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Brilliant Basics of Self-Care

Mom resting with a cup of coffee
Jenna Hermans

Jenna Hermans

When at your wit’s end, it’s time to get back to these five basics

During dozens of events and workshops supporting the launch of my book, Chaos to Calm, I’ve gotten this question from moms across the country the most: “I have nothing left to give after giving to everyone else. Where would I even start to take care of myself?” With four kids, a career, and a traveling husband, I completely understand and have been there.  So when Christine asked me to share my thoughts, I was excited to share my advice Mom to Mom.

My answer to the question above, in short, is the same every time – go back to the basics. 

You do it for your kids; now it’s time to do it for you 

Moms tend to neglect their basic needs in service of others. But here’s the thing – no one is going to come to your home and tell you it’s time to go to bed, eat your veggies, or brush your teeth. The only person who can truly take care of you is you. 

You know what happens when you don’t – the same thing that happens to your kids – frustration, impatience, anger, inflexibility, resentfulness, and more. 

True self-care does not mean massages and day trips to the spa. Those feel great, no doubt, but they’re surface-level self-care – they don’t have long-lasting effects. What you need are systemic self-care rituals and routines.

What I’ve coined the “Brilliant Basics” is a list of five fundamental self-care practices that will set you up for a proper foundation of calm. 

To help you remember the “Brilliant Basics,” I’ve come up with a catchy acronym.  

The “Brilliant Basics” of self-care: CHEER

Connection, Hydration, Eating, Exercise, and Rest (CHEER) are simple self-care concepts that are shown to help stave off preventable mental illnesses like depression and anxiety, as well as isolation (which is a leading cause of depression). If you’re being treated for those conditions, CHEER can help your treatments work better.

These concepts positively influence each other. For example, if you exercise more, you’ll likely drink more water and sleep better. 

Let’s break these down…

Give me a C for… Connection

I know what you’re thinking, you’ve got connections—Facebook, Instagram, PTA, or a book club meeting every other month.

But true connection means having a deep, authentic, meaningful joining with another person(s) or nature. 

Genuine connection reminds you there’s more to life than what’s on the screen in front of you and under your roof. When you connect, you realize there’s so much more to life than the day-to-day tasks, responsibilities, and pressures of home and work. 

Connection brings perspective. 

Self-care Connection Ideas:

  • Put your phone away and go outside. Sit on the grass, feel the sun on your skin, and breathe with the wind.
  • Schedule a playdate with a friend, old or new. You schedule playdates for your kids to make sure they have socialization time. You still need social interactions, too!

Give me an H for… Hydrate!

The next letter in cheer is H for hydration. 

When you’re feeling extra low on energy, figure out when the last time was that you hydrated yourself.

Hydrating will keep the cells in your body happy, not shriveled like a wilted plant.

Your kids all have cute water bottles and don’t go a day without being reminded to hydrate, I’d bet. Your turn!

Self-care Hydration Ideas:

Creating habits like drinking more water is most successfully done in small steps. 

  • Keep a glass or thermos of water by your bed. Before your feet hit the ground in the morning, down it like you’re a sophomore in college at a keg party.
  • Keep a water bottle on your desk, with the straw up or cap off! Make it easy to take sips all day. Infuse it with fruit to make it tastier and more appealing.

Give me an E for… Eating

Whether you eat too much, too little, or just the right amount of nutrition-less foods, you’ll feel off, drained, and snippy. (That’s why the term “hangry” exists.) 

Food equals energy, and noticing how your body responds to food can help you manage your energy levels. 

You make sure your kids eat nutritiously, and you should get the benefit of this too. 

Self-care Eating ideas:

Give me an E for… Exercise

We all know that exercise improves mood with dopamine and serotonin, which is widely scientifically proven

Exercise makes your mind more alert and gets your creative and problem-solving juices flowing. It’s better than a cup of coffee!

You enroll and shuttle your kids to various sports and physical activities. It’s time to include yourself in this commitment to your body.

Self-care Exercise Ideas:

  • Set the alarm on your phone to go off one to three times a day for a 5-minute stretch, dance or movement break.
  • Set up a weekly hike or class you’d love to take with a friend. Going together makes you both more accountable, plus it crosses “Connection” off the list too!

Give me an R for… Rest

Lack of sleep is probably a mom’s most reported self-care deficiency. We often stay up way too late because the kids’ bedtime is the only time we get to ourselves. 

Sleep is integral for your body to heal, your brain to “take out the trash,” and to make your whole nervous system operate more smoothly. 

In addition to sleeping at night, having moments of rest during the day can make a world of difference. This could include naps or quiet moments during transitions between activities. 

Kids have a bedtime for a reason. When they don’t get enough sleep, they’re completely melt-down-cranky pants. The same goes for us adults, we just have the ability to hide it better than they do (most of the time).  

Self-care Rest ideas:

  • Schedule an alarm 30 minutes before you want to be in bed to start your pre-bedtime routine (like the tips here.)  Sleep meditations (like these on Insight Timer) can help you turn off your busy mind to ease into sleep.
  • Schedule an alarm during the day that reminds you to get away from your desk and lie down or go for a walk to give your brain a break. 

Start with one CHEER

If you’re overwhelmed, just pick one letter in CHEER, and watch how positively the one will benefit others

Struggling to find time to take care of yourself? I’ve coached many people on prioritization for calm and wellbeing and would love to help!

To read more on parenting with the five pillars of calm, pick up my book, Chaos to Calm: 5 Ways Busy Parents Can Break Free From Overwhelm, and sign up for my Own Your Calm newsletter!

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