Practicing self-care is the most important thing we can do for our families! As parents, we are constantly giving, giving, giving to our children, to our spouses/partners, to our friends, to our jobs and to our communities. It’s challenging to set boundaries with our time and energy, but it’s critical that we learn to practice regular self-care. Self-care actually makes us better parents! We make better parenting decisions when we are calm and centered and not under enormous stress and anxiety. When we make time for exercise, for example, we have more energy and those exercise endorphins help us get through a day filled with deadlines and meetings at work or a day at home with our kids, school pick up, after-school activities, homework and that notorious witching hour before bedtime!
When we take care of ourselves, we are also modeling for our children the value in making positive life choices that bring peace and joy to our mind, body and spirit. Our children look up to us and to the way we lead our lives. If they see constant chaos and stress, that is what they learn. If our children see joy and laughter and occasional stress, they learn that life has ups and downs but is overall fairly balanced. By practicing self-care, we are also teaching our children to listen to their own inner voice and needs. To value themselves, to practice their own self-care and to set healthy limits.
What happens when we don’t practice self-care? We are more prone to lose our temper, to criticize, to scream or yell when faced with those challenging parenting situations that pop up each day! The next time you lose your cool with your child, consider noticing how well you had taken care of and paced yourself that day. A simple self-care tool that works for me is a deep belly breath. Our daughters call it a yoga breath and if they notice me feeling overwhelmed, they know to remind me to take a yoga breath! Similarly, when our kids are spiraling out of control due to exhaustion or when one of the girls are in the midst of a tantrum, Chris and I will remind them to take 3 yoga breaths. Want to try one for yourself? Take a slow, deep breath from your belly (try to make your stomach rise) and see if you feel a little calmer after a few.
Start a self-care plan that you can follow and incorporate into your life. Here’s a few simple self-care tips:
1. Be mindful of the foods you eat and serve your family. Try to eat balanced, healthy meals, most of the time anyway! I don’t believe in dieting, I’m focused on intuitive eating and listening to your body. When you’re hungry–truly hungry–not bored or lonely or sad, then eat! When you’re not, don’t! I’m a big fan of Trader Joes and find lots of great organic fruits, vegetables and meats, pre-made salads, and healthy snacks for the kids. I know that if I don’t eat regular meals and snacks, I am also more prone to headaches so I keep non-perishable healthy snacks at my desk and in my minivan, too.
2. Think about adding exercise into your day or at least into your weekly schedule. Go for a run or a run/walk 2-3 times a week or make regular plans to walk with a friend. If you’re a stay-at-home mom with young children and you find it hard–if not impossible–to find time to exercise, consider joining a gym that has childcare on site.
3. Feeling stressed before bed? Do you find yourself waking up at night? Try taking a lavender bath before you go to bed.
4. Read! I know that after a full day, a lot of us simply want to collapse into bed and turn on the TV at night. It that relaxes you, great! But you might also consider carving out 10 minutes of reading before you go to sleep. I’ve found that reading is a wonderful way for me to relax and unwind from a busy day.
5. Make time for friends. Accept that invitation for a mom’s night out or a night out with the guys. When we have time to connect with our friends, we come back to our families recharged! I love talking to other moms, asking for their advice and hearing stories from their day. Real, open and honest conversation among parents is so freeing. True friends give us the love, support, acceptance and encouragement we need to not only survive, but thrive!