Self-care for Parents

“Put your oxygen mask on first before assisting others.” Most of us have heard these words as we scramble to get ourselves situated before a flight. It is sage advice that should be incorporated into your daily life – not just inside the cabin of a 737. As a parent, there can be a strong impulse to persistently prioritize the needs of the family over your own. However, it is important to understand that making time for self-care is not selfish; on the contrary, it is imperative to nurture your own mental and emotional health so that you can be the best version of yourself for your loved ones.

The realities of COVID-19 make self-care even more important.  Parents during the pandemic have faced concerns over income and lost work, balancing job roles with distance learning and child care, and, of course, the health and safety of their family members.

Everyone has different sources and triggers of stress in their day-to-day lives. Likewise, there are just as many activities and practices one can employ to help alleviate this stress. Here are some examples of self-care that might work for you:

Sleep is arguably the most important part of self care, and yet, good sleep is hard to come by for parents. The positive news is that the quality of your sleep is more important than the number of hours you sleep, so work to get better, more restorative, zzzzzs.
-Follow a consistent routine
-Avoid caffeine before bedtime
-Avoid electronics 1-2 hours before bedtime
-Keep televisions outside of the bedroom
-Control noise and keep your room dark
-If you wake in the middle of the night, don’t check your phone

When you’re stressed, your cortisol levels rise. Cortisol can make you crave sugary, salty and fatty foods because your brain thinks it needs fuel to fight whatever threat is causing the stress. Eating a healthy diet can reduce the negative effects of stress on your body.  Be mindful of what triggers stress eating… and drinking!  A glass of wine can have a wonderful calming effect, but too much alcohol can trigger feelings of increased anxiety.
-Avoid fast foods
-Eat a healthy and balanced diet
-Arm yourself with healthy snacks
-Drink plenty of water
-Limit your sugar and alcohol consumption

Working out is a great way to relieve stress and increase both your energy levels and endorphins.  Many local gyms and private exercise studios are now open, but if you’re not ready to be sweating indoors with others, consider outdoor and home workouts.
-Take a walk around the neighborhood
-Go for a hike nearby
-Take a bike ride on a trail
-Do an online workout or yoga video

Check in with yourself and your emotions daily.  Pause when you’re feeling heated or overwhelmed and remove yourself from any triggers.  Find calm through mindfulness.
-Explore deep breathing
-Practice meditation
-Engage in positive self-talk
-Do yoga

Self-improvement and self-care are not synonymous, but engaging in enriching activities can be an excellent way to nurture and calm your mind.  Try something new!
-Take an online class
-Explore painting, crafting or pottery
-Learn a new recipe
-Learn a new language
-Try journaling

Sometimes we just need a good escape, but vacation time is hard to come by and travel is still restricted.  Escape from the comfort of your own home by tuning out the noise and tuning in to something fun.
-Read a book
-Listen to a podcast
-Listen to music
-Watch a show or movie

When you look good you feel good, and a little pampering can go a long way.  Spas and salons are now open, but if you can’t squeeze in an appointment, you can still pamper yourself at home.
-Take a epsom salt bath
-Explore aromatherapy by lighting a candle or diffusing essential oils
-Get a haircut or style your own hair
-Get a facial or try an at-home face mask
-Get a massage or use a foam roller to give yourself one
-Get your nails done or give yourself a home manicure/pedicure

Everyone needs a support system.  While social distancing and limitations on gatherings have made it harder to see loved ones, technology has made it easier to stay in touch.  Whether in person or online, make a concerted effort to connect with those who build you up.
-Schedule one-on-one time with your spouse/significant other
-Call your family and friends
-Host an online meetup via Zoom or Google Meets
-Meet a friend for coffee or a meal

These are just a few ways you can equip your own oxygen mask so that you are in a position to help others. It’s important that you take this time for yourself so that you are not constantly stressed and burnt out.  Children need their parents to offer a calm, stable, and predictable home environment to thrive. It’s a challenge, but as a parent, the best way to help your child is to take care of yourself.