6 self-care tips for stressed-out parents
As a parent, the concept of self-care may seem foreign to you. Some of you may have received the following messages: self-care is selfish, you must sacrifice everything for your children, self-care isn’t important, and/or there is not enough time for self-care.
However, self-care is required for survival, especially in times of stress. One universal stressor that has contributed to additional stress for parents, children, and families involves the current pandemic. The American Psychological Association (APA) conducted a study to explore the impact of pandemic-related stress on parents. The results are not likely to be very surprising:
48% of parents reported that the level of stress has increased since the start of the pandemic
75% of parents say they could have used more emotional support than they received
31% of parents say their mental health has worsened since the start of the pandemic
Individual and family-related stressors can add extra layers to these concerns. This data illuminates the need for self-care.
Self-care and its importance
Self-care involves a variety of actions you can take to improve your health and your ability to take care of your responsibilities. Self-care strategies can involve activities that promote your physical, psychological, emotional, spiritual, social, and/or professional wellbeing.
Self-care is important because….
It ensures your own needs are met. Neglecting yourself can impact ability to take care of your responsibilities and may contribute to using less than optimal parenting strategies. (Have you ever been so tired that you give into your child’s demands against your better judgment because you do not have the energy to manage the potential tantrum? This has surely happened to me as an imperfect parent and a child psychologist)
You are a model for your child. Modeling self-care is the best way to teach your child about self-care!
6 tips to incorporate self-care into your life
1. Stay Connected. This is easier said than done, especially now. However, parents need more support than ever. It is important to be creative in staying connected to others. Try Zoom dates with friends, venture outside for a hike with friends, or schedule appointment times to call friends to catch up.
2. Practice self-care throughout the day. Self-care does not have to mean a full spa day. Though it’s great if it can be that sometimes. All you need is to allocate 15 minutes or 30 minutes to some self-care activity. You can also help your kids do the same. This may mean taking a walk or watching your favorite show.
3. Don’t skip the basics. One easy way to incorporate self-care involves healthy lifestyle habits. Try to prioritize adequate sleep, physical activity, and healthy eating. You can start with one area and slowly add more habits. These are small ways to ensure you are engaging in self-care.
4. Cut yourself some slack. Be kind to yourself if you’re not as productive, if household chores don’t get done as quickly, if you cannot volunteer for as many events, if you have to say no to a commitment, or if you have less patience with your children sometimes. Practice self-compassion.
5. Explore new self-care strategies. It may be helpful to explore the following toolkits that have been created by the National Institute of Health. They have toolkits for physical, emotional, and social wellness.
Physical Wellness: https://www.nih.gov/health-information/physical-wellness-toolkit
Emotional Wellness: https://www.nih.gov/health-information/emotional-wellness-toolkit
Social Wellness: https://www.nih.gov/health-information/social-wellness-toolkit
6. Seek help, if needed. Sometimes, parental stress may be severe enough that you need help managing it. If you are unable to cope, if strategies you are using aren’t helpful, or if you are using substances to cope, please consider talking to a mental help professional.
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