As parents and parents-to be, your time is precious, and the idea of taking time for yourself and putting yourself first may feel selfish. However, that “you time” is of the utmost importance, not only because it allows you to provide better care to others, but because it allows you to connect with yourself and what makes you feel good.
Of course, this idea of actually taking time for yourself can seem so foreign, you may not even know the first thing to do with this time! While actually taking the time is most important, try these 5 suggestions on how to make the most of this time to improve both your physical and mental health.
First remember this…Health is personal
Maybe you feel like you don’t deserve it, or you don’t have time for it, or you “should” yourself to death:
- I should exercise more.
- I should eat more salads.
- I should spend more time with _____________.
- I should take care of everyone else’s needs before my own.
Health comes in many forms, and it is personal: Contrary to popular media, there is no prescription, and there is no right or wrong way to experience it. You deserve empowered health that is anchored in what you value, what feels good to you, and what you truly need.
5 ways to make the most of your YOU-time
Of course, how you spend your you-time is entirely up to you. That said, sometimes it’s hard to figure out the best way to spend this time (given the endless possibilities there are!), and if you’re unsure about how best to spend it, you likely won’t end up taking it. So, here are a few suggestions:
- Three hours per week of “active movement”: This does not have to mean three one-hour slots. It could easily be six 30-minute slots, or whatever works for you. Creating space for movement is not only important for your physical health and stamina, but it also improves your sleep and provides those wonderful endorphin boosts of energy and joy — all of which will help you keep up with daily life and your little one(s)! Try to include some strength-training, cardio, and stretching — choosing exercises that you enjoy (at least relatively speaking!) so that it doesn’t feel like a chore. Can’t make time for formal exercise? That’s ok. Try just increasing your activity throughout your day. For example, opt for walking instead of taking the subway on your work commute (for at least part of the way), or take your little one out for a stroller walk.
- Two hours per week for meal prep: The idea of cooking meal after meal is not always realistic, so keep it simple by choosing one breakfast and one lunch or dinner to have for several days, and make several servings to store in the fridge for grab-and-go. Example: Bake several servings of fish, chicken or tempeh; cook several servings of wild rice or quinoa; and sauté a big pan of vegetables. Voila! Lunch or dinner for several days. Create space for preparing nutritious foods that you actually enjoy in order to refuel your body, boost your energy and stamina to meet the physical demands of motherhood, and eat in ways that bring your body and taste buds pleasure.
- One hour per week of “you time”: This could mean going for a walk, getting a massage, taking a bath, reading for pleasure, taking a class, or doing something else that you love doing and that makes you feel good. Again, split this time however you’d like – one full hour, two 30-minute blocks, etc. The important thing is you take this time for YOU alone.
- A few hours every other week for “relationship time”: As a parent, your life can revolve around your beautiful babes, and that can feel wonderful, or draining, depending on the day. Creating some space to spend time with your partner, a close friend, or a family member, can remind you of your identity beyond motherhood! Maybe this means planning a date night every other week (or hey, maybe even every week??), meeting a friend for lunch, or taking a class together. Strengthening supportive relationships is so important during this time in your life.
- One hour per week for a “Power Hour”: While you may start your week with the best intentions to create all of this time for you, odds are that before you know it, the week is over and you’ve barely been able to dedicate a few minutes. Time magically appears for illnesses, car repairs, work “emergencies, and other issues, so it takes a bit more effort and planning to make time for what makes you feel good. This is the purpose of the weekly “power hour”: A time to plan. Ideally, find a consistent time for this power hour every week (TIP: “Power houring” on Friday afternoons helps you plan for the week ahead, but find a time that works for you). During this time, sit alone – possibly with a soothing beverage of your choice – and plan the week ahead. Carefully look at your week ahead and plan out how you will allocate your time for movement, meal prep, relationships, and of course, that all-important hour of YOU time. Treat this Power Hour like a sacred weekly appointment.
Remember, the world will not end if you take time for you! It’s not selfish, it’s necessary. First of all, you need time to recharge and reconnect with yourself in order to give the most to those you love. But you also need “you time” for the sake of your own health.
You wear many hats, including the beautiful, but challenging hat of being a parent. Creating space for your physical, mental, and relational health reminds you that you also wear the hat for yourself – the one you’ve worn your entire life. And you deserve to feel good wearing that hat.