As a tired, busy, overwhelmed, stretched-too-thin parent, self-care is probably the last thing on your mind. You might even be wondering…
What self-care actually is, and why it’s important?
Simply put, practicing self-care means:
Engaging in deliberate activities (physical, emotional, or mental) that you enjoy to improve your health.
Making decisions that are beneficial to your health and wellbeing.
Meeting your needs and making yourself feel cared for.
By that definition, you may already be practicing self-care in different ways without even realizing it.
Self-care for the overwhelmed parent can look like…
Sitting on the porch for an extra 5 minutes to enjoy your coffee
Making time for your passions and interests
Deciding to not take on another commitment
Self-care becomes crucial when you experience distress in your life. Making a place in your life for self-compassion can improve mood, reduce stress, and build self-esteem. It can also increase energy, motivation, and productivity. You may find that caring for yourself causes you be be more efficient and therefore create more precious time for yourself and your family.
You might be wondering how you can possibly incorporate self-care into your hectic schedule. Between drop-offs and pick-ups, after-school activities and sports, taking care of duties around the house, running errands (and much, much more) it can feel as though there is not enough time to breathe. The good news, however, is that self-care does not have to be time-consuming. There are plenty of ways to add self-compassion into your routine without disrupting your schedule.
Let’s get started with tips on how to practice self-care, even when you’re a busy, tired, and overwhelmed parent:
1. Make self care purposeful, enjoyable, and beneficial to your health
The difference between “downtime” and self-care is the intention. First and foremost, self-care should be practiced with the intention of improving your wellbeing. That said, it should be an activity you enjoy! Lastly, the activity should be beneficial to your health. For example, eating a pint of Ben & Jerry’s is enjoyable, but is not beneficial to your physical health (much to my dismay).
2. Consider many forms
Some common examples include:
Reading a book
Listening to music
Treating yourself to salon/spa services
Going for a walk
Meeting up with a friend
Getting a restful night’s sleep
As long as the activity is purposeful, enjoyable, and beneficial to your health, it is considered self-care!
3. Set aside at least 5-10 minutes per day
If you find yourself struggling to make time for meeting up with a friend or heading to the spa, perhaps a shorter exercise of self-care is best for you. As long as the practice is purposeful, it really CAN be as simple as listening to music for 5 minutes! Before engaging in your chosen self-care activity, I encourage you to say “I’m doing this for me” or “These next 5 minutes are for me”. This highlights your purpose in making time for the activity and can extend its benefits.
4. Practice with a buddy
Odds are you know of other parents who could benefit from self-care. Talk with friends about ideas for self-care that you can practice together.
5. Incorporate self care into an activity you’re already doing
Do you exercise regularly (and feel good afterwards)? That’s self-care! How about sitting for a morning coffee, or relaxing after the kids go to bed? What about finding time to call a friend? These are all examples of self-care. Often these great opportunities for self-compassion are not done with intention. Try adding intention to these activities. Before and after the activity, remind yourself that you are practicing self care because you deserve it. Go you!
6. Practice with your Spouse
Time spent at home with your spouse are golden opportunities for self-care. Whether it be…
Physical: cuddling, going for a walk, giving each other massages
Emotional: quality time talking and connecting without television, computers, or phones
Mental: playing a board game, learning a new skill together, or listening to a podcast together
Improving your health together will have benefits on not only your wellbeing, but also the wellbeing of your relationship.
7. Listen to your body
Do you feel achy? Irritable? Exhausted? Do you find yourself getting sick more often? These are cues that your body is run-down and needs some TLC. First, discuss your medical concerns with your primary care physician to rule out possible medical conditions. Listening to your body and taking care of your physical health is most certainly a form of self-care.
8. Make it a routine
Have you ever found yourself looking forward to your next moment of silence? Having something to look forward to can help you cope with a tough day/week/month. Making self-care a routine will ensure that you have a moment of peace to look forward to. This, in turn, will help you maintain your patience and composure when stress hits.
9. Teach your children about self-care
Talking to your children about how and why you practice self-care can benefit them long-term. Having these conversations reminds them that you’re human, not Super Parent. It also models the idea that we can care for our emotional and physical health, even when stress is high.
10. Let go of guilt
Many of the parents I work with express guilt about practicing self care.
But this means time away from my kids…
I shouldn’t need to take a break. I have to keep going…
I feel so guilty about needing time alone…
For the parents experiencing guilt over self-care, I leave you with this thought: “You can’t pour from an empty cup”. Taking care of yourself will undoubtedly help you care for your family.
If you’re struggling with parenting stress, learn more about our Services for Parents.
Contact us for a free phone consultation.
Lauren is a Licensed Marriage and Family therapist who is passionate about creating a safe space for families, couples, and individuals. Lauren provides her clients with skills and tools to change dysfunctional patterns in their lives. Lauren specializes in treatment for anxiety, food allergies, divorce/remarriage, and grief and loss.