Self-care is the process of nurturing yourself physically, emotionally and spiritually. Without self-care, you can become tired, irritable, overwhelmed and even physically ill and this can negatively impact your family, work and social relationships. You know the basics…get enough sleep, exercise, eat nutritiously, etc. You know what you should do and you are probably tired of people telling you. Yet we often do not do what we should. So instead, how about we take a look at the barriers to self-care and some strategies to overcome these barriers.
1. Change your thinking. Often we do everything for everyone with no regard for our self-care. Recognize that putting yourself first is not self-centered or egotistical. When you take care of yourself, you will be better in all of your roles as parent, spouse, employee, etc.
2. Say no. You do not have to coach the soccer team, volunteer at your child’s school and bake for the PTA. Most likely you do these things because you enjoy them and you want to be involved in your child’s life but you do not have to do it all to be an involved parent. Pick one or two things.
3. Find a balance. You do not need to be present for every moment of your child’s life. It is okay to miss a baseball game to have lunch with friends. And this serves another purpose, helping your child develop independence.
4. Delegate. Although others may not do things the exact way that you would, remember your way is not the only way. Let your spouse do the laundry. Pick up cupcakes for your child’s birthday at Jewel. They will love just having the cupcakes. They will not care if the cupcakes are not homemade or are not from the most posh bakery.
5. Let go of guilty feelings. Guilt, feeling as if you need to do everything all the time, is one of the biggest barriers to self-care. Remember you are being a good parent by taking care of yourself. Try being nice to yourself and focus on what you are doing well, rather than focusing on your perceived shortcomings.
6. Do not compare yourself to others. Everyone is different. You have no idea the struggles of other parents. That “perfect” parent is most likely not so perfect after all. Focus on your strengths and know that you are being the best parent you can be.
7. Recognize you are being a good role model. Do you want your child to grow up to be someone who constantly puts the needs of others first, never says no, and is racked with guilty feelings for all their shortcomings? I am guessing not. So, recognize that by following these self-care strategies, you are setting a good example for your children, remembering that they will follow what you do, not what you say.
8. Be realistic. There will be times when you get only three hours of sleep and order take out. That is okay. Self-care does not mean being perfect and it does not mean taking an hour a day. A few deep calming breathes in the morning or a quick text to a friend can do the trick.
9. Schedule time. Look at your calendar. Are your children’s activities in there? How about your work meetings? What about self-care? Often, if it is not in the schedule, it does not happen. So, schedule in a standing monthly manicure appointment. Or hire a sitter one night a week every other week and go out to dinner with friends or even go to a movie alone.
10. Use your support system. Your friends are your friends for a reason. They like you and they want to be there for you. Alternate sitting nights so you each can have a date night. Or coordinate so you regularly have a sitter on the same night.