Anyone who needs to be emotionally available to another person needs to pay attention to self-care. Parents are required to wear many hats, even more so these days, when many children are being home-schooled. Juggling the kids, work pressures, relationship strain, fears and uncertainties around the future all compound the pressure. Prolonged periods of chronic stress can result in burnout and with burnout you start to lack empathy. You become irritable and have a shorter fuse and may end up snapping at those around you, apart from the physical and emotional consequences of chronic stress.
Unpack the guilt
Many parents feel selfish in wanting to take time for themselves and tend to prioritise the kids, work and the home over their own needs. The truth is though, that in failing to take care of yourself, you are less able to take care of others. So, it becomes a priority and absolute necessity to carve out time to look after your essential needs.
Look after your body and mind
The ‘foundational four’ is a good place to check in and to make adjustments in your daily life. Caring for your body includes healthy eating, getting enough sleep, staying active and maintaining social connections.1 Reflect on these four areas in your life and note which of them may need a little more attention or focus. Of course, some may seem easier to achieve than others – perfection is not the point! Work within your limitations and try address these needs as best as you can.
Maintain your relationships
One of the aspects that contributes greatly to overall health and resiliency is the encouragement and security that you receive from healthy relationships. Your social connections in general, but particularly with those close to you, provide an enormous buffer to stress.
When going through periods of stress, you may slide into isolating behaviours as a way of coping with the overwhelm you’re experiencing. Ultimately, this can do more harm than good, and it is important to lean on the social support that you do have available.
Ask for the Help you Need
While you may think it’s all up to ‘me’ – sometimes it’s just a matter of asking for help! Don’t assume that your partner, friend or colleague knows that you’re struggling – speak up! Be honest and risk a little vulnerability and reach out when you need help. No one is expected to do it all alone – but you can’t get help if no one knows you need it!
Create a Daily ‘ME’ Ritual
The idealised notion of ‘balance’ is not so much a static state of being to be achieved, but rather a dynamic equilibrium found in the continual motion of life. This requires a level of flexibility within yourself that enables you to respond to each changing moment as opposed to being overwhelmed by the curveballs that invariably come your way.
Creating even a small space each day for yourself goes a long way to strengthening your flexibility and ability to respond appropriately to life’s demands. Here are some great ideas that you can try out as your daily personal ‘reset’2:
Do a series of 2-3 favourite yoga poses.
Meditate or listen to a guided imagery exercise.
Read a favourite poem.
Play or sing a favourite song.
Stretch or use progressive muscle relaxation.
Wash your face or brush your hair.
Massage your feet.
Eat a piece of fruit. Savour every bite.
Play with your pet.
Hug someone you love.
Listen to a favourite comedian.
Read an article about something you enjoy.
Have a cup of tea (skip the caffeine if you’re feeling anxious or not sleeping well).
Watch the clouds float by.
By incorporating small but intentional spaces in your day and week for yourself, you will find you are able to ride the waves of life with a little more ease.