20 20-Minute Self-Care Ideas for Chronic and/or Mental Illness
Hello, everyone! If you’re new to the blog and joining because of the 30 Days to a Healthier Mom Life Series, welcome! And Jessi, thank you for having me.
About My Self-Care Journey
My name is Kat, and I am a 25-year-old wife and a mama to a 3-year-old little girl. In my day to day life, I wear a lot of hats. I am in charge of a daily (M-F) before and after school program. My job can be stressful, but I genuinely love it. I love working with kids. I am also starting another part time job. In addition, I write and am working on publishing a novel: hoping to either find an agent or become self-published by the end of 2017.
On top of all that, I take care of myself which is, honestly, often a full-time job in itself. You see, I have chronic mental and physical illnesses. Just finding answers in getting them diagnosed has taken nearly my whole life, and I’m sure more diagnoses are to come (I’m already to the second hand’s worth of fingers in counting them!)
Why We Need Self-Care
Parenting is a hard gig. Parenting with a chronic illness, like fibromyalgia (I have Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome), or a mental illness, like anxiety or depression (I have anxiety and Bipolar II), can seem almost impossible some days. Some things that make it easier for me are small acts of Self-Care.
Self-Care is a big, important buzzword going around, as it should be because taking care of one’s self is so important. But for us Mamas, it can be daunting. Another thing to do!? We already do 385882+ things, how will we have time to take care of ourselves on top of all that? And when it comes to self-care, for us chronically ill Mamas, we often can only manage the basics; our medications, our doctor's appointments.
Self-Care Doesn’t Have to Be Hard
But self-care doesn’t have to be grueling or time-consuming. It doesn’t have to be another commitment and doesn’t need time blocked off of your already overflowing family schedule unless it’s the only way you can do it. Below are 20 easy ways to take care of yourself that can be done in 20 minutes or less. In combination, done in bits and pieces around a busy schedule in a very full life, I cannot overstate what a HUGE difference they have made for me. How I care for others depends on me first taking care of myself. My self-care makes me a better educator, wife, and mother.
Set a timer so you don’t spend the whole time watching the clock (a total calm-killer) and enjoy. And remember, we are all different, and those of us who are affected by chronic and/or mental illness are all affected in different ways. So some of these tips might work great for these, and others won’t be your style. That’s OK! Take what works, and let the rest go.
20 20-Minute Self-Care Ideas
1. Spend some introspective time, whether it’s in your journal or your mind
Think about who you are, how far you’ve come, and where you want to go. I’m a details person who often gets bogged down by them, so it really helps for me to step back and take some time to see the big picture. I’ll take 20 minutes to just write down everything that happened in the last month. Maybe on a day that I need some particular encouragement, I’ll write down every good thing that happened in the last month. Or every challenge from the past year that I have now overcome. Mountains look like molehills when you step back!
2. Spend time in the Word
I never thought I’d be the person who read the Bible on her phone. I had nothing against others doing it, but I loved the feel of a heavy paper Bible in my hands too much. I love turning the delicate, thin pages; love the smell; love writing in it and highlighting it; love the ribbon bookmark. I love feeling fully immersed in the tangibleness of God’s eternal word through the written Word.
But I also am not a purse person. I am barely even a wallet person. I’m trying to be better at this (see #5), but for now, I barely carry anything around, other than my phone and keys. So I found the YouVersion Bible app…And to say it has been a life changer for me would be an understatement. It has made reading the Bible such an easy, instinctual process. Now, whenever I feel an EDS pain flare or panic attack coming on, getting comfort from scripture is as simple as reaching for my phone. It has become second nature to me, and I am reading the Bible so much more now. And I can do it in such short, easy chunks! I definitely recommend it.
3. Watch 20 Minutes Of Low-Commitment TV
This is going to sound bizarre, but I am terrible at watching TV. Terrible! I’ll get hooked on a TV show, but then have no time to watch, so I’ll stop watching altogether. So for self-care, I’ll watch something I feel OK with only watching for 20 minutes at a time. I’ve been watching Top Chef All Stars for this purpose.
4. Put a little color on something
Minus the pressure to be perfect. “Adult coloring” is really in right now, and for those who it helps…Great! But for me, it was always more anxiety-provoking than it was stress-relieving. I had a Star Wars coloring pillow that I hadn’t colored a single part of since December because I just couldn’t find the time or motivation. It seemed like another chore, not relaxing.
