Everywhere you look, you see panicked parents who are revving up: back to school, new clothes, backpacks, supplies, snacks and an endless list of things to do – signing up for fall activities, trying to declutter the house, labeling shoes and wondering how are going to manage it all once again. It’s about to get real busy.

My days during the school year can largely be described as a rock hurled out of a catapult – sometime around 6:15 a.m. my alarm goes off, I meditate for 10 minutes and then it’s go, go, go.

I’m not unique – everyone I know is busy in their own ways, whether it’s daycare or school drop offs, breakfasts and lunches to be made, teeth brushed, dishes done, out the door. Most of this is all fit in before 8 a.m. Some days, it feels as though you’ve lived a whole day before you even leave the house.

I’m tired just thinking about it.

And what is the first thing to go when we get busy? Taking care of ourselves. You know the saying: if the plane is going down, you put on your oxygen mask first, then you put on your children’s masks.

But what mother would ever do that?

We’re moms. We take care of everyone else before we take care of ourselves. To me, self-care isn’t simply about getting my nails done or having a massage – though both are lovely. I believe self-care is that moment you remember that you had a name, you had interests and you had a life before you had children. The moment you say Hey, I matter too.

We get wound into the coils of life and become our roles, responsibilities and duties. We cease being us and become someone’s mom. Sometimes we forget we like to read in the bath, we love walks in nature, and that baking is relaxing.

The cliché resonates because it is true: You can only take care of someone else if you take care of yourself.  So I am going to give you a challenge: as the to-do lists pile up, take a breath and make a plan of how you are going to take care of yourself in the coming year.

Here are my twenty-one tips for self-care. Pick and choose. It’s a Self-Care Menu you can post on your fridge and decide which ones you like.  Make your own list, and see if life gets a little happier.

Click here to download a free printable menu

80percentdotcom’s 21 Self-Care Necessities

  1. Eat well. All the research points to this: eat a diet that is largely plant based, avoid processed food and limit sugar.
  2. Drink lots of water.
  3. Exercise – yoga, walking, running. Move every day.
  4. Take care of your emotional wellbeing: Don’t let stress, depression or anxiety dominate you. If you feel yourself slipping, seek help.
  5. Make coffee dates with friends.
  6. Read in the bath.
  7. Keep up with the upkeep: shave your legs, pluck your brows, colour your hair. You don’t deserve to feel shabby – ever.
  8. Write in a gratitude journal.
  9. Shut the door. If it is to read a book, or just lie on the bed, take the time. Nothing is going to fall apart.
  10. Sit and stare at nature. Better yet, go for a walk in nature.
  11. Get up early and watch the sunrise once in a while.
  12. Put on music and dance.
  13. Meal prep on Sundays (it will save your life – trust me)
  14. Plan healthy snacks for you and the kids to have on hand and in your bag.
  15. Stop feeling so guilty about Facebook and Instagram. Stop feeling guilty altogether. No one is perfect.
  16. Practice mindfulness. Meditate, eat slowly and sit in silence. Breathe.
  17. Try something new – take a class, join a team, pick up an instrument.
  18. Plan a weekend where you have a “staycation.” Do something fun. Splurge on an outfit or lunch out.
  19. Book facials and get your nails done. Put it in the calendar. If you can’t afford it, plan an at-home spa night.
  20. Change the dialogue in your head: Look in the mirror every morning and say one positive thing. You are beautiful. You are talented. You are amazing.
  21. Love deeply – not just your family and your friends. Love yourself. There is only one you in this universe. That’s incredible, isn’t it?

Have a wonderful back to school.

erin-phelan-headshotErin Phelan is a health and fitness professional, personal trainer and writer. Find her at www.80-percent.com and follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.