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Wow, what a time of year, right?! All the lights, activities, shopping, hustle and bustle —all while parenting, too!
Parenting is a full-time job, and it requires a commitment to taking care of your child’s physical and emotional needs. But what about your own needs? When’s the last time you checked in on your own self-care practices?
Look, I totally get it. Self-care is probably one of the hardest things for us busy parents to actually stop and make time for. We’re running around taking care of our kids, clients, friends, family and responsibilities nonstop — the last person we check in with is ourselves. Instead, we just go and go and go, and at the end of the day we wonder: “Why am I so tired?”
Why is self-care important?
Self-care isn’t just a buzzword. It is actually something that can help us better manage those pressing responsibilities we have and help us better take care of our children. Yet, for a lot of us, self-care can be difficult to make time for.
You may be thinking: “Isn’t self-care selfish?” or “I don’t really have time for self-care.”
Well, when we are trying to take care of others and get everything done that needs to be done, we are constantly pouring a little bit out of our metaphorical “cup.” Each dip into our cup drains us a little bit more until we finally run dry. However, when we pause to give ourselves a little self-care and do something that we enjoy, we pour more into our cup and give ourselves the chance to refresh and actually improve our ability to be able to give more.
So what does self-care look like?
So what does self-care look like? Well, if I’m being honest here, I’m still figuring this one out.
Personally, I am easily swayed by the quick fixes and distractions of delicious treats and fun — yet addicting — phone games. These things, in appropriate doses, aren’t bad for us.
However, these are only short-term fixes that don’t support our long-term mental and emotional health. Longer-term fixes like pausing, deep breathing, distraction-free relaxing and healthy exercise give our brains and bodies boosts of energy and inspiration that can fill our cups better and longer.
Ideas to work into self-care routine
Here are some ideas for incorporating self-care into your routine:
- Connect with other parents through support groups, such as Parenting Now, WellMama and Baby Connection.
- Take some slow, deep breaths. When you have taken a full breath, pause for a moment and then breathe out slowly through your nose or mouth.
- Spend time in nature. It’s proven to help reduce anxiety and stress.
- Write down three things you are thankful for every day.
- Call a friend who will listen, and debrief your day.
- Spend quality time with your partner or friend.
- Use exercise as a way to reduce stress, improve your mood and physical health. Exercise has proven mood-boosting properties, and there are lots of fun ways to get the heart-rate going, including a family dance party, soccer game or running challenges.
- Practice mindfulness: A type of meditation where you intensely focus on what you are sensing and feeling in the moment without judgment. It takes your thoughts into the present moment rather than worrying about future events.
So, I encourage you during this hectic time of year to take a moment to find something that you used to enjoy but gave up, or something that you’ve been meaning to do for a while now but keep putting off. Take just a few moments to fully dive into that activity or just enjoy a few moments of peace and quiet.
You’ll find that even these short, dedicated times of relaxation and reflection can leave you feeling stronger, more invigorated and ready to face the next thing on your to-do list.
Michael Finlay is a parenting educator with Parenting Now, and a father of two. You can follow along on his parenting journey at This is Fatherhood, LLC.