So instead of those fancy markers, I bought a Crayola art kit that was on clearance, and finally brought that pillow into work and colored it with my school kids. It was done in less than an hour. Is it perfect? Of course not! Is it the colors I chose? Nope! But the coloring still relieved stress and, now that it doesn’t have the perfectionism attached, it’s more fun for me to do at home, too.
5. Put together a self-care bag
Like I said above, I’m terrible at carrying a bag, but I’m putting one together to have self-care on the go. It has a paper copy of the Bible, my art kit, teabags, a pen, a picture a student colored me, and lavender lotion, so far.
6. Immerse yourself in a child’s world
A lot of times, we are with our or other, if you work with children like I do, children, but we aren’t really intentional about the time we spend with them. When I want to forget about my anxiety or pain, one of the best ways for me to do that is to get on a child’s level and spend 20 minutes really engaging with them, playing with them, just being silly and being a kid.
7. DIY aromatherapy
I really like lavender and smelling it really calms me down. So I’ll put on some lavender lotion or light a lavender candle and breathe deeply.
8. Drink some tea or coffee
Make it the only thing you’re doing. I find it almost glamorous to have time where all I’m doing, all I need to do, all I expect myself to do, is drink a piping hot beverage and really enjoy it, really taste it, without fear of it getting cold or any other obligations.
9. Take a bath
Epsom salts, especially lavender, really help with my chronic pain in a bath. Even 20-minute baths do wonders for me.
10. Go for a walk
Getting some fresh air and vitamin D can do wonders to change my perspective. I try not to push myself on distance or speed. If I can only go slow and lean on a tree, then go slow and lean on another tree, there is no shame in that.
For me, swimming is something my body really likes that I need to be intentional about doing more. I feel so much more natural and free in water than on land. Even five minutes a week in a pool honestly makes a big difference for me.
Doing ankle stretches, arm stretches, leg stretches, any sort of stretch break always reminds me how much that stretch break was needed! I try to take as many stretch breaks as possible.
13. Do a breathing/meditation exercise
My husband taught me a great exercise years ago when we were just dating. Close your eyes and imagine compressing all your anxiety into a little ball in your chest and work on pushing that ball out of you. It works really well and I always feel more peaceful when I actually take the time to do it.
14. Read a chapter of a book
There are so many books I want to read, but reading them all seems so overwhelming. A chapter at a time is totally doable! Choose books with short, easy to read chapters, and remember little pieces add up to big progress!
15. Write something creative
I love working on writing my novel and escaping into my creative world for 20 minutes. Write a short story, a poem, part of a chapter of a novel, a play…Anything that helps you escape the hard reality of chronic physical and mental illness for a bit!
16. Read an interesting article you have saved
If you’re like me, you have a bunch of articles bookmarked or saved that you haven’t actually gotten back to. Intentionally crack one open.
17. Find your next book to read
I hate the feeling when you want to read something but just finished a book and have nothing to read. Spend some time reading book reviews and find your next page-turner!
18. Take a power nap
Don’t scoff! 20 minutes can actually be a restful nap, especially if you can fall asleep right away.
If you can’t nap, act like you are. Lay your head on the pillow and pull the blankets over your head for 20 minutes. Sometimes for me, it’s even more relaxing, because I’m actually awake to enjoy it!
20. Intentionally do nothing at all
You’re not napping. You’re just being. Sometimes, this is my favorite thing to do of all…Time to sit on the couch, quiet my thoughts, and just exist. Take a moment to breathe, calm down, and remember that, in the scheme of things, today is just one day, and whatever I’m facing today is likely small.
Which of These Can You Do Today?
I hope you found some ways to spend your next 20 minutes making an investment in your own wellness. It can be a small-but-mighty help to your overall well-being as a mom and an overall person. Sending love to all of you, and thank you for reading!
About The Author
Kat is a 25-year-old Midwestern mama who performs a daily balancing act. She has a career she loves; a charming, precocious three-year-old daughter; and is married to her college sweetheart, who still makes her laugh so hard she squirts juice out her nose. Kat is a writer and on top of working on publishing her first novel she blogs about living with chronic and mental illness as a frequent contributor on The Mighty. She also writes on her own blog, Writer Kat, and you can follow her blog Facebook page here.