There’s no escaping the truth: if you’re taking care of tiny humans, chances are you have days where you are stressed the f*** out. every mom needs self-care for stress relief.

If you’re a mom who thinks “I’m fine. I don’t have postpartum depression or anything, so I’m okay,” I get it (although if you think you do, though, read this post). Rest assured, you don’t have to have PPD, another perinatal mood disorder, or other mental health concern. Motherhood is stressful enough. Every mom needs self-care for stress relief.

But you need the right care. Otherwise, you won’t see results. And you will burn out.

If you’re always burning out — only to slap a “spa day” or other quick-fix bandage on that fire — you can kiss any chance of feeling less stressed good-bye. It just doesn’t work that way.

Special self-care treats, like vacations, are a nice way to restore deeply, especially from burnout… but how many of us have that option on a regular Wednesday? For most moms, baby steps are a more doable better way to heal when we’re in survival mode (or even prevent you from even going there).

Every time you seek relief, ask yourself: “Am I using Band-aids? Or baby steps?” Then, whenever you can, try to choose baby steps.

Here are 3 ways to take self-care baby steps when you’re in survival mode:

#1. First of all, get your stress out of your mind (and mouth).

Go to therapy. Notice your self-talk. Write letters to yourself. Force yourself to call (or answer calls from) loved ones. Send texts, and use the messaging apps. Personally, I told my best friend, set up sessions with my spiritual teacher, and contacted my old therapist.

#2. Next, reuse, recycle, repurpose. Turn your stress into something else.

Crack open that journal. You can draft a poem, make art, play music, sing loudly, dance it out, take nature hikes and pound the rocks under your feet. Creativity, movement, and nature all aid healing, and interrupt patterns (while, in contrast, sitting still in front of a computer all day keeps you feeling sluggish and, yes, stressed). In my home, we love random, 5-minute dance parties and walks in the forest.

#3. Finally, practice all. the. bliss.

Savor every sip of coffee. Notice the soft hum of rare, quiet moments. If you can, marvel at your children. Find something beautiful where you never thought to look, and photograph it (or even take an online photography class, like this simple one from Mother.ly). For me, this also looked like diving into work, which gives me mental juice and focus.

What will happen when you do these things?

Use self-care for stress relief regularly, and you’ll connect with your sense of purpose (powerful!). Your focus will turn from stress to creativity (juicy!). Plus, you’ll get insights, inspiration, and even enough energy to exercise (maybe?). As a result, you’ll start an upward spiral back home to yourself.

Above all, when you self-care for stress relief, you’ll feel a change, because you’ll feel less pain.

Specifically, less:

  • head fog
  • sadness
  • anxiety
  • disassociation with my body
  • saying ‘yes’ to more things you don’t want
  • crying
  • yelling
  • hopelessness
  • fatigue
  • physical discomfort, etc.

You might notice it over time. Or it might smack you in the face one day, like it did to me. During my second bout with postpartum depression and anxiety, I spent months prioritizing self-caring. Then, one icy winter day, I found myself walking outside and sending a text to a friend. My fingers shivered as I typed out “I’m good. Things are still hard, but I’m doing my best.” Then, I stopped, and realized that it wasn’t true. A warm, fuzzy feeling made its way through my body. In that moment, realized that The Worst was over.

It doesn’t happen in an instant, but it does happen.

Keep doing basic self-care for stress relief, even when it feels like it doesn’t “work.” Go creative and focus on what feels good. Acknowledge where you are, and learn to sit with it, instead of trying to shut it up (or stuff it down). Use “baby step self-care” to save you from a life of wasted time and missed moments.

And if you want someone to walk along with you, please reach out for support. Therapists, friends, and online programs like ours are right there for you.