The moment a mother wakes up, she is pulled in many different directions. On a typical morning, the kids need to be dressed, breakfast needs to be made, school lunches need to be prepared, the dishes need to be washed, the children’s teeth need to be brushed, and the kids need to be driven to their school/child care.
Some moms then go to work while others continue with these responsibilities at home, including caretaking if they have children who remain at home. The days blend into each other, and no matter what the nuances of each mama’s daily routine may be, one aspect remains universal to all mothers: We are tired and stretched thin, even if we have supportive partners to share the load.
How do we keep up with this frenetic pace? Perhaps we’re fueled by bursts of adrenaline and large doses of unconditional love for our children. Or maybe we feel like we have no other choice except to keep going. It’s no wonder mamas rely so heavily on coffee to get through the day. We are expected to be everything to everyone without much rest. I am not referring to collapsing-on-the-couch-to-watch-Netflix type of rest. I’m talking about incorporating mindfulness, meditation, compassion, grace, and rest in our daily routines. I am referring to holistic rest.
Because my current lifestyle is not a great model for embodying true well-being, I sought guidance from a dear friend of mine, Zabie Yamasaki, who embodies wellness in all corners of her life.
Beyond her incredible accolades, Zabie is also a survivor, mother, partner, daughter, sister, friend, and activist. She has dedicated her entire career to healing others and subsequently healing herself in the process. I interviewed Zabie and asked her to share her wisdom with us on ways mothers can incorporate healing and wellness practices into our routines. Below are her recommendations based on her expertise and also strategies she utilizes to integrate mindfulness into her daily practice as a mom. Consider these five suggestions gifts of self-love.
1. Practice Self-Compassion & Mindfulness
The hustle-and-bustle of #momlife can easily create a chronic, unbalanced, and unhealthy lifestyle. Zabie urged moms to re-evaluate our priorities and elevate compassion and mindfulness to the top of our lists. She reminded us that mindfulness is always available to us throughout our day. We don’t have to take big chunks of our day to be “mindful”—instead, it is attainable in between moments of quiet before the kids wake up or while they are nicely playing together and not fighting.
“It is a practice I don’t view as a quick fix but rather a slow and steady foundation that has given me clarity and grace and helped me make more informed decisions centered around my well-being,” Zabie said.
The reality of life as a mother can be challenging and beautiful. Zabie was forthright with her own struggles with managing her own business, taking care of her son, and also supporting her husband through health complications. Nevertheless, she turns to compassion and mindfulness to guide her.
“They [compassion and mindfulness] fundamentally changed me and allowed me to recognize where I was carrying shame and guilt that did not belong to me, where I was holding unrealistic expectations of myself in my mothering and my work … and gave me the guidance to set boundaries instead of trying to do it all,” she said.
For Zabie, practicing mindfulness allowed her to support her own well-being and gave her the strength to say “no” to avoid mommy burnout, to attend to her own health by going to the doctor, and to walk away from a job that did not support her in the ways she needed.
We all deserve moments of mindfulness in our day. We should give ourselves more grace and compassion and stop holding ourselves to an unhealthy “perfect” standard.
Can you imagine how revolutionary it would be if we would grant ourselves kindness and forgiveness? Repeat after me: I am doing the best I can. I am allowed to make mistakes. I am human. I am deserving of my children’s love.
2. Protect Your Energy
As mothers, our energy tends to drastically decline every hour because our lives are based on multi-talking. Zabie suggested being more selective with what/who/where we decide to pour our energy into. In many ways, our energy and our time are golden—a true gift—and, as such, we should be protective of how we allocate it throughout our day.
Zabie reflected that this intentionality has been even more necessary during the pandemic when many boundaries between our personal time and our responsibilities have been blurred. She confessed, “Being intentional about stewarding my energy in these times has been integral to my survival.” This is a friendly reminder that you are the steward of your energy and time. Exercise that power.
How can we do this realistically? Some examples Zabie shared:
- Consume news mindfully and utilize the limits on technological notifications to protect your mental health.
- Integrate gaps in your day when you do nothing—absolutely nothing—and be unapologetically proud of what you did not do.
- When someone asks you what you did today, declare boldly, “I rested.”
- Embrace the power in the word “no,” which needs no further explanation since it is the perfect example of a mic-drop moment.
Finally, Zabie admitted that one way to protect her energy that she finds incredibly difficult to do is ask for help. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness—it takes true strength to admit you welcome support.
