Self-care is a phrase commonly tossed around these days, but what does it really look like for a busy mom? Self-care and coping mechanisms are ways you can take care of YOU, and they are important skills to have and use. Mother’s Day is a great time to begin practicing these routines, but self-care and coping skills are important to use year-round.
Coping mechanisms are behaviors or thoughts people use to adjust to high stress life events. Coping mechanisms can help you manage difficult events and stay emotionally stable. There are two types of coping mechanisms: adaptive (healthy) and maladaptive (unhealthy).
Adaptive (Healthy) Coping Mechanisms
Healthy coping mechanisms are ways of dealing with stress that are sustainable and support your life. They may bring joy and balance to your life and can be an effective way of helping you manage the stressful situation you are facing.
Examples of adaptive coping mechanisms are using humor and laughter as much as possible, practicing yoga/relaxation and exercising, and seeking support or talking with loved ones.
Maladaptive (Unhealthy) Coping Mechanisms
Unhealthy coping mechanisms are harmful and typically prevent you from adjusting to or managing the stress you are facing. They may even cause more stress. Unhealthy coping may help you feel better in the short-term, but in the long-term, you are left feeling worse.
Examples of maladaptive coping mechanisms are heavy drinking or drug use, gambling, forcing yourself to work when exhausted, doing things for others when it is harming yourself, impulsivity, and other risky or harmful behaviors.
While having a new baby is often an exciting time, it is also a major life change and can cause stress. Try and recognize when you are getting stressed and what coping mechanisms you can use to manage those stresses.
- Understand how you experience stress (what thoughts/feelings do you have when stressed) and identify what stressors (lack of sleep, partner communication, messiness) cause those feelings for you.
- Recognize how you deal with stress. What behaviors do you use to cope with stress? Do you make certain choices as a result of feeling overwhelmed?
- Make time for what’s important. Prioritize responsibilities and identify ways your partner or friends can lessen your load. Don’t be afraid to say no to less important tasks.
- Find healthy ways to cope. Try to incorporate healthy coping mechanisms – a short walk, exercising, a short nap, or talking things out with friends or family. Remember that unhealthy behaviors develop over time and can be difficult to change. Be patient with yourself.
- Ask for professional support. Accepting help from supportive friends and family can help, but if you continue to feel overwhelmed by stress, you may want to talk to a healthcare provider who can help you.
Self-care is the way we pay attention to and support our own physical and mental health. While coping skills help us manage particularly stressful events, self-care is more broadly what you do to manage your own health and well-being. Even small acts of self-care can help reduce the feelings of exhaustion, burnout, and stress that often come with parenthood.
Self-care is important for everyone, but unfortunately many moms and parents struggle to prioritize their own self-care. Keeping yourself as healthy as you can be is one of the best things you can do for your kids and your family. Here are some tips to help you get started:
- Ask for help. Just because you are a supermom (and you are!) doesn’t mean you have to do everything by yourself. Voice your needs and don’t be afraid to ask for help.
- Make time for yourself. Put some “me time” on your calendar. For example, schedule a walk around the block, lunch with a friend, or coffee with a good book. Reserving just a little time for yourself can go a long way!
- Get up and get out. Physical activity and spending time outside are both great ways to feel refreshed. Pick an activity that is right for your fitness level. If it feels right and healthy for you, bringing your baby along can help them develop a love of the outdoors, too.
- Take a walk around the block.
- Stretch or do some yoga.
- Find a new park to explore.
- Pamper yourself. Sometimes a long, hot bath or a quick nap are the perfect ways to brighten a day. Make a cozy corner in your house that you can prep with comforts, like a candle and your favorite blanket. You could also treat yourself with some flowers, a massage, or a manicure, anything that makes you feel special!
- Make some music. Is there anything better than finding the perfect playlist to boost your mood? Sing along to your favorite songs or have a dance party in your living room. Music has been proven to help decrease anxiety and improve your mood.
Remember that there is no right way to self-care. Self-care can be anything that helps you feel calm, relaxed, and restored. Take time this week to think about how you can incorporate self-care and healthy coping into your life!