A recenty study by Cigna found that women in the workplace are more stressed than men, and that caring responsibilites are one of the roles heaping pressure on working women. So far so not very surprising. BUT! the most alarming part is the rate at which working women’s basic self care needs are not being met - with women noticably more likely than men to lack quality sleep and a healthy diet for example.
And the results of all this stress?
“…depression, anxiety, reduced immunity, higher blood pressure, digestion problems, headaches, muscular problems, substance abuse…”
Holy. Moly. 😵😵😵
It’s SO EASY for Mum’s needs come bottom of the pile when you’re in the full swing of a busy working family life. After remembering everything for school, rushing through a day packed with meetings, cobbling together another dinner of freezer tapas, bath/stories/bed/tidy/get the washing on/what’s happening tomorrow/…on and on, there’s little space, practical or emotional, for anything else. And it’s draining.
There are heaps of amazeballs people doing fantastic work to build up your self-care game, whether that’s raising awareness of maternal mental health, giving women tools and practical advice for how to take care of themselves in the face of the modern working life onslaught, and building communities of mums supporting other mums.
Today I’m sharing what I’ve been working on in my own self-care journey - exercise. It’s the thing I struggle with the most, I think because you actually need to, like, do it, which takes, you know, time. And energy. Those things working mums are renowned for overflowing with. So I’ve come up with a few hacks (love a good hack).
1. Embrace the leisure wear
I’m nearly 40. I have a nearly 40 year old body. But dammit if you won’t find me in leggings 75% of my non-working hours. Get up on the weekend - put on gym gear. Get in from work - put on gym gear. Working from home day - put on gym gear. This isn’t because I know for sure I’m going to exercise, but it’s reducing one of the friction points that might stop me if I do get a chance to fit something in. And less friction means more chance of it actually happening. I particularly love it for the school run - no need to decide what to put on, no one will question the lack of makeup or ‘done’ hair. You just look like you’re about to hit the gym. Which, you know, could happen.
2. YouTube is your friend
Whatever your particular exercise jam is, you can find it for free on You Tube. And I’m willing to bet you can find your jam in bitesize content - 10 minute yoga, 5 minute hiit, 20 minute living room salsa class. Search for things like ‘no-equipment workout’ to find the stuff you can do with nothing more than your body and a bit of space. No packing a gym bag (you’re already in your gym gear - see #1!), no getting in the car, or booking a class in advance, no one watching. Here’s also a great chance to get the kids in on the act - if your kids are like mine then watching literally a.n.y.t.h.i.n.g. on YouTube is a goer, whether they do the exercise or not, with luck it’ll entertain them just long enough.
3. Little is better than not at all
“No matter how slow you go, you’re still lapping everyone sitting on the couch” ~Susie Miller.
I’m not into making exercise and self care a competition that pits us against each other. But I do like a bit of competition with myself. So I remind myself that anything I do to move my body makes me healthier than the parallel-universe-me that did nothing. Actual examples of tiny workouts I have done:
- Side leg lifts while cooking the kids’ tea (a bit dull but cooking tea is pretty dull anyway so I may as well be working for a tighter bum at the same time)
- Neck and shoulder yoga at my desk listening to a colleague (especially fun to maintain eye contact but offer no explanation and act like nothing’s happening)
- Lunge walking up and down the stairs (because I go up and down stairs like a million times a day so make the most of it)
- Tricep dipping a scooter behind my head on a family walk (following the ‘I don’t want to scoot anymore’ moment that you can guarantee happens literally 5 minutes after you left the car)
I know none of this works up much of a sweat, or maybe doesn’t really ‘count’ (whatever that means), but I rekon it’s better than not doing it, and that’s something to feel good about.