3. Find Micro Moments of Self-Care
Self-care is marketed to us as something we have to rearrange our day for, like making an appointment for a massage or asking your partner to watch the kids so you can take a Zen bath. Zabie discussed that we tend to think of incorporating self-care at the end of our day when we probably already reached our breaking point hours earlier.
Instead, she challenges this notion by “being mindful about small ways I can tend to my care throughout the day [that] has helped tend to the accumulation of burnout I have been holding and all the ways my nervous system has felt constricted.” Being a mom seems to be synonymous with feeling burned out, but we can stop this toxic over-stimulation of our lives.
Being a mom seems to be synonymous with feeling burned out, but we can stop this toxic over-stimulation of our lives.
Micro self-care empowers us to utilize self-care tools throughout our day to avoid our breaking points. Zabie provided several easy and attainable examples of how to integrate micro self-care into our routines. Start your day by actually enjoying your warm cup of coffee or tea to set an intention for the day that is grounded in compassion and grace.
Micro self-care empowers us to utilize self-care tools throughout our day to avoid our breaking points.
Zabie has a transformative way of incorporating self-care that makes it accessible to us all. She beautifully stated, “Walk barefoot in the grass. Give yourself a self-massage, butterfly hug, or invite your child to take care of mama! Drink more water than you want to.” Something Zabie suggested which I now actively do is start meetings at work with a moment of gratitude and pause before jumping into to-dos. A micro-moment can have macro-positive effects on our well-being.
4. Embrace Different Dimensions of Rest
Even though we sleep six to eight hours daily, mothers need rest during the day, too. We are not machines. “Rest is our birthright,” Zabie said. The challenge is that we are raising children in a society that demands constant productivity from moms, which we then internalize as expectations on ourselves. If we do not meet a certain quota of completed tasks or live in a Pinterest-worthy household, we fall into the traps of mama’s guilt.
Zabie suggested reframing our perceptions of rest to accept rest as something we need to survive, like we do of the air we breathe. She explained, “Rest is deeply personal and looks different for each of us. We need so many different types of rest to support our thriving.” Rest in all its different forms still serves the same function for all of us: It replenishes our mental, physical, and emotional well-being.
Below are some simple ways Zabie shared to practice rest in our lives as moms:
- Delegate something to your partner, colleague, or support system. You don’t always need to take the lead.
- Take a full lunch break not in front of a screen.
- Remind yourself that you may not accomplish everything on your list and this is OK.
- Honor your cues of exhaustion and step away before you reach your breaking point.
5. Carve Out Your Time
We’ve all heard these common phrases that “time is precious” and “time is of the essence,” but how about we reclaim “time” as ours? As moms, so much of our time is given to others, and we rely on unhealthy coping mechanisms to express our frustration and guilt about this inequitable distribution of rest in our lives.
Zabie shared with me a story of her son sweetly telling her, “Mommy, your face looks happy.” She reflected on this moment and understood that her son knew she was “happy” because he had seen her “unhappy.”
This interaction with her son is so relatable to mothers who are trying to do it all and, in the process, get entrapped in feelings of resentment and frustration. In many ways, our children mirror our emotions and can also remind us that we need to be the best versions of ourselves.
Zabie encouraged mothers to reclaim our time; it is ours to give and take back. “It turns out embodying a more restful way of being requires support, compassion, tenderness, care, time, and patience—the same way that healing does. I think as mothers, we often take on additional self-blame and pressure when resting is difficult or when overworking/functioning has become a relied upon coping strategy.” She wants mothers to embrace rest as a form of resistance from the perpetual hamster-on-a-wheel lifestyle.
What would happen if we choose to take a walk during the day instead of washing those dishes or answering one more email? Instead of feeling like we are adding more work to our day, we can reframe our relationship with rest and take back parts of our day to support our wellness.
I hope these suggestions inspire you to make some positive changes in your daily routine as a mom. It also takes time to unlearn some of our unhealthy habits, and this is normal. Compassion, grace, self-care, and rest are waiting for you to embrace them once you’re ready. Even Zabie admitted she is in a “constant state of learning how to better care of myself, make informed decisions around my healing, set boundaries, and prioritize my mental health.”
You are not alone on this journey of healing and mindfulness. Mothers, who are infinitely selfless, deserve to prioritize more of their needs and desires into their lives. My sincere wish for us all is that we defend our rest and carve out moments throughout our day that bring us light and re-energize us.