Mindfulness for Parents: Prioritizing Self-Care
For most parents, the instinct is to help children first and then worry about themselves last. But research has consistently demonstrated that parents are not as effective at taking care of others if they are not also adequately taking care of themselves. It is imperative that parents take care of themselves. Self-care is consciously prioritizing an activity or activities that address your own personal well-being, and it helps with reversing the negative impact of stress. Self-care will help you manage your emotions, regain your energy and reduce your stress so that you can be responsive during more challenging parenting moments, instead of reactive.
If you don’t take care of yourself first, stress, fatigue, anxiousness, depressed mood and burnout will take over, making it harder to help or respond effectively to your children. Focusing on your own well-being will help create the best version of yourself and the parent you want to be. For most people, the higher the stress in our lives, the less likely we are to make time for self-care, so I’m so excited that you have chosen to spend an intentional moment to focus on yourself today.
The only goal for self-care is to be kind to yourself, have gratitude you are taking time for yourself, accept your emotions with compassion and try out new things without the expectation that you have to be successful. I encourage you to practice self-kindness, which is acknowledging that everyone in life, including you, has challenges. And by being human, we share imperfections with others. Not every strategy can be a success for every person; with practice and intention, you will find the strategies that benefit you the most. Some of them you can even try out with your kids!
Think of compassionate self-care as:
- Taking time to intentionally do less for a time
- Taking time to clear your mind and reassess your values
- Taking time to connect with yourself to be able to share more of yourself with your children and family and friends and meet responsibilities
How do I practice self-care?
It’s probably not surprising that self-care looks different for different people. However, we know that social connectedness, exercise and relaxation have all been shown to have restorative effects and are beneficial for self-care given how they impact our biology. Activities like socially isolating, unhealthy eating and alcohol or drug use may seem like self-care, but they can have detrimental effects on our well-being. Even a small amount of time per day, like 5-10 minutes, focusing on yourself can have a huge impact.
Set an intention for self-care. Make a commitment to yourself, your child and your family today to make self-care a priority activity each day. Write down a reminder and post it somewhere in plain sight.
Make a “menu” of the self-care activities that you like best and consider options that vary in the amount of time they will take. For instance, you could include on your “menu”:
- Taking 10 deep breaths
- A 5-minute mindfulness activity using an app
- A 1-mile walk or jog
- A warm bath
- Calling or FaceTiming with a friend
- Watching a favorite movie
- Spending time with your community
- Religious practices
This way, you can choose an activity that best matches the amount of time you have to devote to self-care in a given day. What matters most is that you do something that you find to be restorative each day.
Add your self-care activity to your calendar or schedule or keep a weekly log of chosen self-care activities each day. When we are more specific and planful about when and how we will do any behavior, we are more likely to do it!
Here are some example ideas to get you started:
- Go to your favorite workout class
- Snuggle with your dog or cat
- Talk with a friend
- Eat a delicious and nutritious meal
- Buy yourself something that brings you joy
- Take time away from screens
- Unfollow people online and in real life who make you feel bad about yourself
For a guided meditation to assist you on your journey to self-care, please watch our video below.
To learn more about Dr. Annotti, please click here.