Why Parents Can’t Afford to Skip Self-Care: 5 Self-Care Tips for Busy Parents
Parents have always been pressed for time, now more than ever as many of us are working from home and caring for our children during a global health crisis. It’s easy to put yourself at the bottom of the priority list as a parent, but we cannot afford to— it’s not sustainable. Neglecting self-care makes you vulnerable to entering a cycle of becoming frustrated with your child, losing your cool, and then feeling guilty. However, prioritizing self-care leads to being a calmer, healthier parent and something I think all parents can get on board with: modeling self-love and balance for your children.
Think of self-care as putting on your oxygen mask before you help your child. It’s important for you, but it’s equally important for the other members of your family. If your self-care routine is strong you will be able to use parenting tools and techniques that match your values. If your self-care is solid you will feel more connected to your children. If your self-care is consistent you will build resilience and create a buffer to help you navigate the inevitable challenges of parenthood.
Here are five ways to develop a meaningful self-care practice:
- Laugh. Are you tired of reading blog posts that tell you to meditate? The benefits of meditation are indisputable, but if it’s not your cup of tea there’s no need to worry. The good news is joyful laughter has been shown to produce the same brain wave frequencies as a meditative state. When you’re laughing, or meditating, it leads to heightened feelings of contentment, clarity, and focus. So, call one of your friends and share the last ridiculous thing your child said, look up some giggle-inducing memes, or turn on one of your go-to comedy movies.
- Breathe. Especially for those who find a formal meditation practice to be overwhelming, deep breathing is an easy way to decrease tension. You can release stress in your body by focusing on just one deep breath. Other ways to pause include doing a few yoga poses or kid-friendly breathing exercises (e.g. blowing a pinwheel) so you can get some self-care time in even while you are with your kids.
- Play. Another self-care practice that doesn’t get a lot of attention is making time for play. Ask yourself what you did as a child just for fun. Was it building blocks, dancing, playing sports, singing or creating art? It can feel silly at first, but try to tap into your inner child and remember the positive message you are sending to your children: that life isn’t always about a productive outcome, and that doing things just for fun is valuable too.
- Connect. Investing in the relationships that bring you joy is a core part of any self-care routine. When the kids are snoozing, take time to reach out to your mamma or papa village. Making time for intentional connection leads to feelings of connection, happiness, and confidence. The bonus is that staying connected to our loved ones also boosts our immune system and lowers stress.
- Rest. Prioritizing sleep helps us regulate our mood so that we are calmer and more compassionate with loved ones, including ourselves. If you struggle to get solid sleep, research sleep hygiene for some guidance. Effective strategies might include reducing caffeine in the afternoon or charging your phone outside your room while you rest. As parents, we often struggle with the desire to have more “me time” after the kids are in bed at the expense of our own sleep. Sometimes self-care is about doing things that aren’t necessarily fun, and that you’ll be glad you did the next day. Find a balance that works for you, but try to prioritize sleep at least a few nights a week.
Parent Self-Care recently surveyed 123 U.S. parents to better understand how they are coping during the Coronavirus. The top two self-care strategies they are prioritizing are talking with loved ones and getting sound sleep. These parents are on the right track, as staying connected and rested leads to more empathetic, adaptable, and playful caregivers.
Set yourself up for success by picking no more than three goals to focus on at a time. Start with the goal that you are most excited about: you’ll be more likely to follow through and start reaping the benefits of a regular self-care practice. Be well, and take good care.
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 a blog and Instagram account focused on helping parents invest in their wellness.
Blog: Parent Self-Care