Parenting can be incredibly rewarding but there is no doubt it is exhaustingly busy too. Between school runs, making multiple meals, running the kids here, there and everywhere, or completing the to do list – it will feel some days you don’t have a second to yourself.
And I’m here to talk about self-care?! Yikes. You must think I’m mad!
Many parents I have worked with have described a desire for ‘guilt free time’ but feel like it is selfish.
The fact of the matter is, self-care is really about our personal health and wellbeing.
When discussing self-care, the metaphor ‘put your oxygen mask on first before helping others’ is often floated around. Though I agree with the concept, this example is of course an extreme one (cue the free-falling plane!). The point is, this is regularly used regarding self-care because, as parents, we tend to de-prioritise our own mental and physical wellbeing and before we know it, we are heading straight in the direction of burn-out and fatigue. Which of course, we desperately want to avoid!
Re-prioritising to practice more self-care is NOT absorption. Practicing self-care is in fact one of the best ways you can not only meet your own needs, but also your family’s.
But there’s a difference between self-care and self-indulgence. Self-care promotes long term wins, whereas self-indulgent habits will make us feel better in the short term (like binge watching that Netflix series that just came out or having that extra bowl of ice cream.) Self-indulgence can be fun but doesn’t always positively influence our health and wellbeing needs.
If we can begin to take better care of ourselves as parents, we will begin to role model this behaviour to our children. Children do what we do, not as we say, and being one of their key role models, by practicing this behaviour you are essentially teaching them the importance of looking after their own mental and physical wellbeing too! That’s a double positive in my eyes!
Feeding ourselves well and regularly is one of the biggest supports to fuelling the mind as well as the body. Try and focus on all that good stuff, tonnes of water, plenty of veg, protein and grains. Remember balance is key when it comes to our nutrition!
Sleep is a key component of both emotional and physical self-care, yet so many parents neglect it. When possible, aim to get at least seven hours of sleep every night. Having a bedtime routine of your own is really helpful for getting better sleep – so switch off from tech a couple hours before bed, and try to go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day to regulate your body clock. These types of habits will positively contribute to the refreshed feeling we all long for when we wake up!
Moving our bodies is essential for promoting wellbeing and lowering rates of depression and anxiety across all ages.
Being active doesn’t have to be super intense, the priority should be about it feeling good!! Simple additions to your day like walking to school with the kids, encouraging your family to take the stairs, or even getting off the bus a couple stops early can promote getting a few more of those active steps in. Maybe going for a swim as a family at the weekends? Going outside for a kickabout with your son or daughter who enjoys football? These are all things you can do together as a family.
There may also be an opportunity for some active ‘me time’ in the week. Consider what movement you enjoy – perhaps you and friend could try out going to yoga or a Zumba class, or that new Boxfit class that’s just opened down the road?
It has been scientifically proven that immersing ourselves in nature has wonderful benefits on our wellbeing as a whole. Having kids is the perfect excuse to get outside no matter the weather. Thanks to charities like the The Wildlife Trust who are rooted in local communities and neighbourhoods, it is much easier to access local nature spots. Going for a walk around a nature reserve allows us to interact with more wildlife, be outside and move your bodies together as a family.
Other ideas could include heading down to the local river to feed the ducks or heading to a local park, forest or field to explore these open spaces.
There is evidence that shows having supportive and loving connections where you feel close and valued is a fundamental human need and directly influences the promotion of our wellbeing.
Parenting can be an isolating experience, so it is crucial as a practice of self-care to connect with others. So reach out, send a text, organise a play date or coffee date with that friend you keep meaning to catch up with.
And lastly, don’t forget to prioritise those playful, soothing and warm experiences with your children. One of the greatest things about being a parent has to be having cuddles on tap!! Make the most of it… and remember – to get those feel-good hormones pumping, a hug needs to last 7 seconds, so hold tight a little longer (the average hug last 2ish seconds) to give you and your child that extra cuddly boost!
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