It’s a taboo subject: feeling trapped in your life.

But if you’ve felt this, you’re in very good company. Motherhood, while full of joy and love and adorable baby giggles, can also feel like quicksand, and every default parent feels highs and lows.

We each have a laundry list of emotional labor that is as unseen as it is exhausting.

It dominates the “low” category. Let it go on for too long without any reprieve, and you’ll find yourself spinning. Or sinking. Or both, at once. Enter, “The Overwhelm.”

This is the stress hurricane that knocks us off-balance and barges into all of our homes at some point, knocking over everything in its path. How can we handle life when it hits? Is there any way to prepare? To repair the damage once it’s ruining the day?

The short answer, of course, is always the same: above all, we take better care of ourselves. This is both preventative and reactive.

But sometimes, self-care feels like such a stretch (even for me, as a self-care teacher). Especially when you feel tired. Exhaustion and overwhelm take a toll on the nervous system. Eventually, they move us out of a calm, normal state and into fight-or-flight mode. Our hearts race, our pupils dilate, our muscles tighten. Stress hormones flood the system, ready to attack or get away. But if we stay in that state for too long without discharging that energy, our bodies and brains get the message that it isn’t working. Then, it’ll pull out the big defense guns, and move us into our deepest neurophysiological defense: immobilization. 

You feel worn out. You want to disappear. But you can’t…because you’ve got dependents. How can we tackle The Overwhelm while we’re taking care of our babies?

My answer, it probably won’t surprise you, is truly taking care of ourselves. Self-care always helps, and here’s a secret to making it super-easy: do “bare-minimum care.”

Bare-minimum care is ordinary self-care (versus the “extraordinary,” fancy wellness treats we might indulge in from time to time). It’s often so basic that we don’t even add it to our self-care radar…but it’s foundational. It’s important and effective.

Here are 5 ways you can take bare-minimum care today:

  1. Make sleep a top priority (more than Netflix).
  2. Drink fresh water (because, if you’re lucky enough to have it accessible, take advantage).
  3. Shower every day (or at least fresh clothes), even if it means your baby complains for a few minutes.
  4. Scrap the family meal plan tonight and serve your kids oatmeal, frozen waffles, or pasta with jarred sauce for dinner (they’ll totally love it.)
  5. Talk to your health care professional about a Vitamin D supplement, especially if you’re breastfeeding and/or in your postpartum year.

Bare-minimum care is an awesome stress-managing self-care strategy for mothers, because it helps us practice a crucial life skill for success: giving ourselves a break.

Today, choose ease, and opt for gentleness. Your heart, your head, and your babies will all benefit from your less-stressed self.