Ask any mom how they are doing and they will typically answer with some combination of overwhelmed, busy and exhausted. How do I know this? Because that was me. I’ve seen it and felt it first hand. And I’ve seen it with the many moms I meet. But we all know happiness is not measured by how “busy” you are.

Being insanely busy is not the same as being productive. As a business owner and mom, I try to take a look at my work week as a whole, and carve out the days when I know I need to give 100 percent to conquer my to-do list and the days when I have more margin to carve out time for myself.

The truth is, it’s physically impossible to operate at 100 percent capacity 100 percent of the time. You can’t give your all if you’ve got nothing left to give. And we know we are supposed to put our own oxygen mask on first, by taking time for ourselves. We just don’t know how. So, I not only have the answer for you, but I have a formula that actually works.

HIIT Training For Your Life

Have you heard of High Intensity Interval Training? It’s one of the most popular and successful types of exercise. The concept is that you work at a very high intensity for a short interval and then rest for a short interval. This combination produces some of the most incredible results in exercise including high fat burn, increased endurance and increased strength. But what if those athletes just trained hard all day, every day? They would

a) get injured

b) get burned out

c) be in a state of exhaustion

d) all of the above

Guessing you know the answer. That’s right, all of the above. So why is it so easy to see with athletes but not with ourselves? These same exercise principles that work for athletes can work for you too. Work hard but intersperse with regular intervals of self care.

Redefine Self Care

What do you think of when you think of self care? A massage? A mani/pedi? Well, I love those too; but I don’t think that is really the self care that you need. All moms tell me they wish they had more balance in their life. All moms tell me they wish they had more hours in the day. For what? I’m telling you that if I gave you an extra hour, you would fill it with the same stuff. You would still be overwhelmed and busy. So instead of more time, let’s repurpose the time you have. What is missing for you? Daily exercise? Healthy eating? How about a little time for yourself? It’s all about baby steps. Think about small activities you could include in your day, such as Meditation, Journaling or a bubble bath. If you’re at work, put a 15 -minute block on your calendar for a walk or use your lunch hour to connect with a friend or book appointments you’ve been putting off. Consider taking some walks around the block between appointments or simply getting outside for some fresh air.

My list could go on. What is missing for moms is daily rest. I’m not talking about naps (although sleep is a non negotiable part of self care). I’m talking about doing things that will soothe your stress and increase your happiness. As moms, we are often so busy taking care of everyone else that we forget to take care of ourselves. This is your life and you deserve to enjoy it now; and not just when your kids are grown. In fact, by practicing self care when your kids are young, you are creating an incredible ripple effect.

What happens When You Practice Self Care

When you are happy, you are primed to be a better parent. You are going to be more purposeful and more patient during the beautiful daily chaos of family. But there’s more than that. You are teaching your kids how to live as happy and healthy individuals. My guess is that you want your kids to stress less, laugh more, eat healthier and exercise more than you do. Well guess what? They will learn that from you. It is time that you live as you one day want your children to live.

Finding Time For Self Care

Think you don’t have time? Consider waking up 30 minutes earlier to have the morning to yourself. This is my favorite time of day. It primes me to be happy and set my intention and vibe before anyone else does. But if sleep is already deprived or you can’t get up earlier then find something you can prune from your day. I am guessing that social media or television might take up a bit of your daily time. Or perhaps you can delegate some household work to the kids. As moms, our job is not to do all of the work. As moms, our most important job is to raise kind little humans to become strong, independent adults.

The Formula For A Happy Mama

So here it is…

Work + Family + Self Care = A Happy Mama. Work in this formula consists of anything from your career job to parenting, from housework to errands. We know it all needs to get done. Self Care is whatever gives you genuine happiness and a sense of peace, joy and a reprieve from your busy life, if only for a moment. Make self care a non negotiable part of your day. You will be a much better mama for it. 

Lisa Druxman, M.A., is an entrepreneur, working mother and founder of FIT4MOM. Her new book, The Empowered Mama: How to Reclaim Your Time and Yourself While Raising a Happy, Healthy Family (Fair Winds Press), is a “how-to” guide to empower other mothers to live their best lives. As the founder of the country’s largest fitness program for moms, Lisa spent the past 16 years building a business with over 1,500 franchise locations and employing 300 women nationwide – all while finding time to pick up her kids from school every day. Stroller Strides grew over the years and added Fit4Baby (prenatal classes) and Body Back (classes for any stage of motherhood). All of the classes now make up the FIT4MOM brand. Lisa holds a Master’s degree in psychology from San Diego State University.