Managing a family, let alone a career and personal life, is one tough gig. Here are 10 wonderful ways to practice self-care so you're always fresh and ready for the task.
In a typical week, you organize and oversee your kid's busy lives, including school projects, sports practices, doctor, and hair appointments. You shop, cook, do laundry, take the dog to the groomer, manage your office workload, and still squeeze in last-minute errands for your spouse without giving it a second thought. Somehow, you accomplish everything on your to-do list, and then some, except for one essential thing—taking time out to focus on your own needs.
Finding the time to refuel your tank is vital for any human being but particularly for caregivers, including super-busy parents who serve others 24/7.
Finding the time to refuel your tank is vital for any human being but particularly for caregivers, including super-busy parents who serve others 24/7. It goes a long way in managing stress and living your best life. And yet, practicing regular self-care isn't an easy concept for many parents to embrace.
One reason many parents don't reenergize is that we scurry from one task to the next without living in the moment. Parenting guru Dr. Laura Markham strategizes tuning into our thoughts as often as possible throughout the day.
Simply being present with yourself is an essential form of 'attention' that we all need. We get hooked on the adrenaline of rushing. But you'll be better at your job if you get into the habit of being more present. And if you're home with children, it's essential.
Here are ten ways to make self-care a mindful priority in your busy life.
1. Practice the HALT method
Self-care means knowing who you are and recognizing your limits. It means recognizing when you are doing more than you're used to handling and figuring out how to slow down.
When you're starting to feel yourself getting burned out and overwhelmed, follow this helpful acronym—HALT. Stop and ask yourself whether you're feeling:
By taking a breather and paying attention to why you might be feeling crazed, you'll be able to address the culprit immediately rather than letting it fester until you eventually blowing up. For example, if it's now 2 p.m. and you haven't had anything but coffee since the kids left for school, sit yourself down (yes, you deserve to sit while you eat!) and have a healthy sandwich and a piece of fruit. Now you can gear up for when the bus rolls back down your street.
2. Reflective journaling and brain dumping
Self-care comes in a variety of ways. You may not be able to head to the spa for a full day of pampering, but you can treat your mind and spirit to the cathartic practice of journaling. Writing in a journal will help you preserve your memories but it will also help you process your feelings. Best of all, it's something very personal between you ... and you!
Writing in a journal is something very personal between you ... and you!
If you're not sure where to start, select a notebook or beautiful journal that inspires you and follow thoughtful writing prompts such as 32 Journal Prompts for Self-Reflection and Self-Care. I have a collection of journals that I use depending on my mood. I have one for family, dreams, finances, hobbies, etc. I also enjoy starting each day reflecting in my online journal with Penzu. It's free, and I can access it during stressful moments of my day or when I want to capture a special memory.
You can also try another journaling technique known as a brain dump. By releasing your frustrations and anxieties on paper, you declutter your mind and you can move on to something more productive. It's quite freeing!
3. Disconnect and do some "nexting"
Whether it's the news, social media, or emails, stop consuming excessive content that adds to your fear, stress, and anxiety. Learn to let go by disconnecting from the noise that continually envelopes you—cell phones, TV, radio chatter when you're driving. Instead, create a calm and peaceful headspace where you can joyfully drift away to a future event.
Create a calm and peaceful headspace where you can joyfully drift away to a future event.
In a Washington Post article about self-care, Shane Lopez (a Gallup senior scientist and author of Making Hope Happen) noted that studies show the anticipation of vacation can bring just as much psychological reward as the actual vacation. He referred to this as "nexting." (How incredibly clever!)
Knowing that relief and rest are coming keeps parents energized for today's puppet shows and snack times, tumbles and sibling tussles.
Grab your favorite beverage and spend five minutes (alone) "nexting" what you'll do when you don't have the kids underfoot. Will you soak in a hot bubble bath, window shop in a nearby town, eat a delicious lunch in that bistro you've always wanted to try? Make this new practice a habit that will help you escape those harried mom moments.
4. Tap into your creative side
Another way to boost your energy and take much-needed time for yourself is to tap into your creative side. There are many proven benefits of being creative such as mood elevation and its positive effect on the immune system. A 2010 review published in the American Journal of Public Health showed strong connections between art and mental health as well as physical health benefits.
