Self-care is key for our physical and mental health, especially as parents. So why is it usually the first thing we trade in when our schedules become too busy?
As parents, we tend to forget that happy, healthy, balanced children need happy, healthy, balanced parents. Seldom do we give self-care the importance that it deserves. However, sooner or later, the lack thereof will show its repercussions. We feel stressed, exhausted, impatient – in other words, we struggle to be ourselves.
So how can you make sure you take care of yourself despite all the other things that need to get done? Here are a few strategies to incorporate regular self-care into your life as a parent.
Make yourself a priority
With all the items on a parent’s to-do list, consciously deciding that your wellbeing is a priority for you and your family is key. Only after understanding that your needs must be met for you to have the resources to take care of others will you be able to take the necessary action to make time for self-care on a regular basis.
We need to understand that being a mom or a dad doesn’t change the fact that WE should be the most important person in our lives. I’d even go further and say that it’s even more important as a parent as it’s the only way to take good care of our children.
Let go of guilt
Does what you just read sound egoistic to you? Do you feel guilty when you take care of yourself?
I must admit that knowing that self-care is crucial for me, especially as a single mom, doesn’t prevent me from struggling with feelings of guilt when it comes to taking time for myself. However, when I neglect my needs, I know that I can become impatient, moody, be less attentive, or even feel resentment. Those feelings remind me that I’m not only doing it for me but also for the people around me.
If you find it very difficult to let go of negative feelings when trying to make time for yourself, positive affirmations can come in handy. E.g., “I am important”. “I deserve to be happy.” “I deserve the best”. They will help you replace your negative feelings and shift your mindset.
Know why you’re doing it
Knowing why self-care is crucial for you will help you stay committed and motivated to stick to your self-care routine.
Self-care is often neglected and associated with feelings of guilt because people often see it as a kind of luxury. Much to the contrary, we must realize that taking time for ourselves is nothing more than meeting our basic needs. We all have the right to rest, relax, do something we like, connect to our body.
You will get more out of your me-time if you keep these needs in mind when deciding what to do when you take time for yourself.
Jump on any self-care opportunity
If you wait until you can take a day or even a weekend off before you take time for yourself, you will be needing the off-time so dearly that even these days won’t be enough to fill your cup. As a parent, we should learn to take advantage of every opportunity to take time for ourselves – even if it’s for five minutes. There are so many little enjoyable moments that we can build into our life: listen to music or an audiobook while you drive, walk or cycle to your destination instead of taking the car, take advantage of your lunch break to meditate or go for a walk, etc.
Not only will taking regular breaks help you recharge your batteries but it will also set a habit of self-care.
Schedule it in
It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that self-care doesn’t need to be planned – that we can take time off once the rest of our duties has been done. However, the caveat is that this time never comes. There’s always “something else” we have to do.
If you really want to commit to taking care of yourself, you need to treat your me-time just as any other item in your schedule. There are no restrictions as to how much time you schedule in. No matter if it’s 5 minute of slow breathing, a 20-minute reading session or an afternoon shopping – plan the time in!
Of course, there’s nothing against spontaneous self-care acts. It could be because you feel that you urgently need to take of yourself (you are sick, exhausted, are facing a difficult situation) or thanks to an unexpected gap in your schedule.
Ask for help
If you are like me, you probably avoid asking others for help if it’s not really necessary. However, as mentioned in the first item of this list, your wellbeing and needs are a priority!
There’s no harm in asking a friend, a family member, or even a sitter to cover for you during an afternoon, an evening, or a day. You could also have the children spend a weekend or a few days at their grandparents’. Another option could be to take turns with another family with one family taking care of all the children while the other adults take time for themselves.
Learn to say no
Learning to say no and set boundaries is crucial when it comes to finding time for self-care – especially as a parent.
If you are willing to take time for yourself, there will be less room for other activities or commitments. Especially at the beginning, when we might already feel guilty of taking time off, being assertive about your boundaries can be challenging. Moreover, people around you might show resistance or even try to talk you out of your endeavor.
Do your best to stand your ground and remember why you are taking time for yourself. Sometimes, saying no to someone is saying yes to yourself.
Self-care is an essential part of parenting. At the end of the day, making room for self-care is less a question of time than a question of prioritization. As soon as you start giving self-care the importance it deserves, you will see the positive impact on your life and the life of the people around you.