Stressed? Tired? Anxious? Feeling rushed? It’s depressing, but it’s normal for parents to feel all those feelings and emotions. Generally, parents feel overwhelmed on two levels. First, there is a level of personal burden because there is just so much going on. There’s your job, money, housing, personal health, goals, cooking, cleaning, and (of course) the kids. The second level is the psychological burden, and this includes worries, guilt, and expectations – the feeling that your kids are supposed to be getting a better lifestyle.
According to the Zero to Three organization, almost half (48 percent) of all parents feel like they are not getting the support they need and are stressed. A big chunk of the support parents aren’t receiving stems from their lack of prioritizing self-care.
Self-care is a way parents can make sure that their own needs are being met. If a parent is not taking care of themselves, it’s impossible to conceptualize that they can take care of another human being. Self-care and mental health are very much connected. Neglecting one can have a negative impact on the other, and sometimes parental burnout becomes severe enough that an individual cannot overcome it on their own. This is why it’s critical for parents to incorporate a self-care plan into their daily schedule.
There is a social stigma that portrays self-care as selfish and/or self-absorbed; however, there are clear physical and emotional signs that indicate you need a self-care plan. (But you shouldn’t wait to experience these signs before taking action.) Some of those signs are:
- Change in sleeping or eating habits
- Headaches, dizziness, or upset stomach
- Feeling unsafe, unhappy, guilty, vulnerable, anxious, or lonely
- Difficulty concentrating
- Withdrawn or irritated, crying or angry outbursts
Parents should know that self-care isn’t chocolate treats or bath bombs, self-care is much more. Here are effective self-care tips for overwhelmed parents:
It doesn’t need to be super long – in fact, your meditation session can last five minutes. If you’ve never practiced meditation, try a guided meditation. There are apps, websites, books, and podcasts that walk you through the steps. Scientists have found that breathing exercises can help reduce your stress in just a couple of minutes.
Positive Psychology created a stellar list of their top 50 meditation books. They’ve provided a brief overview and highlighted ways each book could maximize your meditation experience.
Do something just for you without kids.
The misconception behind doing something for yourself is that there is a hefty price tag. Clearly, that’s not true. There’s an array of things you can do, without your kids, to benefit your psyche and contribute to centering your mind and body. A few suggestions we have are: taking a quick walk outside, exercising, taking a hot shower, reading, making your favorite coffee or tea, talking with a friend, gardening and tending to plants, join a book club, listen to music, or write in a journal. These are just a few of the many ways you can do something for yourself.
Carve out time to be alone.
No, this doesn’t fall into the category of doing something without kids – this is another time you’re alone. Now we get it, sometimes you can’t be totally “alone” – your kids may still be in the house. But, if you’re creative, you can make time to be alone and breathe. If you implement this downtime within your household, the structure will work.
Five to ten minutes is all we’re really hoping for, and having that time of isolation can do wonders for your overall well-being. Give your kids screen time, set them up with a snack, or get them started on their homework. When your kids are completing a task or activity, lock yourself in a room (bedroom, closet, bathroom) and relax. Put your phone down, breathe, and clear your mind. It may sound silly, but those 5-10 minutes alone each day will help you reset and prepare for the next thing on your agenda.
Oftentimes parents put their social life on the back burner, and their free time revolves around their children. Be intentional and take time to be present with your friends and family. If you’re unable to leave or separated by distance, schedule reoccurring video chats with your loved ones. Your well-being will benefit greatly from social activity.
If you’re in a relationship, set up a reoccurring date night with your partner. Your relationship will thrive if you invest time with each other. Your date doesn’t need to be a night out. Get creative and set up something at your place. Being alone together will provide you with the opportunity to focus on each other without any distractions.
The Journal of Depression and Anxiety has found a link between high usage of social media sites and increased depression. People who used social media the most were about 2.7 times more likely to be depressed than participants who used social media the least.
There are thousands upon thousands of studies that link depression and anxiety directly to social media. The initial idea of social media was great, but it has spiraled into a ploy of ads and perfection. People follow people they don’t know and compare their reality to theirs; however, the truth is the reality shared on social media is heavily filtered and skewed.
Try uninstalling social apps from your phone – this way you’re removing the convenience of the highlight reel. Set timers on your social media scrolls and adhere to those time limitations. Unplug your device for at least an hour every night. Consider setting aside one weekend a month to step away from your phone. Separate your technology from the bedroom by keeping your phone out of that room – purchase an old fashion alarm clock and stop using your phone. By cutting down your social media consumption, you’ll have more time to do something that makes you happy and feeds into a more positive well-being.
Self-care is more than eating healthy, sleeping, and moving your body. Self-care encompasses your mental health. Stop worrying about perfection. Your kids are never going to rave to their friends about your tidy home, ability to keep an empty sink of dishes, or your laundry skills – and actually, you’re not toting around those accomplishments either. Pace and prioritize yourself so you can feel less overwhelmed and take better care of your children.