Ultimate Self-Care for Mothers
It’s 3 a.m. and suddenly you’re awake. Maybe it’s the rustle of the wind or the movement of a pet, a murmur from a child’s room or the need to use the bathroom. For whatever the reason, you find yourself lying wide-eyed in the darkness, as the comfort of sleep slips off like a satin cover. And then it starts. The list.
Buy more turkey for school lunch. I forgot to call back my sister back. I am overdue for a mammogram. Where is that missing set of car keys? When am I ever going to have time to clean out the garage? We’re out of cat food. I wonder if that project will come through. I need to make more money.
The monkey chatter. The overactive firing of synapses. Then the worry.
What if I can’t fall back asleep? I can’t afford to be tired tomorrow. I have so much to do. Just fall asleep. Why is it so easy for my husband to sleep? Should I take a sleeping pill?
Does any of this sound familiar? Women take note. If it’s any consolation, there is an army of us waking up in the middle of the night with thoughts such as these and bouts of insomnia. According to the National Sleep Foundation, 40 million people suffer from sleep disorders, and the majority are women. And while many turn to prescription sleeping medication or over-the-counter drugs, a recent study from Viterbi Family Sleep Center at Scripps Health in San Diego has found that regular users had a 4.6 higher risk of death and significantly higher rates of cancer. In addition, the sleep brought about by medication doesn’t provide us with the same kind of deep rest as natural sleep.
The Freedom to Let Go . . . and Choose
Women – and particularly mothers – often carry the dual role of moneymaker and caregiver so each day is easily packed with a barrage of stimuli and potential stress. We drive carpools, make meals, walk dogs, work full time, care for our parents, entertain our friends, plant the garden, clean the house, and more . . . it’s no wonder we are jolted awake at times because that list just keeps on growing. However, the reality is that no one ever finishes everything on their to-do list.
While it’s easy to imagine a time when all the laundry will be done, every email answered, the deadlines met, and the closets cleaned, you may have noticed that we never arrive at that fantasized future. Life is always evolving and presenting new challenges, directions, and projects to engage in. It’s not possible to do everything. The best thing that we can do for ourselves as women and mothers is to decide what we want to make important, and this needs to include ourselves.
Now is the perfect time to reflect on how best to nurture ourselves. Too often, women make self-care the last priority on the list. It’s easy to become an “over giver,” yet giving until we’re exhausted and drained doesn’t serve ourselves or our loved ones in the long run. We need to give ourselves the same care we unquestioningly give our children, pets, or mates – including the attention and time to eat well, get enough sleep, play, and exercise.
Ayurvedic Practices for Self-Care
The ancient healing tradition of Ayurveda is based on the principle that balance and health is our natural state. There are many specific tools and techniques for restoring and nurturing our innate balance.
We invite you to carve out some time to incorporate the following practices into your daily life as they can help you quiet your mind, get some healthy sleep, and feel energized.
Yogis have long practiced alternative nostril breathing, a simple technique that balances brain function and calms the nervous system and mind. When you wake in the middle of the night, try this exercise as it may quell the monkey chatter and help you fall back asleep.
Nadi Shodhana: Alternate Nostril Breathing
- Close the right nostril with your right thumb and inhale through the left nostril. Do this to the count of four seconds.
- Immediately close the left nostril with your right ring finger and little finger, and at the same time remove your thumb from the right nostril, and exhale through this nostril. Do this to the count of eight seconds. This completes a half round.
- Inhale through the right nostril to the count of four seconds. Close the right nostril with your right thumb and exhale through the left nostril to the count of eight seconds. This completes one full round.
This is a wonderful daily practice as well. Start by doing three rounds, adding one per week until you are doing seven rounds.
When the brain is racing and filled with mental turbulence, meditation is another beneficial tool to calm the mind. It is also known to lower blood pressure, slow the heart rate, reduce the production of cortisol (a stress-related hormone), decrease depression and anxiety, while increasing the immune system.
If you want to learn a daily practice of Primordial Sound Meditation, you can receive instruction at any Chopra Center event or program or you can access our global network of Primordial Sound Meditation instructors to find a certified teacher in your area.
Quieting the Mind Meditation
- Sit comfortably, close your eyes, and then scan the body to see where you are holding tension. Focus on that part of the body and relax it as you exhale deeply through the mouth.
- Follow the inflow and outflow of your breath for thirty seconds.
- Silently begin repeating the word I as you inhale.
- Then repeat am as you exhale.
- Gently repeat I am as you continue the rhythmic breathing.
- If your mind moves to thoughts, return to the breath and words I am.
- Enjoy the quiet space between your thoughts.
Creative and Spiritual Wellbeing
It's important for women to find private time for themselves to rejuvenate and refresh. Whether it’s exploring your creativity, athleticism or spiritual path, finding space for you is imperative as a means to fill your heart and soul. Take that art class in oil painting, try stand-up paddling, or sign up for the Chopra Center’s Perfect Health program or Journey into Healing workshop as a gift to yourself. Your happiness and inner health will benefit you and all those around you.
Share your own favorite self-care practices with the community!
We invite you to share your ideas on the Chopra Center's Facebook page.