Q: I am a new mom and finding it very difficult to carve out time for exercise and relaxation. Any tips?
Congratulations, and welcome to parenthood! This baby will enrich your life in immeasurable ways. Newborns will also challenge any semblance of a predictable schedule as you knew it. Given that someone else is now depending on you for their most basic needs and ultimate survival, simply having time for a workout or relaxing shower can seem impossible! Don’t worry, you can look forward to physical fitness and adequate hygiene again once your child starts school. But seriously, in the meantime here are some tips to help you through this life transition:
— Learn to ask for help. Recognize this takes a village. You and your child will benefit from a community of people who are involved in sharing the workload. Find other parents and caregivers through parent’s groups and community centers. Gather a list of babysitters by talking to friends or co-workers who already have children. Take note of the places to exercise that offer childcare services, whether it be larger gyms or the smaller boutique studios increasingly opening in Minneapolis.
— Grown-ups benefit from routine also. Similar to how a parent strives to create a regular routine for their child, you will need to find your new rhythm. Aspiring to have a schedule for yourself with regard to sleep, meals, exercise and relaxation will be vital. You may not be able to implement this schedule precisely, but even setting the intention to do so will help it occur more regularly and feel grounding.
— Say no to others so you can say yes to yourself. Learn the power of ‘no thank you’ or simply ‘let me think about it.’ This creates the space so many of us need when we are pulled in multiple directions. Notice if your inner voice is cluttered with a case of the “should’s.” There will always be an exhaustive list of things you “should” do — clean the house more, stay an extra hour at work, run that errand — so the most important thing is recognizing what you truly value above all else and then prioritize those activities.
— Let yourself receive. If you are always tired and feel overworked, you can’t be your best self. Taking care of yourself will allow you to take care of your baby in a manner that will be easier for both of you. One mother of three boys (known as the blogger “Mother on Minnehaha” found at 2percentmagic.wordpress.com) stated, “I find this balance takes two things: 1) remembering what it feels like to be your most joyful self, and 2) realizing that your dependents rely upon your composure and it is therefore not a ‘treat’ to relax sometimes, it is essential. I think I forgot the potential I had for joy and just let everyday drag together with the next, feeling pretty empty inside. My cup is full now and guess what? I’m a better mom. My spouse is happier. I’m more effective at work. You have to remember to secure your own oxygen mask first!” As the saying goes, “If mom isn’t happy, no one is happy.”
— Guilt be gone. If the thought of giving time to yourself triggers guilt, let this be an opportunity to “cultivate the opposite.” This means focusing attention on the opposite thought or rational. For example, you could make a quick mental list of all the things you did for others that day, or how you had more energy for others because you did something for yourself, rather than ruminating on where you fell short. Although a little guilt in moderation can help keep us in check, excessive guilt is a real nuisance and rarely aligned with the truth of our experience.
— There is no such thing as “having it all.” This is true whether you have children or not. The sooner our collective conscious abandons striving for this mythical status the better. Some weeks you will hit your stride better than other weeks and this is simply the nature of life.
— Intention + Willfulness + Patience = Balance. Remember this time in your life is impermanent, for better or for worse. Take deep breaths and ground yourself during the difficult moments so you can allow yourself to be present and cherish the precious moments. When you feel better everything around you feels better.
Dr. Rachel Allyn is a licensed psychologist in private practice. Learn more about her unique style of therapy at DrRachelAllyn.com. Send questions to Rachel@DrRachelAllyn.com.