When you’re a parent, self-care is often put on the back burner. While this may feel necessary since you are the ‘caregiver,’ it is actually more crucial that you take some time out for yourself. Despite what you may think, taking care of yourself is not a luxury, it’s essential. Especially now. It’s the only way that you can keep yourself well (to navigate these challenging times) and to ensure that you can be there physically, emotionally, and mentally for your young children. Here are the best strategies for self-care for parents.
Self-care for parents: why it is so essential
Before we give you some strategies for taking care of yourself, we just want to reiterate just how important this is.
Just like the flight attendant tells you in their safety briefing, you must put your own oxygen mask on before helping others. If you don’t? You won’t be able to help anyone.
It’s exactly the same for parenting. Only when you put your oxygen mask on first (taking care of yourself) can you properly take care of your children.
This is true in everyday life, but especially now. COVID-19 has us stressed about health, money, homeschooling, our children’s future, and so much more, and our children need us. They need us to be the calm and stable and predictable presence that grounds them.
The best way to help your child be at their best is to first take care of yourself. To help with self-care for parents, here’s what you need to be doing for your physical and mental wellbeing.
Self-care for the body
- Get 7-8 hours of good quality sleep each night. It also helps if it’s at roughly the same time too.
- Exercise for at least 30 minutes a day. It doesn’t have to be a vigorous workout or gym session. Going for a walk, doing some yoga or stretching, or even hoovering and cleaning all serve to release those endorphins.
- Eat foods and drinks that give you energy. Prioritise healthier options over sugary drinks and fatty foods that make you feel sluggish and stressed. Sit down together and eat as a family too.
- Take some time to relax and recharge. Find a way to reserve some time each day for yourself. Even if it’s just for a few minutes.
- Pause at least once a day to breathe. Focus on your breathing – inhale for 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds, and exhale for 4 seconds, and repeat. A simple exercise like this slows down your heart rate and lowers your blood pressure, making you feel lighter.
- Wind down before bed. Ditch the TV before bed and read instead. Winding down is essential to a good night’s sleep.
- Get creative with virtual tools. Can you do something virtually with friends? Maybe a dance session or a workout together?
Self-care for the mind
- Acknowledge your feelings and allow yourself to feel them. Be honest and don’t feel guilty.
- Avoid comparing your feelings to others, especially if it’s minimising your own grief.
- Remind yourself that you’re doing your best in a difficult situation (it helps to lower your expectations initially).
- Follow a routine to give yourself a sense of comfort and security.
- Take regular breaks from stressful activities and do something that you love to do.
- Set clear boundaries with work and school hours and with time spent on social media or watching the news.
- Don’t be too hard on yourself and give yourself permission to bend where you need to.
- Focus on what you can control such as washing your hands, staying socially distanced from others, and checking in on family members and friends.
- Take some time to switch off. A walk outside, meditation, yoga, reading or a long bath can really help to give you some you-time.
- Be present and practice gratitude. Enjoying nature, concentrating on the taste of your food or sitting silently with a coffee or tea in the morning can really help you to reflect on what is most important.
- Make time for laughter and joy! Laughter improves mood, relieves stress and relaxes the body, so create opportunities to laugh together. Is there a funny film you can watch together?
- Ask for help when you need it and look for opportunities to help or assist others. Surrounding yourself (even virtually) with positive and supportive people can make a world of difference to your mental wellbeing.
Start making time for you
There is no textbook for what we are all going through. There is no right or wrong way to deal with what is happening, and you’re not going to get it right every time. As we all try to figure this out, the best thing that you can do is prioritise your self-care.
Self-care is not selfish or over-indulgent, it’s essential! At the moment, where anxiety and stress are running high, it has never been so important to take time for yourself, so try it. Prioritise yourself, be kind to yourself, and reconnect with the things you love…you’ll soon find that you’ll be a lot stronger to then be there for your children.