Check out Elizabeth’s Self Care Guide For Parents!
Being a parent is hard and remembering that you are still a person and need to practice self-care is even harder! Doing something for yourself does not make you a bad parent it makes you a better parent.
Self-Care for Parents and Why It Is So Important for You Child’s Development.
What does a day in the life of a parent look like? Wake up early whether it be by choice or by a child. Get yourself cleaned and dress and while you are doing this once simple task navigate getting 1 or more children ready of various ages and capabilities. Now make sure everyone has lunch and snacks for the day. You cannot forget to double-check everyone’s backpacks and cart everyone off to the various locations. Now that you have gotten everyone where they need to go it is time to work a full day. Depending on your children’s ages and interests after school may look just as hectic! Make sure all children are accounted for, get them to sports, clubs, therapies, and through the oh so dreaded homework. Now cook dinner, bath family, and put everyone to bed. While playing referee for any outbursts that may occur. Now that you have some alone time, you probably complete a variety of chores and other tasks.
While dropping some or any of these tasks may not be an option this article is to remind you that even as a parent self-care and stress management is crucial.
Multiple studies indicate a drop in cognitive function during times of stress and anxiety. Your stress is directly linked to your child’s stress and emotional regulation. Most importantly children learn through observing models. As your child is watching you make time in your busy schedule for self-care and utilize various techniques for emotional regulation, they are integrating this into their repertoire. Stress will also affect the manner in which you interact with your children. When you are stress and overwhelmed the smallest problem is too large for you to problem-solving. This is when you as a parent struggles to keep you calm and interact with your child in a calm regulated way. Remember if your way of dealing with a problem is to yell and lose control that is the way any child is your care is going to learn to handle problems.
Here are a few proven self-care techniques:
A Good Night Sleep:
Multiple studies show a direct correlation between inadequate sleep and diminished mental and physical health. Remember that what must get done around the house will still be there tomorrow and can wait if it is going to impede with a good night’s sleep.
Here is an article from The Harvard Mental Health Letter giving a more in-depth analysis of sleep and mental health https://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/sleep-and-mental-health
While it is a struggle to keep up with a healthy diet while juggling the rest of life it is very important. A study published in Psychosomatic Medicine: Journal of Biomedical Medicine finds that better quality diets result in decreased depression whereas a diet filled with processed and unhealthy food shows links to anxiety.
Here is a link that research article published in Psychosomatic Medicine: Journal of Biobehavioral Medicine: https://journals.lww.com/psychosomaticmedicine/Abstract/2011/07000/The_Association_Between_Habitual_Diet_Quality_and.9.aspx
Just like with our children heavy work and deep pressure aid adults with regulation as well. Sensory processing is a lifelong journey it does not stop after childhood. As an adult, we also benefit from sensory input. A study conducted between 2011 and 2018 indicates that all types of exercise lead to fewer poor mental health days. So, pick what works for you and it does not have to be an hour work out 10 –30 minutes a day is all it takes.
This is a link to a research article published in The Lancet: https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanpsy/article/PIIS2215-0366(18)30227-X/fulltext
There are many ways to practice mindfulness. You can meditate, do yoga, practice mindful eating, mindful journaling, and over try to practice a mindful life. This means you are giving you full focus to all aspects of life. Research shows that Mindfulness meditation aids in not only decreasing stress but improving overall health!
Here is an article on a simple way to begin practicing mindfulness: https://www.mindful.org/how-to-practice-mindfulness/
Take a hike, go for a walk, sit in a chair in the sun, or start gardening. Evidence shows that nature has positive impacts on stress reduction, mental health, blood pressure, heart rate, and muscle tension.
For more on the benefit of nature: https://www.takingcharge.csh.umn.edu/how-does-nature-impact-our-wellbeing#:~:text=Exposure%20to%20nature%20not%20only,health%20researchers%20Stamatakis%20and%20Mitchell.
These are just a few examples of great ways to lower your stress level and begin the journey to a healthier happier life for you and your relationship with your children. There is no right way to practice self-care the key is finding what works for you! Change in routine can be hard and overwhelming so start small pick 5 minutes this week to do something just for yourself.
Elizabeth Wolthoff COTA/L