The idea of self-care is all around us, but when you’re juggling all the demands of being a parent or carer, it can feel out of reach. It's understandable that self-care gets lost in the mix when you've got so much going on.
The other side of the coin is that looking after yourself is crucial to feeling calmer and more positive as a parent or carer. It also improves your communication and interaction with your children.
It can seem like a conundrum. While it's important to take more time to focus on yourself and your needs, life gets in the way.
However, you don't need to make big changes to take good care of yourself.
Slowly, gently, you can tweak your routine and make tiny adjustments to help meet your needs to feel like the best version of yourself.
Here are some steps you can take to improve your self-care.
TUNING INTO YOUR WELLBEING AND NEEDS
You don't have to eat perfectly or exercise daily to keep your body healthy. You can take good care of yourself by making small changes that feel good for you and fit into your schedule.
It could be a gentle stretch in the morning, getting up early to have a quiet cup of coffee or tea, going for a short walk, taking deep breaths, spending time with a pet, having an uninterrupted shower or readjusting your family's sleep schedule so everybody wakes up feeling better rested.
Little by little, each action and decision can add up to form new, positive patterns.
Emotional and mental self-care:
Emotional self-care is a lesser known, yet equally important, form of self-care. In today's stressful world, it’s more critical than ever.
After all, the experience of parenting brings a lot of emotions. Stress, frustration, tiredness, exhaustion and anger are normal. But it’s also important to acknowledge and understand those emotions so that you can respond calmly and constructively.
Children learn a lot by watching and noticing cues about how you manage, process and express your feelings. When you tune into your feelings and understand them, it helps your children to express their own uncomfortable feelings in healthy ways.
If you're in the thick of parenting, remind yourself that yes, it can be tough. A dip in confidence or self-doubt is normal, but you are never alone on your parenting journey. Reaching out to others, asking for help and getting support when needed is normal and healthy.
Here are some other ideas to consider:
- Try mindfulness - slow down, take a deep breath, and focus on the moment
- Talk to a friend or whānau member about your feelings
- Consider your boundaries - are you taking on too much?
- Take a moment to notice your triggers, pause and rethink how you can respond, instead of reacting.
Looking after yourself helps to strengthen your mental wellbeing, too, including how you manage emotions, cope with stress and deal with challenges.
After a long day, do you feel like all your mental energy is spent? You can improve your mental wellbeing by taking a walk outside, talking to a friend, reading a book, joining a group, learning something new, getting more sleep or eating well. Which of these ideas might work for you?
The little things you do to improve your mental wellbeing can make a big difference, which can influence your children to do the same.
At times, parents can feel isolated, lonely or disconnected from other people. Some can let their social network slip because they’re busy juggling everyone else’s needs, calendars and schedules.
You don't have to be a social butterfly to look after yourself socially. It could be a coffee with a friend, visiting a neighbour, attending an event or joining a team. What could you try? It could also mean spending time with people who boost your confidence and help you feel good. This gives children an opportunity to observe and learn the value of social self-care, too.
FILLING YOUR OWN CUP
When it comes to self-care, it’s handy to think of the phrase "you can't pour from an empty cup".
What if, instead of running on empty, you could prioritise small, meaningful actions that help you relax, recharge and reenergise? Would you have more positive energy to pour back into your role as a parent?
Self-care doesn’t have to be a big thing that takes up too much of your time. Every little thing you do to look after yourself makes a difference in how you think, behave and react throughout parenting's ups and downs.
There’s no one-size fit all and what works for you, might not work for others. Just like parenting, you get to choose what sort of self-care works best for you and your family. You don’t need to get it right all the time. And you won’t. Because sometimes life will take over.
By practising self-care, you can model that same adaptability and positivity back to your children. They’re watching and learning from you. They’re picking up on how you communicate, solve problems and handle stress.
And if your cup is fuller, it’s a win-win for everyone.