Speak to any parent and they'll have a tale or two to tell about the busyness in their lives and little to tell about the moment they took more than a moment to relax. It seems that flat-to-the-floor comes more naturally to us than flat-on-the-couch just taking in the day.
There are those memes that talk about how funny it is to be out of time and how crazy-busy life gets that we don't even have time to shower regularly or practice personal hygiene. So how are we supposed to practice self-care?
It's time to break the cycle.
There are several things to help us parents practice self-care and a bunch of reasons as to why we need to realise it's important. And for all of us people pleasers out there (errr hmm) no, these can actually be attributed to our children. That's right; having self-compassion and helping ourselves actually helps others - who'd have thought?!
Traditionally, self-care meant that we had to practically stop the world from spinning while we ran a bath, pushed pause on the kids, soaked ourselves with bubbles and candles, and kept calm for an hour or so. And while that sounds lovely, these aren't realistic expectations and are also practically impossible to achieve which is exactly why we were falling short in the self-care department.
When the dial moved considerably and we really started to think about what self-care for parents meant to us, we realised that it could just be 15 minutes of your day to just breathe. It could be a walk with the kids, getting out of the house, and taking in some fresh air. In fact, it was anything that would break the monotony of the day, doing something you enjoy. A circuit breaker if you will.
Self-care isn't selfish
Taking care of yourself is the most important part of managing your own mental health but also maintaining good relationships around you. Many parents fall to parenting stress. And we all know when we're stressed, we often get short with others, we don't perform our best and we tend to be buzzing about forgetting where we started and why.
Taking the time to breathe, breaking the monotony and taking a look from the outside in will do wonders for not only your own health and mental well-being but also those around you, including the kids, your partner, or your colleagues.
As previously mentioned, a simple walk to the letterbox and lingering in the fresh air for a moment can help. But you should take more than that moment for yourself. Remember, self-care looks different for everyone.
Schedule it in
If we need to make an appointment with ourselves to take the time for a little self-care until it becomes routine, then so be it! Schedule the time in your calendar and stick to it!
When we exercise our body releases endorphins which is the hormone that can be attributed to making us happy. Physical health isn't just physical. Getting physical is scientifically proven to make us happy.
Learn to say ‘no'
So many of us thrive on being busy and on the go but what happens when it's all too much? Don't be afraid to say no to the next thing to fill your calendar. If you're spread too thin, grant yourself a little serenity and send an apology. Schedule that time for yourself and it will do wonders for your emotional wellbeing.
The idea of self-care is to help oneself and take a moment (or more) out of your day to check in with yourself. It's not about feeling guilty or negatively rewarding yourself. Here's what not to do;
Even with the smallest distraction or interruption, it's easy to just give up and move on. The more we do that, the less likely we are to make this a regular practice. No matter what happens, keep trying.
Treat yourself to food
Given this practice is all about health and well-being, it's a good idea not to use self-care as an excuse to eat unhealthy or sugary food too regularly. Trying to not incorporate food at all is optimal.
Spend a lot of money
This is so important. Self-care should not be materialistic or expensive. Self-care is about taking time out for yourself.
You don't have to do much or take a lot of time out for self-care to be effective. Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Walk to your local café for a coffee
- Catch up with a friend
- Listen to a podcast
- Practice yoga
- Read a chapter of your favourite book
- Keep a journal and take the time to write daily
Remember, when you're well-rested and taking some time for yourself, your whole family will see the benefits. Your children are always watching, listening, and learning from you and they mimic your behaviour so it's important to show them they should also take the time to slow down too. By showing them, you're teaching them the most valuable lesson for their future.
An important note:
As parents, we're so used to doing everything but we need to understand that it's okay to seek support when we need it. If you feel too overwhelmed that it's interfering with your health, your relationship with your children, or your ability to manage your daily life, you could be suffering from a mental health condition and need to seek the help of a mental health professional.