Welcome to Month of Me, where every day in January, we'll be publishing a new fashion, beauty, or wellness article featuring a first-person account of shaking up an old habit, pushing beyond a comfort zone, or simply trying something new. Follow along for 31 days of storytelling, including what it's like to quit alcohol for 80 days, try Beyoncé's very strict diet, or completely overhaul your closet.
If I could describe 2019 in one word, it would be burnout. It was possibly one of the most exhausting, challenging, stressful yet indescribably magical years of my life. As a first-time mother, I experienced and relished in the pure, heartfelt joy that a child brings to your life. Seeing my baby go through the milestones of his first year has been an overwhelmingly joyous experience that I feel beyond blessed to live through.
But the highs of motherhood can often be accompanied with lows. And last year, as I tried to be a fully devoted mother, a thoughtful wife, juggle household responsibilities, attend to stressful financial matters, attempt to maintain a social life, deal with family issues, transition my baby to daycare, tackle the nighttime routine alone (because of my husband's long work hours), all the while trying to succeed in my demanding and competitive full-time job (and equally feeling extreme pangs of guilt for having a full-time job), the time I actually had left to focus on my own needs quickly fell to the wayside.
And If there’s anything I’ve learned from dismissing your own needs it’s that it can have an adverse effect on your overall health. It made me irritable, fatigued, stressed out, angry, sad, mean (especially to my poor husband, who got the brunt of it), and resentful. I was jealous of my friends who got to read three books a week, my colleagues who talked about the latest workout class they did before work, my carefree friends who got to travel the world. And those precious moments of silence I did have at the end of the day when the baby slept and I finished all my work were used to scroll Instagram in a zombie-like state, which unsurprisingly didn’t make me feel any better. (Although, empowering mom-focused Insta accounts did provide me with an ounce of encouragement.)
My daily routine was baby, work, baby, then finish the night with work again before sleeping 7 hours—if I was lucky. Wash, rinse, and repeat. It wasn’t sustainable, but I was also so incredibly happy and grateful for having such a healthy and happy beautiful baby boy that I couldn’t complain. I kept going.
By the end of 2019, I was physically and mentally exhausted. I felt starved—in all senses of the word. Hungry for "me" time. Hungry for something to make me feel sane.
So I swore to myself that in 2020 I would make a conscious effort to make more time for myself—even if it was just 15 minutes a day. (And THE/THIRTY's 30-day challenge gave me the perfect opportunity to hold myself accountable to it!)
I will admit I’ve already failed at the challenge. But not terribly. Taking 15 minutes of uninterrupted time to myself—no Instagram, no computer, no work, no baby—is much harder than I thought it would be, and while I haven't managed to do it every day, I have been much more conscious to instill it at least three or four times a week. And I can already see it's made a world of difference in my mood, outlook on life, relationships, and health. Overall, I feel, well, kinder toward people and more at peace within my day-to-day life.
I truly believe that self-care is a necessity, not an indulgence—so read on to see some easy ways I've been instilling some quality "me" time in my daily life this month so far.
A Warm, Relaxing Bath
I've always loved long, hot baths, but I haven’t really allowed myself the time to take one since I was pregnant. I really forgot just how much I loved them until last week when I sat and soaked on a Saturday afternoon while the baby was sleeping. My mood was instantly uplifted, and I felt wholly content and calm afterward. This is by far my absolute favorite way to get some uninterrupted relaxation time. I like to create a tranquil ambiance by lighting candles, turning the lights low, and using my favorite Uma Pure Calm Wellness Cath Oil ($80). (It smells divine!) While my bath time may be short (long hours spent soaking aren't exactly feasible anymore), even just 15 minutes felt utterly relaxing and luxurious. And the best part? I don't have to leave the house. Bliss!
I love reading, but making time to do it is challenging and can feel rather indulgent. But I've been adamant to get back into the act because, quite frankly, it feeds my soul! A few days a week instead of scrolling Instagram before bed, I've been reading at least two to five pages (it's not much, but it's something!), which has really transported me out of the daily grind and forced me to get out of my head. Reading (especially fiction) calms me and gets my creative juices flowing again. (Right now, I'm reading Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng, which is definitely a page-turner!)
Morning Stretches & Meditation
My son is an early riser, so I thought this would never be possible, but this month, for a few days a week, I have managed to rise out of bed 15 minutes earlier than his usual wake-up time and take a precious 10 minutes to reflect, practice gratitude, and do a few simple yoga stretches. It seriously is the best start to my day and makes a world of difference to my attitude and mood.
Singing (in My Car)
This was all about focusing on something I love to do. I actually studied musical theater when I was younger, and I love to sing (even if I'm not the best at it). Belting out my favorite tunes, whether in the car or shower, is so therapeutic to me and puts me in the most delightful mood. I'm not sure why I stopped doing it as much last year, but this month, I've been singing nearly every day. It's especially ideal during my 30-minute commute to work.
