Self-Care 101 for Parents: 6 Ways to Kickstart Your Self-Care Routine
Earlier this year I shared why self-care is essential for parents in another post for My Self-Love Supply, “Why Parents Can’t Afford to Skip Self-Care.” In short, if we neglect our needs for too long we enter a cycle of burnout, which leads to more irritability, exhaustion and resentment. But when we intentionally turn some of the nurturing we give to our children towards ourselves, we are more joyful, flexible, playful, and connected parents.
The key to realizing these benefits is developing a self-care routine that works for you. Here are six steps to help you kickstart a meaningful self-care routine that aligns with your values, interests and needs.
1. Do Some Research.
Self-care is much more than bubble baths and manicures, although those things are lovely. There are actually nine self-care categories, including: physical (exercise, sleep, and nutrition), relational, emotional, occupational, environmental (pleasant work and home spaces), spiritual, cultural (community events and volunteering), intellectual, and financial wellness. Pick one or two categories you want to focus on so that you don’t get overwhelmed.
2. Reflect on What Fills You Up.
Parents often don’t know where to begin after they carve out time for themselves. As we get older and the demands of adult life intensify, the things that brought us joy as children sometimes get left behind. Whether it’s art, sports, music, building, storytelling, reading for pleasure or any other activity, this is a great way to brainstorm things that will get you excited about taking time for yourself.
3. Be Intentional.
Whether you write down your goals, share with a friend, or simply take time to think, being purposeful about self-care is important. Make a list of a few things that bring you joy, that are acts of self-kindness, and that you’ll be happy you did later. Self-care is a mix of treating yourself and doing things that you might not love, but that help your health (e.g. setting limits with technology, exercising regularly, and keeping your home tidy). It’s often easier to take care of yourself during a stressful moment if you have a plan. You can get a free self-care menu worksheet and 50+ self-care ideas for inspiration here.
4. Remember the Little Things are Actually Big.
Self-care “snacks” are a practical and fun way to start incorporating self-care into your daily life. We can’t always get away to spend time with our partner, friends, or ourselves, so having some mini self-care practices you can do anytime and with anyone is helpful, especially for parents of young children. Stop and take two deep breaths, give yourself a compliment, think of something you are grateful for, text a friend, close your eyes for a minute to give your senses a break, or take one thing off the to-do list for the day.
5. Involve Your Community.
We are often our own worst critic, and can beat ourselves up if we feel we aren’t having a good day as a parent or even practicing self-care “well enough.” Getting a reality check and encouragement from family, friends, or therapist is helpful. You also get unique ideas by talking with parent friends that can relate to your self-care struggles to keep you excited about your wellness.
6. Put Self-Care in the Calendar.
Self-care is beneficial for our social, emotional, and physical health, so put it in the calendar as you would a doctor’s appointment. As psychologist Suzy Reading says, “self-care is health care.” This increases accountability, and helps you get used to carving out time for your wellness.
..If you want more information and inspiration for your self-care routine, check out my eBook, Self-Care 101 for Busy Parents. This eBook contains my top tips and resources for parent wellness from over a decade of research and personal practice.
The 50-Page eBook Includes:
- An overview of the nine self-care categories and the burnout cycle for parents
- The top barriers to self-care: guilt, unrealistic expectations, difficulty creating new habits, and lack of time, and how to overcome them
- Self-care kit instructions and more DIY activities
- Self-Care ideas including: the benefits of laughter, breathing and meditation exercises, self-kindness practices, and gratitude activities
Self-care activities, worksheets and a printable poster
Warning: If you try some of these self-care exercises you may experience joy, calm, and gratitude. Take care parents!
More of My Favorite Resources for Parents Looking to Deepen their Self-Care Practice:
- Giving and Receiving Meditation audio recording for caregivers by renowned self-compassion researchers Kristin Neff, Ph.D. and Christopher Germer, Ph.D.
- The authors of Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle (click for a summary of the book), Emily Nagoski and Amelia Nagoski, on Brené Brown’s podcast, Unlocking Us
- Mommy Burnout: How to Reclaim Your Life and Raise Healthier Children in the Process by Dr. Sheryl Ziegler
- Stand Tall Like a Mountain: Mindfulness and Self-Care for Children and Parents by Suzy Reading (comprehensive and practical self-care tips across many of the self-care categories for the entire family)
Meet the author
Kristi Yeh, Licensed Therapist
Kristi Yeh is a parent of two, and a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist who has been practicing in California for over ten years. She currently works in school-based mental health as a Wellness Coordinator at a public elementary school. A big part of Kristi’s role entails discussing self-care with parents and educators. Research shows that the better the adults take care of themselves, the healthier our children are at home and school. She has been passionate about self-care personally and professionally for years, which led her to start Parent Self-Care, write an eBook about parent wellness, and launch The Mental Mile podcast.