Self-care is one of the topics we as mothers, all know about, but so rarely implement in our lives on a consistent basis. At times our limited action regarding self-care may even add fuel to the firewood of self-doubt and the constant nagging question “Am I a good enough mother…”, which is so easily lighted by the perceived message in social media that others are doing so much better than we are doing ourselves. We are faced with the never-ending cycle of keeping up to the perceived near-perfect image portrayed by others on social media.

The pressure mounts to be a mother who never yells at her kids, never cries in front of her kids, and always has perfect and healthy snack boxes and at-home development activities sorted for their little ones. Or to be a mom and wife that looks so well-cared for, perfectly groomed and full of energy. We know this is not the whole truth of motherhood and we may joke about our epic fails as a mother or wife or daughter or working mom or mom-boss, but we rarely acknowledge and openly and honestly voice the need for recuperation, rejuvenation and basic self-care we as mothers desperately need. Not just a once-off spa indulgence or girls’ night (those are lovely as well), but the consistent investment in self-care we need to prioritise more effectively. 

We all need self-care, to ensure we fill our emotional cups with sufficient energy to meet this ever changing world’s demands. Especially in the uncertain times we are living in at the moment. One thing is for certain, children are experiential learners, they learn best by watching us and imitating our actions. Hence self-care is not just for ourselves and to meet our life’s demands with a healthy mind, body and spirit, but it is also key in teaching emotional intelligence and self-care strategies to our children. 

There are numerous perky little lists on self-care, and wonderful Pinterest worthy images and quotes on self-care, but the truth is, we are all fearfully and wonderfully made by our God and we need unique self-care strategies that will work for us as individuals. We at Pienkvoet-Pret greatly value mothers and the development of our children, and as such have complied a 4-step guide to assist you in identifying your own unique self-care strategy.  

Step 1 – Know your Triggers:

Clinical Psychologist, Marié Botha from Stellenbosch, shared the wonderful advice that as a first step in self-care, we need to ensure we understand and identify the things that drain us of emotional energy, irritate us, and makes us angry. For example children messing in the living room, a lot of noise or moaning, husband leaving his socks on the floor. This can pertain to any situation in your life or any relationship and may differ in severity from mild to high intensity triggers. Our triggers will be different for each one of us. Spend some time to reflect on what your triggers are, be honest, write them down and even share them with your life partner. 

Step 2 – Red Light Responses

We all react to stress and pressure in different ways. Your responsive behaviour rises up almost automatically when you are overloaded, exhausted and stressed and even more so in reaction to your unique trigger situations. Some people get emotional and teary, some yell or argue a lot more than usual, some retreat into silent mode and give a cold shoulder or might easily feel unworthy and despondent. 

Realise what your “Red-Light” response patterns are, they are closely interlinked with your personality preferences and therefore also unique to your temperament of being more extroverted or introverted etc. When in the extreme they can even contribute to dysfunctional behaviour patterns and self-awareness is key in managing them effectively. 

Know your “Red Lights”.  You also need to realise when are you just upset and when are you crossing the line into self-destructive patterns. 

Psychiatrist Sunet Oelofsen provided some good insight by highlighting the fact that when you feel constantly overwhelmed and out of sorts, especially to the degree that it impairs your daily functioning, one needs to realise that there might be more to the story. It could be underlying anxiety or depression and seeking professional assistance from a councillor, clinical psychologist or psychiatrist are advised. 

Sunet also elaborated that being in a good mind space is imperative to mothers. Using the analogy of being on a plane and ensuring that you attach your own oxygen mask first in an emergency situation, before assisting your children and others, is a good paradigm to mental health as well. You as a mom need to be in a good and healthy mind space to be able to provide “oxygen” to your children and others in your life. Therefore do not shy away from contacting a professional to assist you when your daily functioning starts to be impaired. 

Step 3 – Identify your Energy Boosters

We all have natural energy givers, actions and things that provides us with energy, that feeds our soul and make us feel excited and inspired. For example reading, gardening, painting, a cup of hot tea/coffee enjoyed in silence, music or listening to a special song. (See our free printable on identifying your unique Energy Boosters).

Identifying your energy boosters and making time to give yourself the necessary gift of self-care are paramount to a happy and healthy life. When you are dealing with and facing your unique trigger situations, as well as being aware that your “Red-Light” responses are showing up more frequently, it is time implement some of your energy booster activities to replenish your emotional reserves.

Step 4 – Know when to ask for help

Your willingness to ask for help are closely linked to your personality and temperament. For some it is easier, but if you enjoy being in control it might be harder to ask for help from your partner, other family members, friends or even professionals. It might seem like failure when you cannot “Do-It-All” on your own. This is a great misconception and knowing when to ask for help and doing so in a proactive way will not only ensure more time for self-care, but also reflect that by taking action and asking for help you are in control of your own self-care. Modelling this to our children, and showing them that asking for help is acceptable and a good step to take in caring for their own emotional well-being and emotional growth.

Make a list of your ‘SOS’ buddies. The people that make you laugh, that inspire you and normally make you feel positive and full of energy again. Give them a call, or arrange a coffee date when needed. Let a friend or family member look after the kids for a while and enjoy one of your “energy booster” activities. Marié Botha, Clinical Psychologist from Stellenbosch, also suggests that you communicate and ask your life partner to deal with some of your trigger situations to ensure your emotional energy reserve are not as easily depleted. 

In finishing, moms, you need to look after yourselves and let us be the generation of mothers to demonstrate to our children the importance of self-care. Let’s ensure we inspire and equip future generations with the tools to implement the much needed self-care strategies to thrive in this ever-changing world. In essence taking care of ourselves, we are also taking care of others and inspiring others moms, friends and women to make this a priority and way of life. 

Form my heart to your, lots of love,

Jani Malherbe
Pienkvoet-Pret Stellenbosch

Download your free Self-Care Strategy template here

Join Pienkvoet-Pret Stellenbosch (offering digital classes during lockdown)
071 688 2242