If you are a parent who is endlessly taking care of others before you have a moment to think about yourself, you may need to incorporate some regular self-care in your life. With fall routines getting in place in your home, here are nine way to make self-care as routine as brushing your teeth from Marriage and Family Therapist Amelia Peck!
Tip 1: Schedule Self-Care
Self-care is a hot topic right now. It is essential to your well-being and is much more than massages and mani/pedi appointments. But self-care doesn’t happen on the fly. You have to be intentional with your time because if you aren’t it just won’t happen the way you need it. That’s why this is the first step!
Self-care Practice: Don’t let the scheduling piece overwhelm you. You don’t need to block off hours of your time. If you feel your schedule is so overwhelming right now, even dedicating 10 minutes to something is a good start. The point is to simply start!
Tip 2: Practice Self-Care Baby-Steps
Everyone has stuff to do. We prepare the kids for school, make sure things are ready for sports practices, plan (or at least semi-plan) dinners for the week, and the to-do list goes on. If you are looking at your family calendar on Sunday evening as you gear up for the week, it may look like you are at the bottom of a large mountain.
Self-Care Practice: Break your week down into baby-steps. Look at things day by day. Who is doing what? Who needs to be where? Maybe designate certain days for certain tasks. For example, laundry on Mondays, clean the bathrooms on Tuesday, etc. Many people delegate a potion of Saturday or Sunday to plan meals for the week to make sure there are healthy options ready to go versus running around the kitchen when everyone gets home from school and work.
Advanced Tip: If you have kids over the age of five, it is likely they can do some items on your to-do list as well. Teach them to put out their shin guards for soccer, and how to turn their laundry right-side out before putting it in the laundry basket. Not only does this help you as you check off your list, but it gives them a better sense of agency and responsibility in the home. True, in the beginning, it may feel like more work, but consistency is key and as they experience the benefits of being prepared, and consequences of not, it is a fabulous ongoing learning experience.
Tip 3: Categorize Priorities
Once you have broken down your week’s to-do list into baby steps, delegate what you can, then categorize what is most pressing for the week ahead. If your regular week is pretty full, a week filled with additional meetings or a doctor’s appointment can throw you for a loop.
Self-Care Practice: On a calendar, white board, or whatever your family uses to keep things organized, incorporate color coding for what is a higher priority that week. If there is a parent-teacher conference, special project, or meeting that week write it in a bold bright color. Choose another color for regularly scheduled appointments that have to be met, and then pick a third color for bonus items. These can be activities the family enjoys once the to-do list is done or maybe even a fun reward for conquering a taxing week like a family outing for ice cream.
Tip 4: Guard Your Intake
A very common theme I encounter with parents is Instagram envy! It is so easy to see someone’s filtered snapshot and feel that their life is more fulfilling and interesting than yours. But remember, all that is, is a filtered snapshot. It is easy to brag about a new car or a huge vacation someone is taking. No one is posting about their new $500/month car payment or the credit card bill they are paying off the rest of the year because of that vacation.
Self-Care Practice: If you find yourself scrolling through Instagram, Facebook, or other platforms and notice your feelings turning sour, it may be time to do some editing (or deleting it altogether). When someone is plaguing your feed and it’s robbing you joy, simply unfollow or block. Remind yourself that the decisions you make for your family are because you know what is best for them and right now is not the season for new cars and massive trips to Disney. Stay the course!
Advanced Tip: Dreams and goals are great. Write them down! What will it take for your family to get to that goal? Share it with your partner, and plan together. You will enjoy those moments so much more when you make it there in the right time.
Tip 5: Direct Your Mind
More than you know, you are in control of your thoughts and feelings. It is so easy to let sleep deprivation, tight budgets, and being stretched in all directions to open your mind to thoughts of feeling not enough, insufficient, and unvalued. The battles we face physically and mentally can feel isolating, and keeping our minds engaged in how we choose to do life is vital.
Self-Care Practice: Gratitude Meditations. This is my favorite self-care strategy that I practice each day. Every family has a season that hits them hard. There are days where I feel that nothing will get better or that we aren’t going to be able to provide what we hope for our kids. But in those times, I take a pause, and think of what I’m grateful for. There are different ways to practice gratitude meditations, and here are the two I recommend to clients most often. Pick what works best for your natural habit forming behaviors, because this is the one you want to stick!
Gratitude Meditation A:
Find three to five quiet minutes to yourself and think of one thing you are grateful for and just concentrate on it. Allow your mind to bring up reasons why or times that make you grateful for that one thing. Sit in those moments and just enjoy them for a short while. If you feel your mind creeping negative thoughts back in, tell that thought, (literally, say it out loud if you need to) “this is not your time, go away.”
Gratitude Meditation B:
If sitting in the quiet isn’t for you or you know it’s something you can’t make routine, practice on going gratitude thoughts. When a negative thought comes into your mind, cover it up by saying something you are grateful for. For example, a negative thought says, “no one will appreciate all the work you do, why do it?” Gratitude redirection, “I’m grateful I can help provide this home for my kids to come back to every day. They may not understand the work now, but they will later, and this is a way I set that example for them.”
Tip 6: Know Your Tribe
So often, life’s journey takes us in and out of friendships. Friends you had before you were married or had kids may not feel as close now, but every parent needs their tribe.
Self-Care Practice: Having a group of friends that you can reach out to when you need is so important. Sometimes you need to send a quick text and say, “I’m having a rough day”. Or asking for 10 minutes to talk is gold. It is absolutely quality over quantity. Always remember depth over width!
Advance Tip: Not everyone is going to be in your tribe, and that is ok, they don’t have to be!
Tip 7: Say NO
Pressure to meet the expectations of everyone around you is real. This is a way to hit the pause button on the constant outpouring you feel yourself giving.
Self-Care Practice: While there are things only you can take care of, there are other things to which you can say no. If you are a “yes person,” and want to be more of a “no person,” practice with something small that won’t have major consequences or make major ripples in your life. You may quickly find how liberating and empowering it can be!
Tip 8: Say YES to Self-Care!
Let yourself say YES to something you really want, especially if it is something you would normally pass on.
Self-Care Practice: It is ok to go out and do something fun for yourself once in a while! This may be where the massage or mani/pedi might come in. Or maybe it’s just going out for coffee with a friend and having some grown-up time! Life is always busy and it may be awhile before you feel you have ample time to be regularly social. But it is good and healthy to occasionally find just a few hours for you and a friend.
Tip 9: Set Self-Care as Your New Must-Do!
Once you know what helps you get that boost you need, it is now a must-do on your to-do list. Once you start prioritizing self-care, everyone in your family will reap the benefits, too!
What are your best self-care tips? Share in the comments or with loved ones on your favorite FamilyApp!