Do you struggle to make time for yourself? You are not alone. Many women find it difficult to find time to do things just for them, things that nourish their soul or support their mental and physical health. I used to, even before having kids. And you know what? It’s time to call bullshit on it. I did have time before kids, even with a busy job and hectic social life. I have time now, even if it is a few minutes a day rather than the hour or two I could have found before having children. So why didn’t I do it, why do I still struggle to make time to just breathe, or have a bath, or paint my nails? Because on some deep level I don’t think I’m worth it. I feel guilty. There is always something more important to do. Even when the children are in bed, even when they stay in bed, I feel I should be tidying, cleaning, working, or reading something worthy in the name of research.
From the conversations I have with friends, colleagues, clients and you lovely folks online, many of us struggle with putting our needs first. But actually, it’s essential. It’s a bit of a cliché by now, but the aeroplane safety message about putting on your own oxygen mask first before helping anyone else still illustrates the point. I notice that when I consistently deny myself time to just be, time for little pleasures, no matter how small, I become short tempered, I shout at the kids, I feel less optimistic and it sort of spirals out of control from there.
I see this in my hypnobirthing clients too. On the course they learn various techniques to remain calm and relaxed when their labour begins, but just learning the techniques is not enough, for them to be of real benefit when they go into labour they practice regularly so that it becomes second nature. This means practicing for at least 20 minutes a day, but the payoff is huge. If you could invest 20 minutes a day practicing breathing and relaxation so that you could have a positive experience of birth, would you do it? Seems like a no-brainer, right? Most of my clients think so too, especially given that much of the practice can be done without even getting out of bed.
But there are occasional clients who have some resistance to finding the time. I can see it when they look disappointed when I tell them they need to practice, that practicing is essential. Some of these women will be juggling many different things that make them very busy and very tired. I get it, and I’m not minimising it in the slightest, but I am saying that you do have 20 minutes a day that you can spend putting your own needs first. I have heard all of the excuses, in minute detail, and - pardon me for simplifying - so often it all boils down to not feeling worthy. Perhaps we had mothers who always put everyone else first? Perhaps we learned to do the same in order to be good people? I know some of this is true for me. Whatever it is, it is possible to change the habit of a lifetime.
How? Well, if you need to justify it to yourself in order to get started, hear this: Taking time for yourself does make life better for others. It allows you to be a more resourceful parent, partner, and all round good egg. It’s ok. You have permission to do nice things for yourself.
I explain to my hypnobirthing clients that every time they practice relaxation and calm breathing during pregnancy their baby feels the benefit too, as the flow of oxygenated blood to the placenta is optimised, and relaxing and calming endorphins and oxytocin are released into the mother’s blood stream. There’s been quite a bit of research done about the effects of maternal stress on unborn babies (in a nutshell, it’s not ideal), so it makes sense that taking time to relax will have a positive effect on your baby.
As for me, I am getting better at practicing what I preach, but there are times I lose track and life feels like crawling through treacle because I’ve not done anything to take care of myself recently. But it’s OK; we can all start again in each moment. I’m not pregnant, but I’m challenging myself to spend 20 minutes a day practicing calm breathing and mindfulness. I challenge you to do the same! If you need help to get started, check out the video below for a simple breathing technique to help you relax. I’d love to hear how you get on.
I'm Liz Dew, founder of SheffieldHypnobirthing.com and I love a good chat about birth. This blog is where I explore some of the things that I find amazing, frustrating, or fascinating about birth and birth culture. Grab a cuppa and dive in.