The selfless work of raising children often goes unrecognized and unappreciated. As a parent, you deserve verbal affirmation that the effort you put in is invaluable. However, it’s also important to thank yourself with the gift of self-care.
Self-care is the practice of prioritizing your own mental, emotional and physical health. Caring for yourself may sometimes require you to take a break from your caregiving duties to focus on your own wellbeing. While this may make you feel guilty, making the time for self-care can help you become a better parent in the long run.
Reasons to make time for self-care as a parent
There are plenty of benefits to prioritizing self-care on your to-do list. Here are some perks you can expect when you incorporate healthy habits into your everyday routine.
Self-care keeps you healthy
Neglecting your own physical needs can leave you run down and lead to injury or illness. Keeping up with your doctors’ appointments, eating balanced meals and getting enough sleep can help you stay well enough to dedicate your energy to what matters most.
Self-care prevents burnout
Parents and caregivers of young children often run out of emotional steam from the taxing work of nurturing others while not taking the time to nurture themselves, resulting in burnout. Burnout can lead to anxiety, depression, anger, lashing out, exhaustion and other negative emotions. The best way to get back to a positive outlook is to give yourself regularly scheduled rest.
Self-care is a good example for your children
Visibly prioritizing self-care has benefits that trickle down to your kids. When your children watch you value your own health, they’re more likely to mimic your behaviors. The reverse is also true, so try not to establish a pattern of self-neglect.
Self-care can help you live in the moment
Have you ever gone through a whole day only to notice you never really spent intentional time with your kids? Being authentic with your kids requires taking time to step back and reflect so you don’t just robotically go through the motions of each day.
Self-care at different stages of parenting
Self-care and mental health change with the times and will likely go through ebbs and flows over the years. Here are ways each stage of self-care for parents differ.
Newborn and toddler stages
Taking care of little ones who depend on you for all or most of their needs is a unique challenge. Boost self-care during this period by taking advantage of naps, using the full parental leave available to you and investing in a babysitter as needed.
Raising school-aged kids
School-aged kids provide their own challenges, but they’re much more capable of remembering and engaging in structured daily schedules. As a family, this is a good time to make daily healthy habits stick, like morning quiet time or afternoon walks.
The teenage years
When your kids hit the teen years, remember that you’re setting an example. Demonstrate good self-regulation and emotional management by practicing self-care in the heat of a stressful moment.
How to start a self-care routine
It’s important to practice self-care on a regular basis. Don’t use your busy schedule as an excuse — the busier you are, the more essential self-care is. Perhaps you can start with just five minutes a day doing a high-impact relaxation technique, like deep breathing, prayer or meditation.
Regardless of whether you notice benefits at first or not, continue to build on that time, adding a few minutes or trying a new activity each week. Slowly, as self-care becomes more of a habit, your mood and mental health will improve. Use this as motivation to increase your self-care practices.
Tips for self care on a busy schedule
If you’re struggling to cram in even a few minutes a day, here are some ways you can work around an overloaded schedule.
Cut out non-essential tasks
Wake up earlier to practice self-care
Have your kids participate alongside you, having everyone spend 15 minutes of quiet time in their rooms every day
Take turns alternating with your spouse or another caregiver
Engage in self care practices together, like walks outside or family yoga
Teach your kids to notice signs of exhaustion in you and remind you to practice self care (this can turn into a teaching moment for socio-emotional skills and empathy)
If you’re truly having such a crazy day that incorporating self-care will add more stress than it relieves, carve out self-care time for yourself later in the week that you can look forward to.
When self care feels overwhelming
Just because it’s called self-care doesn’t mean you have to do it all by yourself. If you are struggling to engage in self-care and mental health exercises, try out counseling. With the guidance of a professional, you’ll find that you are better able to release stress and focus on enjoying your life again.
Pyramid Online Counseling can offer the support you need as you raise a family. Your kids, your spouse and others will notice a change when you say no to burnout and yes to self care. Get matched with a professional counselor today.