Put Your Own Oxygen Mask on First

“Mommy…the sun is up!”

Just over a year ago, my alarm clock had become my three-year old’s voice, waking up with his Gro clock at 7:00 am. Not long after, my one year old was up, and we were off.

As a 36-year-old, part-time working mom of two young boys, my days were filled with work, housework, playgroups, pick-ups and drop-offs, meal planning, grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning, potty training, diaper changing, etc. A familiar to do list for most busy moms out there.

But an unfamiliar feeling starting to take over the second I heard the words: “Mommy…the sun is up!” I would feel a rush of anxiety flow over me, and an immediate sense of being overwhelmed. I felt like I was already behind in my day and it hadn’t even started yet. There was too much to accomplish, and I couldn’t catch my breath. My mind was going in a million different directions. I had low energy, was short on patience, felt down and would get sick often. I didn’t feel like the best version of myself.

You know the saying, “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” I couldn’t keep going like this. Something had to change; I didn’t want to wake up feeling like this anymore. I realized I had become that person – I needed some “me time.”

For the last 15 years, fitness had been part of my everyday life. I loved to jog, exercise with weights and do yoga. It was my time, and it made me feel happy, energetic, strong, positive and capable. As a busy mom of two, finding time to exercise had become increasingly difficult. I would always say “I’ll fit it in when they’re napping,” but I ended up cleaning or “I’ll workout after they’re in bed,” but I was too tired. It’s not that I wasn’t active – between work, housework and looking after my kids, I never stopped moving, but what I really needed was time alone doing something I enjoyed. I needed this time to repair myself; to feel like me again, so I could take better care of my family. Put your own oxygen mask on first.

Ruling out all other times of the day, the only slot left was early morning, before my kids got up. To any parent out there with young kids who have had their sleep taken away, the idea of getting up before your kids seems crazy. Well, I’m now over a year into my new routine, and the thought of not getting up at 5:30 am seems crazy.

I recently shared my story on social media, and a lot of busy parents related to how I felt. But 5:30am? Really? Here are a few tips and tricks that got me from one early morning wake up a week to five, and how I now also squeeze in a shower, prayer/meditation, makeup on, hair done and have a coffee (ok well at least a few sips) before my kids get up.

Start Small

Getting up early is hard, but I found it was the only way to fit in exercise and get a bit of quiet time to myself. I would recommend starting with two mornings a week. Perhaps avoid days that you also have evening activities scheduled, as you’ll find when you get up earlier, you have to go to bed earlier (I’m sleeping most nights by 10:00pm).

It feels so good knowing you’ve exercised, showered, and had some coffee, all before your kids get up. Having that uninterrupted time to move your body and clear your mind will help you move into the day with more energy and focus. I also find that I have a happier and more positive attitude, and more patience (most days).

Set Yourself Up for Success
Have your workout clothes right next to your bed. I swing my feet off the bed, onto the floor, and change into my gear. Now there’s no turning back. Brushing my teeth wakes me up just enough to go downstairs and make it happen. You may have to invest in some free weights and a bench (10lb and 15 lb weights are a good start), but now you can cancel your gym membership and will have some extra money to invest in your new home gym!

Keep it Short and Sweet (aka challenging!)
Online exercise apps that allow you to workout from the comfort of your own home are all the rage right now. Ease the transition by committing to short workouts that pack a punch. I workout for 15 – 20 minutes, but I choose challenging circuits using the Nike Training Club app. It’s free and allows you to customize the workouts to fit your needs. Mentally, it’s a little easier to get out of bed knowing that you only have to workout for 15 minutes!

Dry Shampoo is a Must
After my quick workout, I go straight upstairs and jump in the shower where I do my daily prayer/meditation (I also try and meditate for 10 minutes after my kids are in bed as well). I work from home most days, so the only times I leave the house are to do pick-ups and drop-offs. Some would argue putting makeup on and doing my hair is unnecessary, but I like to feel my best. I find it helps with my overall mood and productivity. Before kids it would take me an hour to get ready (I used to wash and blow dry my hair EVERY DAY). Now, I wash my hair twice a week (dry shampoo is key), and I can get ready in 15 minutes. My amazing husband brings my coffee up, and shortly after I hear, “Mommy, the sun is up!” Instead of feeling anxious and overwhelmed, I’m excited to see my kids, and grateful for the day ahead.

Do Something That Scares You
The idea of getting up early to exercise may be a scary thought, but lately, if something scares me, I run right towards it. Last year, I made the decision to do my 200 hour yoga teacher training. Everything about it was unknown and scary. It was a lot of work, and time away from my family, but it felt awesome to overcome fears, while pursuing my passion and doing something for me. Afterall, aren’t the best things in life just on the other side of fear?

After graduating, I started my own business, West Beach Yoga, where I teach yoga on the beach during the summer in Ottawa. I teach at the studio once a week, and I recently taught yoga on the beach for guests at The Royalton resort in Cuba, a personal goal of mine for years.

The biggest takeaway from my yoga experiences is that the more I did things that scared me, the less scary and overwhelming other things in life seemed. It’s like I’ve gained a new found courage or strength that allows me to move forward in the face of fear: live (a little bit) scared.

If you can relate to feeling anxious or overwhelmed most days, perhaps it’s time to think about making time for you. Maybe the idea of getting up early freaks you out. Change is scary, but I encourage you to try it. The more you push yourself, are uncomfortable or live scared, the more courageous you become. As the great Michelle Obama said, “For me, exercise is more than just physical – it’s therapeutic.” I totally agree.