After 2 long but wonderful births last week, and losing 2 nights of sleep in the process, I was determined to take extra good care of myself in an effort to not get sick. Self-care for doulas and other birth professionals is a necessity. Jennifer Louden, who is an expert on the subject of self-care, says this "Self-care is not selfish or self-indulgent. We cannot nurture others from a dry well. We need to take care of our own needs first, then we can give from our surplus, our abundance."
Anyone who is in a position of nurturing others needs this. Even as parents (and especially new moms), we know there's only so much we can give without honoring our own needs before we reach a breaking point. Birth Professionals, and doulas specifically, have a high burnout rate. I attribute this to two factors: not charging what we're worth and valuing ourselves as professionals, and not caring for our minds and bodies in a way that allows us to continue caring for others without getting sick, tired, and overwhelmed.
Above, you can see part of my plan for self-care this past week. Considering it's the dead of winter here in New England and the middle of flu season, the vitamin D and Cod Liver Oil have been a regular part of my daily routine anyway, and the iron is something I take normally as well. Adding in the Emergen-C, lots of hot tea, soups, green smoothies, extra sleep, a few sessions of restorative yoga, etc. has helped tremendously as well.
So here are my ten ways for doulas (or anyone for that matter) to practice self-care:
1. Pack in the good nutrition- If you already eat healthy, great! But there's always more you can do. Adding in some extra green smoothies or fresh juice, making sure to take your supplements, and making a big pot of soup with bone broth and lots of veggies will help your body recover and your immune system fend off illness.
2. Exercise- Whether you have a gym membership, practice yoga, or just take a brisk walk around the block, keep exercising even if you're feeling worn out. There are so many benefits and you'll feel much better afterward!
3. Make an appointment- Therapeutic touch works wonders and as doulas, of course we know that. Schedule a massage, acupuncture, haircut, mani/pedi, whatever floats your boat!
4. Take a bath- Maybe your neck and shoulders are sore from lots of hip squeezes or sleeping curled over a yoga ball (or maybe that's just me). Throw in a handful of epsom salt with a few drops of lavendar essential oil and you'll be relaxed in no time.
5. Sneak in some extra zzzzzzzz's- This is a tough one, especially for those of us who are very busy or have small children. Making a point to go to bed half hour or an hour early, sleeping in a little later than normal if you can manage it, or taking a short nap in the afternoon can help your body catch up on missed sleep.
6. Download, connect, reflect- Holding on to other women's birth experiences can be emotionally overwhelming. Especially if it was traumatic in some way, or there were moments where you felt you could have/should have done something differently, finding a trusted doula buddy to share your experience with and get it off your chest helps tremendously. If you don't have a friend to do this with, writing it down in a journal can also work.
7. Pare down your schedule- This can be tricky to do. Ask yourself, is there anything happening this week that I can skip, is there anything I can reschedule for next week? Freeing up a little bit of time in your schedule can be very restorative (and will give you more flexibility for that nap or coffee date with a doula friend).
8. Get creative- Do you paint? knit? play an instrument? love to bake? write poetry? Doing something creative that you love can be very therapeutic and stress-relieving.
9. Nature connection- Get outside for some vitamin D, fresh air, and be one with nature. Not easy when it's 5 degrees out, but a little brisk chilly air is refreshing, right?
10. Gift yourself- Retail therapy (without breaking the bank, of course) can be just the pick-me-up needed to reward yourself after a birth. Buy yourself a bouquet of fresh flowers, a deliciously-scented candle, a new scarf, or perhaps that book or essential oil that's been on your Amazon wish list for months. You deserve it!