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Start your Day the Self-Care Way

Inject some speedy self-care into your morning routine with some of these ideas from Zeena Moolla. Here, she shares some simple, calming exercises you can include in your morning, no matter how busy life gets!

Get Stretching
When you wake, before even thinking of poking a toe out from under the duvet, have a good old stretch. Stretching first thing in the morning can help to relieve any tension or soreness after a night of slumber. When you sleep, your muscles lose tone, and fluid tends to pool along your back. Stretching helps to gently massage that fluid back into its normal position. And, as many mothers attest, a night of disrupted sleep can result in an extra- cranky body and mood to match – so get stretchy, not tetchy!

Morning, Sunshine!
Lots of mums with early rising/sleep-reluctant children will be familiar with rude dawn awakenings. And while the temptation might be to shuffle to the kitchen for extra- strength coffee to slurp in front of breakfast TV for a couple of hours, you’d actually benefit more from heading out for a walk within the first hour of waking up…
Morning daylight has been proven to effectively clear the sleep hormone melatonin, known for its slumberous qualities, out of the bloodstream, lending your brain the clarity it needs to focus. Plus, your levels of vitamin D, serotonin and blood pressure will all stand to benefit, too. Pair your morning sunshine with a jog for peak mood- busting energy to rival a toddler!

Power Shower
Contrary to the stereotype, meditation doesn’t have to be something practised in an incense-filled room, sitting cross-legged amid paraphernalia from the holistic shop in the bohemian part of town. It’s actually something that can be incorporated into a busy life – even in the shower. Try it with your next morning bathe. Set the water temperature to your preferred setting. Next, close your eyes as you face the shower. Take a few deep breaths, focusing on the feeling of expansion as you inhale and on the sense of tension relief as you exhale.

Then, slowly turn away from the shower and repeat the exercise, taking note of how the water feels on your back as you breathe. Continue this for a couple more minutes. Sure, it’s not exactly a retreat in Thailand, but it’s an easy and effective self-care exercise that will bring you some soothing meditative benefits in minutes.

Compliment Yourself
“Ugh!” If that’s how you often greet your reflection in the mirror, ask yourself, would you be happy to hear your child have that reaction to the way they look? No matter how tired the face looking back at you, find something positive to say about it. “My hair looks nice today.” “The colour of this top suits me.” “I like my smile.” For self-care to thrive, putting your self-image down is a habit that really has to go. And by being kind to yourself, you are also setting a wonderful example for your children.

Commute with care
When we’re busy or feeling harried, it’s easy to let negative or anxious thoughts creep in on our daily commute. But sitting in your car or on the bus ruminating about a stressful school drop-off or bad day at work is a waste of energy – and valuable self-care time. Instead, use this time to enjoy something like a good book (an audiobook if you’re driving, obviously), a podcast or an upbeat playlist. Opt for ideas that you look forward to and that put you in a happier frame of mind.

Cloud Gazing
A super-easy self-care technique is to stop what you’re doing, even just for a few minutes, and look up at the sky. Cloud watching is proven to have meditative qualities, particularly because partaking in it immerses you in nature and removes you from the screen-obsessed culture we live in. For extra relaxation, try taking deep breaths while watching as the clouds move and take on different forms. It’s something you can involve the kids in, too, letting your imaginations run riot as you spot resemblances to marshmallows, trees, giant fish, Elvis and whatever else you see in the sky above.

Rule of Three
If the responsibilities of parenting are leaving you feeling anxious, there’s a simple and effective exercise called the Rule of Three that can help to alleviate this the minute your anxiety levels start to rise. You can practise it now. Look around you. Name three things you can see. Now listen. What three sounds do you hear? Finally, move three parts of your body, such as your fingers, toes, arms or shoulders. The idea is that using this technique as panicky feelings set in distracts you from the angst, helping to restore a calmer mind. However, if you’re experiencing anxiety frequently and with any
intensity, please do ensure you visit your doctor for a proper consultation.

Edited extract from Self-Care for Busy Mums by Zeena Moolla,  published by Summersdale Publishing Ltd.