Let me guess, you hear “self-care” and think, I can’t even go to the bathroom by myself. When do I have time for that?! Or, Sure, after I juggle carpool, practice, homework, dinner, laundry and the stack of work I didn’t wrap up at the office today, in the snarky voice you try to use only inside your own head.
You are not alone. And you are not the only mom who is stressed, tired to the bone, and wondering how to do it all because, well, that’s what we’re supposed to do, right? Just about every mom I know struggles with this. Except one: Renée Trudeau, an internationally recognized life balance coach, author, speaker, wife, and mom. She’s also a San Antonio native who happens to call Austin home when she’s not traveling the world consulting and hosting seminars.
Renée was addressing a women’s conference that I was invited to attend. As I sat in the audience, I found myself identifying with everything she said. And based on the head nods from the other 200 women in the room, I wasn’t the only one. We were all struggling with the same challenges. And just hearing that we weren’t alone seemed to lift us all.
Here’s the kicker: I’ve known Renée for years. I own two of her books. And yet I hadn’t taken the time to stop and really listen to her. Until now.
Why now? Because I’m tired. Because I’m struggling to find balance. And because maybe the universe is telling me to listen.
More and more women I talk to are saying the same thing. So I asked Renée for more—and for the opportunity to share her insights with Alamo City moms—and she was happy to oblige, beginning with her seven self-care rituals:
Renee Trudeau’s Seven Self-care Rituals
“Honestly, I feel a bit hesitant about sharing my personal self-care practice and rituals,” Renée admitted. “I don’t ever want anyone to think there is a right or wrong way to practice self-care (read more about how I define self-care). I also don’t see self-care as something you need to add to your to-do list; rather, it’s about cultivating a new relationship with yourself. But, I have found that often the more we hear what self-care practices our friends are committed to, the more curious and motivated we become about adding to, changing, or enhancing ours.”
When it comes to nourishing and grounding herself, there are seven self-care rituals Renée says she can’t live without:
- Begin the day intentionally. “I love my 20- to 30-minute morning meditation practice,” Renée explains. “But if things are hectic, I find that even when I take five minutes to start my day with a clear intention, gratitude practice, prayer or stillness, this has a huge impact on how the rest of my day flows. I also do morning ‘power circles’ with my husband and son right before we head out the door when one of us is having a hard time or needs extra support.” She also says that she’s big fan of the “eight hugs a day” club (read more); touch is a powerful sense.
- Make pleasureful movement a priority. “My favorite ways to move my body include yoga, vigorous walks with friends around the lake, and Nia dance,” says Renée. “I often have to juggle like crazy to make this happen and always have to plan in advance to build this in, but daily, enjoyable movement is a non-negotiable for me at this life stage.”
- Eat foods that make you feel great (most of the time!) and take breakfast seriously. Renée said she often asks, “What would really nourish us right now?” before deciding what’s for breakfast or dinner. This means planning ahead and keeping the fridge and pantry stocked with her favorite staples: hummus, a variety of nuts and nut butters, fruits/veggies, garbanzo and black beans for salads and dips, green, mint and ginger teas, etc. “I love the clean, quick, gluten-free recipes in IT’S ALL GOOD and IT’S ALL EASY by Gwyneth Paltrow,” she explains. “Breakfast is king at our house. I find if I start the day eating protein, it helps me maintain steady blood sugar levels and has a huge impact on how I feel around 3:00 or 4:00 P.M. I like to drink a cup of warm water and lemon immediately upon waking to ‘get things moving.'” Renée’s favorite breakfasts include a spinach/mushroom omelet, migas or breakfast tacos, smoked salmon or trout and whole grain bagels, steel-cut oatmeal with blueberries/almonds/milk, yogurt with fruit and nuts, or if in a hurry, apples with almond butter.
- Build in time with friends who let you show up “warts and all.” According to Renée, heartfelt, face-to-face connection is crucial to lowering stress hormones and keeping perspective. “Ideally it’s a lunch, evening women’s circle, or walking date, but even a good 15-minute phone call with a dear friend boosts my mood,” she says.
- Take time to pause, rest, and check-in. Using your energy effectively is key, says Renée. She accomplishes this by pausing to ask herself, “What is mine to do?” Pausing also helps her to tune in and ask her body what it needs, be it one of her hormonal balancing tinctures, some B Complex, Vitamin D, or a nap. “For the past year, I have started taking 20-minute rests almost every afternoon,” Renée says. “Now [that I’m] in my fifties, I believe this will be key to creating sustainability throughout the decades to come.”
- Walk on the earth (ideally barefoot). “Even if it’s just five minutes of pulling weeds in the backyard or refilling the birdbath, a brief swing in my hammock chair or walking to the park and back after dinner with family, I find connecting with the natural world has a calming effect on my nervous system and helps me reset and shake off any ‘funk,'” Renée explains. “Nature equals the ultimate anti-depressant!”
- Prepare for a good night’s sleep. Renée also makes it a priority to relax and unwind after dinner. For her, evening is not a time to get stuff done; it’s time to decompress from the busyness of the day. “Sometimes this means embracing a ‘good is good enough’ attitude and allowing the house to be messy and clothes to pile up, letting work deadlines wait, and scrounging in the pantry for lunch fixings for my son so I don’t have to hit the store,” Renée muses. “I love late evening walks with my husband or neighbor, delicious aromatherapy baths, gentle yoga stretches before bed (legs up the wall is my favorite), and I snuggle down by 9:30 P.M. with something inspirational to read. At 10:00 P.M. it’s lights out, usually after a short, calming breathing exercise.”
Reading what works for Renée has given me some tools to help incorporate self-care into my daily routine more often. I’m working to make myself pause and be more intentional about taking care of myself. After all, it’s like being on a plane: you have to first put on your own oxygen mask or you can’t help anyone else. I think moms forget that and push ourselves to the bottom of the list time and time again, so we’re the ones struggling without a mask.
For extra help, I’m actually reading her books that are sitting next to my bed—and taking advantage of the opportunity to spend more time with Renée. While she travels the globe consulting and speaking, she only hosts one retreat in Texas each year. She’ll be in San Antonio later this fall, hosting “New Way of Being: Women’s Self Renewal Retreat” at the Bishop Jones Center.
Wondering if Renee’s retreat is for you? To be honest, I debated it myself. Do you long to reconnect with who you are? Are you in career or life transition? Do you crave time for quiet reflection, rest, and renewal? If you said yes to any of that, check out the retreat. My bet is that it will make me a better mom, because taking time for myself will help me overall. Retreat or not, put yourself first more often. I’m learning it really is OK.