or even a walk.

Accept, and Ask for, Help

Yes, you probably could do it all on your own, but why carry the burden alone when so many around you want to help. How would you feel if your friend was going through something similar?

Think of things you can outsource – cooking, cleaning, laundry, driving your other kids to activities. Make a list so you have ideas on-hand whenever someone asks. You can also send friends and family to the Community page for advice on how to be most supportive.

Lift Your Mood

Be kind to yourself and enjoy a little pampering. Light a candle, paint your nails, have a warm bath – whatever makes you feel cared for. Or grab your favorite treat and enjoy a good book, magazine or “guilty-pleasure” tv show. Just please, drop the guilt!

You could also tap into the power of music. Create a playlist of your favorite songs – ones with messages of hope, throw-backs from high school, or something that reminds you of a happy memory.

Make a Caregiver Tool Kit

Create a special took kit, just for you, to have at the ready whenever you go to the hospital, clinic or away from home.

Some things to include:

  • Silly Putty (or snap/click toy) for stress relief
  • A coloring book, novel, word search or other fun activity to keep you busy
  • Tissues, lotion, gum, pain reliever
  • Healthy snacks and drinks
  • Playing cards to keep you and your child occupied
  • Journal or notepad to record your thoughts, reminders or information about your child’s treatment
  • Socks if you’ll be in the hospital – it can get cold!
  • Anything else that will make you feel like you have a piece of home

Practice Gratitude

It’s human nature to put more weight on the negative than the positive. But that can bring down your whole day and lower your morale – especially when you’re overwhelmed. Practicing gratitude can be a great way to turn a day around.

To make it simple, download a gratitude app or create a gratitude journal to record what you’re thankful for – a great hug, a hot cup of coffee, a 5-minute shower. If you’re having trouble, try asking yourself, “What’s one thing that has gone right today?” 

For me, taking time for myself went against every instinct I had about caring for Ryan and my family.  Over time, I learned that to survive the caregiving marathon, I had to pace myself and sometimes needed to stop and rest. I encourage you to do the same.

Happy Mother’s Day from all of us at Ryan’s Case for Smiles!

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