Subconsciously, you may admit that your self-care is important. Despite this, you brush it off because you simply don’t have the time. But, would you do the same thing if you broke your arm or came down with a serious ailment. Of course, you wouldn’t. You would seek treatment in order to heal.
The same is true with self-care. If you don’t attend to your own health and well-being, it’s much easier to feel overwhelmed or succumb to the negative side effects of stress and anxiety.
Thankfully, there are ways that busy parents can realistically practice self-care.
1. Make sure that you’re basic needs have been met.
Eating a healthy diet regularly, engaging in physical activities, and getting at least 7 hours of sleep each night can be difficult as a parent. But, these are the key components of self-care. As such, they need to become a priority by:
Prepping healthy meals for the week -- this can actually be a family activity on a Sunday.
Always caring around a snack and bottle of water just in case.
Having fun with your kids like going for a bike ride or playing soccer.
Setting and sticking to a schedule, like when you eat and to bed.
Establishing a bedtime routine that encourages you to relax, like not using electronic devices at least 30-minutes before and doing something relaxing like reading.
2. Harness your inner yogi.
Breathing exercises and 5-minutes of meditation can be enough to make you feel rejuvenated. “You don’t need any special equipment, and no one has to know you’re doing it,” says psychologist Adam Borland, PsyD. “You can do it whenever, wherever,” such as when you take your children to a chaotic playground.
3. Spend time in nature.
Numerous studies show that spending time outside is one of the best activities for your psychological well-being as this can lift your spirits and reduce anxiety. If possible, go for a walk during your lunch break or plan a family hike. If the weather doesn’t permit this, indoor plants and even looking at landscape images will make do.
4. Don’t over-commit.
Establish your priorities and become more selective before saying “yes.” For example, if you have invites to multiple birthday parties on the same day, you may have to decline one of them instead of trying to stressfully attend both functions.
5. Take mental health breaks.
“Parents must find ways to take breaks,” says Rheeda Walker, PhD, a clinical psychologist and author of “The Unapologetic Guide to Black Mental Health.” For example, using screen time strategically.
“Thirty more minutes of screen time for the kiddos might ‘sound bad’ but if 30 minutes will keep a parent from losing control and yelling at someone they love over a small matter, that extra screen time is 100 percent worth it,” she says.
During these breaks, do something to give you a mental health boost, like listening to a podcast, exercising, or catching up with a friend.
6. Celebrate Thanksgiving daily.
“If things are spiraling out of control, focus on positive self-talk, such as, ‘I have these two healthy children who are excelling,” says Dr. Borland.
You may also want to start a gratitude journal. Before going to bed, just write down the three things that you’re thankful for.
7. Visit your doctors regularly.
You should meet with your primary care physician at least once a year during your annual check-up. In addition to this, you should also regularly visit your dentist or specialist. All are simple ways to maintain your health and present serious illness. You can also ask for their advice on how to improve your self-care. And, because these are planned out so far in advance, you can add them to your calendar early enough to avoid any scheduling conflicts.
You may also want to begin working with a mental health professional. As teletherapy is becoming increasingly more common, you can meet with your therapist when you have the availability.
8. Double down on date nights.
“Get a babysitter and prioritize date nights or outings where it’s just you and your significant other,” says Dr. Borland. “It’s great for communication. It also helps re-establish what brought you together in the first place.”
Also, you may want to secure childcare for other activities, like meeting a friend for lunch or occasionally pampering yourself to a trip to the movies or spa.
9. Practice bite-sized behaviors.
Psychotherapist Kirsten Brunner, LPC, suggestions that you engage in the following small but beneficial activities:
step outside to savor some fresh air
sit in the car to catch your breath
take a hot bath
process your feelings with your partner
watch a funny or inspiring show
Brunner, for example, plays soft classical music in her kitchen every morning: “It has a calming effect on the whole family.”
10. Be kind to yourself.
Remind yourself that you’re doing the best you can. And, it’s alright to acknowledge and feel your feelings. Most importantly, if you’re feeling extremely overwhelmed, it’s time to lower your expectations and give yourself permission to let certain things go, like skipping chores occasionally.