Self-care may be a buzz word, but according to experts, it’s also a must for protecting one’s mental and physical health. Defined as “any activity we do deliberately in order to take care of our mental, emotional, and physical health,” self-care can manifest in a number of ways, depending on your preferences or stage of life. From simply getting dressed in the morning to jetting off for a lavish, no-holds-barred vacation, a deliberate act of taking care of yourself can pack a big punch.

For moms, whose alone time (and sleep) is limited, self-care is especially important. You know how on a plane the flight attendant reminds you to, in an emergency, put on your oxygen mask before your child’s? Parenting is kind of like that. When mothers have their needs met, they are much more likely to meet their children’s needs as well. Though self-care is an important part of caring for someone else, how it looks in practice can vary from parent to parent. To give you some ideas for your own life, we talked to seven moms about how they integrate self-care into their routines. Here’s what they had to say.

A woman listens to music on headphones while painting

1. Erin, Las Vegas, NV: “I literally keep a note on my iPhone with quick and simple ideas for practicing self-care, because on stressful days, it helps me make better choices about how to move forward. Some of my go-to ways of caring for myself are putting down my phone, doing something with my hands (painting or weaving), baking, journaling, or even cleaning an area of my house.”

2. Stephanie, Calabasas, CA: “Some of my favorite things to do to take care of myself are running and eating healthy. When I need a little break, I plan time with the girls, I get a massage a few times a year, or take bubble baths with candles. My kids are nine and 11, so I’ve learned some lessons about self-care and gone through various seasons with it. The truth is, it makes me less nuts. But really, it helps me be able to handle the chaos that can come along with raising kids — it keeps me grounded and present.”

3. Michelle, Upper Marlboro, MD: “Like most women, I’m juggling a ton of roles, so self-care, just like your dreams for yourself, can take a backseat if you’re not intentional. I set aside Thursdays as my self-care day. This isn’t necessarily me taking a long bath or getting a massage. I am intentional to use that day for whatever will refill my tank — dinner with my girlfriends just to laugh without necessarily talking about the kids or work, a monthly women’s sisterhood gathering at my church that lands on that same day, or a number of things. Because that day is set aside in my calendar, I don’t have to worry about who will ‘keep the kids,’ because it’s already planned out.”

A woman enjoys the fresh air on a hike

4. Rachel, Denver, CO: “When I need a second to breathe, I usually ask my husband for a break from our toddler son so I can do something that gives me life, even if only for a few hours. If I had a day to myself, I’d probably go on a hike to recalibrate, spend some time journaling or reading at a coffee shop, and meet up with some girl friends to explore the city. Waking up early (before my son) is actually the biggest thing for me. I’ve noticed it helps so much to have that time by myself to start the day. All of these things help me feel like myself, which in turn helps me be a better mom to my son and wife to my husband.”

5. Thara, Lubbock, TX: “I think finding joy in my life is a big part of my self-care. Each day I try to have a time where my kids and I just say what we are grateful for, popcorn-style. It’s usually in the car, and anything goes: grass, construction workers, dirt, toys, friends, etc. I find my attitude (and my kids’) is so much better, and I am less likely to be stressed or ungrateful. Rest time is also really important. Even if my kids don’t fall asleep, we have a rest time during the day. I take that time to rest, do something I need to, read, watch something, call a friend, or just be alone and quiet. I don’t care how old my kids are — this will be a part of our day!”

6. Alyssa, St. Paul, MN: “I love taking walks and listening to a guilty pleasure podcast. I’m an extrovert, so inviting friends over to watch and chat over a movie fills me up. However, what really helps me is doing something creative for myself (like playing ukulele or writing music), because it feels like it’s just mine and no one else’s.”

7. Julie, Sylacauga, AL: “I feel like working very part-time in my job as a pediatric nurse practitioner has been great for my mental health. If I worked more, I personally would feel overextended, but to quit completely would be rough.”

What are your favorite ways of practicing self-care as a parent? Let us know at @BritandCo.

(Photos via Getty)