There is no way I can possibly manage to fit in a morning or evening run like I did pre-baby. But this month, every Saturday morning, I've allowed myself to step back from baby breakfast duty (the hubby has been happy to take over instead), pop in my iPod loaded with my favorite dance tunes, and go on a 15-minute morning run. This has felt truly exhilarating. I used to run four times a week pre-baby, so it really made me feel like my old self again but in a new way. It takes a lot to actually leave the house to run on a Saturday morning, but I never have any regrets when I do. I didn't manage to get to an actual workout class (which was something I had on my self-care to-do list), but this outdoor activity was a great start to feeling fit and energetic again.
An Occasional Mani
While a manicure used to be a weekly event in my Google Cal, these days, I'm lucky if I even get to clip my nails at home. I don't know why I've been so lackadaisical about this though. It doesn't take that long to do, I live close to the salon, and those blissful 30 minutes provide some welcome "me" time. A mani always makes me feel more put-together and more confident at work. I've only done it once so far this January, but it's these little things that are important to make me feel good.
A Face Mask
My beauty routine has been cut significantly since having a baby. Facials, deep-conditioning hair treatments, and spending time on applying immaculate makeup is no longer a reality. I have, however, brought back a regular once-a-week face mask. Mostly because I love the way it feels, it's quick to do, and I can keep it on while doing other tasks! It makes me feel better in my skin and more confident in my appearance. I love this hydrating one from Circumference NYC.
Coffee With a Friend
There's nothing like connecting, sharing, and venting with a friend. I definitely passed on a lot of social invites last year due to scheduling, timing, and, TBH, just feeling tired. It's all too easy to neglect friendships when raising a child. But this year, I want to prioritize them and make extra effort to show up. I especially want to nurture one-on-one time with closer friends. I realize I can't go to everything and plan a ton of activities, but even a little get-together over coffee with a friend makes me feel supported and whole.
Spreading Kindness Over Social Media and Texts
Following the above note on prioritizing friendships, I'm also really making a conscious effort to reach out and check in with friends more often—especially when limited time doesn't allow for physical get-togethers. Firstly, with social media, instead of scrolling Instagram feeling resentment for people "doing fun things," I have started to rethink my mindset. I try to look at my close network of friends instead of the thousands of people I follow and really start to engage with their posts instead. I really like to support, congratulate, and praise friends for their accomplishments and activities, and I've been more active in doing so. Secondly, twice a week, I make time to text friends and family just to check in. I know how much I appreciate this when others did it out of the blue to me. I've really enjoyed reconnecting and getting into deeper conversations with loved ones—even if it is just over text. If that's all that time permits, then that's okay.
I love to write. So much so I do it for a living! When I was on maternity leave, I kept a baby diary where I would not only write about all the little moments and milestones I was experiencing with my baby, but it became a safe place where I could write everything I was feeling about life and the challenges of becoming a mother. I vented hard. And I felt better for it afterward. After going back to work full-time, I never wrote in my baby diary again. There was simply no time anymore. This year, I have willingly gone back to it. Although, admittedly, it hasn't been the easiest thing to fit in. I don't write extensively in the diary, but when I have strong feelings (positive or negative), I'll try and write down my thoughts. It is the best therapy there is.
A 30-Minute Massage
Yes, 30 minutes! This felt like a true indulgence—and one that I'm extremely glad I did. This not only helped to soothe my achy body (it's a workout carrying a toddler!), but the soothing and serene aspect of a massage truly calmed my mind. It also helped me sleep better. While I probably won't do this on a weekly basis, I definitely want to try to add it into my routine once every couple of months.
Since I've become a mother, I have definitely felt the need to be in this kind of strong maternal role of "doing it all myself." I need to put him down to sleep. I need to feed him his breakfast and drop him off at daycare. I need to carry him when we go out. Because he needs his mom! I soon realized this is not sustainable and is an illogical way of thinking. My husband, family, friends, and babysitter are just as willing and capable of doing all these things. My close family lives across the pond, so I have not been able to reach out for help as I would probably do if they lived closer. But I have learned to be better at asking others close to me for help. Whether it's allowing my husband to put him to bed now and then or getting a sitter to come in and look after him for a few hours on the weekend so that I can go for a run, asking for help has made the world of difference and has allowed me to practice better self-care.
Overall, I found that making a conscious effort to practice self-care made me happier, calmer, and less stressed. I've been able to face daily challenges with more patience. I also find that breaking these practices up into short 15 minutes of "me" time has made self-care more accessible and doable, and quite frankly, I feel less guilty for taking the time out. Moreover, since taking these precious moments, I feel like a kinder and more patient mother, wife, family member, and friend. If you have any other self-care tips, don't hesitate to message me on Instagram @joiedejude.