Being a parent can be one of the most joyful experiences of your life, and it of course comes with great responsibility. That responsibility can wear even the most prepared parent to the point that your mental health may be in question at times. It can all become too much so quickly.
As parents and primarily as women, we are taught that all this responsibility lies on us. Many of us weren’t taught how to care for ourselves in ways that prevent burnout. I don’t ever recall growing up a moment when my mother and I spoke on the importance of self-care as part of wellness and well-being. This is why it is important to practice wellness habits.
Here are 6 ways parents can help keep your spirit and energy afloat:
1. Make a menu for the week
Unless you’ve done this, you don’t know how much of a life saver that planning your family meals can be. In these pandemic times, I think people are experiencing what I like to call food fatigue. Being home with the kids and having to figure out every breakfast, lunch, snack and dinner can be so mentally exhausting, especially if you have to work. I’d start well with breakfast, and by the time we got dinner, with all the complaints and the request for modifications, all I wanted to do was make them oatmeal with a side of fruit and send them to bed. I had enough of it.
Once I began meal planning, it began to get easier not having to think about what to make an hour before dinner. I also told my kids you eat what you can off that plate, since there is no force feeding at my house. I make small modifications, like if someone doesn’t quite like potatoes, they can have rice, but the full meal does not change. You also know that I am not a sous chef, therefore, if you refuse to eat, your only options are crackers and cheese or cereal. There will be no striking of the pot just for you. By all means, carry on with the tears while I enjoy my five star meal.
2. Breathing exercises and stretching with/without the kids
Breathing exercises are part of my daily routine whether it be for 2 or 5 minutes, several times throughout the day. Doing this is a reminder to be in the present, and connect with not not just your physical existence, but also make a spiritual connection. From the time the girls were little, I made it a point to teach them how to cope with big feeling/emotions by practicing breathing exercises. It has been a life saver, because nothing is better than finding a method that allows children to sit in their feelings and yet exit them in a calm and constructive way.
I also enjoy stretching with the girls at least twice a week, especially on Sundays. It is a time for us to keep limber bodies, but also to have fun. The laughter that happens when they exercise with me keeps me motivated and happy to share such simple joys with them. When I’m on my own, I enjoy the focus on stretches and that quiet time to focus on me. Just create a good routine and you will see the benefits.
3. Take warm baths/showers
Studies show that warm showers or baths help relieve symptoms of depression, increase energy, improve sleep. After a long day, nothing feels more soothing than taking a warm bath or shower. Outside of the physical cleansing, it acts as a spiritual cleansing that can help you feel like you’ve washed off the weight of today and you’re ready to venture out into tomorrow. Timing is also great with showers or baths. If you’re a single parent, a parent of very young children or a partner who is not home till after the kids’ bath time, reserve this sacred time for after they have been been put to bed. If you have help, request that all kids be kept away and really make this time for you; a glass of wine, candle, a good book, or maybe some other toys. I’m not judging.
Sleep is vital part of physical and mental wellness. Having too little sleep or the inability to have enough sleep leads to so many sleep disorders. So many parents walk around sleep deprived, because there is so much to do in so few hours. The demands of parenthood and life literally keeps us awake at night. Whether you need to consult your doctor or create a sleep routine, find a way to begin improving your sleep or burnout will be in your future.
I love writing, and for me, journaling is easy, but even that took a back seat for some time. Fortunately, journal entries don’t have to be two pages long to feel adequate. Something as simple as how you feel when you got up can be a great start. My therapist reminded me that even one word is enough, because sometimes that is all you can muster up for the day. Just expressing that emotion is a great thing especially since being a mom or dad is an emotionally exhausting responsibility. While your child expresses every emotion to the moon and back, you have to be calm and restrained so as to not make the circumstances worse. Those emotions are pushed into a corner of your brain. These need to be let out and released and journaling is a great start. Do it often and it becomes a great habit.
These are the habits I have tried to implement in my life with much success. It is okay to be a committed parent, but you also have to invest in you. Share your own self-care tips.
(Photo by Rachel Claire on Pexels.com)