Think about a hobby that makes you giddy with excitement. Or maybe you've always wanted to try your hand at painting or to learn how to crochet. Good self-care means taking the time to pursue your creative passions. The next time your child is quietly focused on a project, use that time to feed your own muse.
5. Build a mom nook
Mom caves were all the rage several years ago. Next, "she-sheds" took center stage. One crucial aspect of practicing loving self-care is carving out a sacred space to just chill out. My special place is the corner of my bedroom. It's decorated in teal, pale yellow, and a pop of fuschia. I have my writing desk, a small bookcase with my treasured books and journals, a small chest with mementos, and my favorite treats, including a bottle of wine!
Craft a small, personal space where you can go to relax and enjoy some quiet time—hopefully alone!
Check out this inspired article by Georgette Marise Interiors, Easy Steps to Creating a Mom Cave. You'll get some fantastic ideas on how to craft a small, personal space where you can go to relax and enjoy some quiet time—hopefully alone!
6. Binge romantic reads
Looking for a sensual way to spend some me time? Grab a romance novel for a healthy dose of fantasy.
Romance binge-reading has emerged as a popular way to spend the hours of quarantine time we've recently experienced. Many studies have shown that reading—whether you read a crisp, paper book or an e-book—has a positive effect on your mind and body.
Not only are romantic reads sexy and fun, but they also provide some terrific benefits. In 7 Amazing Benefits You Unknowingly Get From Reading Romance Novels, we can delight in our feminine side, realize it's okay to fall in love with love, and have the opportunity to learn from our lead character's mistakes. All this while being swept away in a fantasy world while we wait for dinner to finish cooking.
So the next time you're looking for something to read, consider reaching for a steamy romance, and you just might find that you have a new favorite genre.
7. Take an online class
Brushing up on your skills is an excellent way to stay on top of your game and recharge your batteries. There are hundreds of online classes available that make this convenient, affordable, and exciting!
An informative article from Business Insider offers several top-notch places you can investigate for just about any topic you can fathom. I just finished a class on Adobe Photoshop from creativelive.com, and I'm enjoying my newfound skill of creating showstopping images for my blog.
You can find plenty more online classes at:
If you'd like to learn more about good writing and grammar, QDT's own Grammar Girl, Mignon Fogarty, leads a fun, easy-to-understand LinkedIn Learning course!
8. Incorporate a new exercise video into your routine
If you're like myself and many other overscheduled parents, finding the time to exercise regularly can be a challenge. If hitting the local gym just isn't in the cards, investigate ways you can stay fit right from the comfort of home. Brock Armstrong, QDT's Get-Fit Guy, has a super variety of exercise routines and programs that you can easily fit into your schedule with his episode, 23 Exercise Videos for When You Have to Stay at Home.
9. Make healthy comfort food
Comfort food isn't exclusively about indulgence. If you'd like to reduce fats, experiment with a new way of preparing veggies, or whip up hearty casseroles that aren't laden with carbs, check out these comforting recipes that are both delicious and good for you. My family loves the air-fried grilled cheese and microwave sweet potato chips!
Cooking healthy is a tasty way to pamper yourself, and your family will benefit, too.
Cooking healthy is a tasty way to pamper yourself, and your family will benefit, too. Once you start concocting new recipes that are rich in taste and better for you, this new way of preparing meals will have a positive ripple effect on many other areas of your life.
It's more fun to play chef when you're not responsible for the kitchen cleanup, too. Teach your kids how to handle cleanup chores, or assign that task to your partner. While others clean the kitchen, you get to unwind!
10. Say yes to you
Finally, if you're looking to commit to one change that will afford you a more definite concept of self-care, start saying "yes" to yourself.
Even when you feel guilty about prioritizing yourself, say yes to you. Think about all the ways you go above and beyond for others but cut yourself short. (You know, you leave your manicure appointment with wet nails so you can pick up the kids early from soccer practice or you make fantastic lunches for everyone but forget your own.) Make a shift today to show yourself the same love!
When you take care of yourself, in essence, you're taking better care of your family. When you take the time to meet your own needs, it's a win-win for all!