Many of the parents in the THRIVE community have children in therapy. All children require a lot of attention and care, and all parents can get worn down and exhausted. Parents with children in therapy may feel there is not an ounce of time left in the day to pay attention to their own physical, emotional, or social needs. Thrive’s underlying statement is: the whole child, the whole family. We care about you too, Mom. We want you to be your healthiest self, Dad.
Self-care is defined as: “The practice of taking an active role in protecting one’s own well-being and happiness, in particular during periods of stress.” I am glad they call it practice! Let’s work on it together!
Here are simple ideas for parents who need self-care, but can’t imagine how they can practically make it happen:
When you make a to-do list, do you find that you are always at the bottom? Show yourself a little love, and move the things that are “you focused” up a few tiers on the to do list. If you always save you for last, you will likely run out of time and the cycle of exhaustion will be perpetuated. When you take care of your needs earlier on, you will be able to present your best self to your family throughout the day.
If you realize you need this, create it. Most likely it will not just magically occur, especially when you have young children, or a larger family. An idea to make this work is having a space that is designated to be your space. You might not have access to a room that can be solely yours. It might be a walk-in closet, or a comfy seat on the patio. Make sure your family knows that this is your space to spend a few minutes in when you need alone time. When you begin to feel overwhelmed, go to your space to think quietly, read a chapter of a book, listen to music, or call a friend.
If you are anything like me, you power through the busy day, put the kids to bed, and then snuggle up for some much-needed rest and relaxation before winding down to sleep. (Ha! not quite!) More realistically, as soon as their little heads hit the pillow, I zoom around the house trying to accomplish everything that needs to be done while they are contained to their beds. Eventually I submit to the clocks persistent warnings that I am staying up way too late. When I set my alarm, I feel disappointed to see how many hours are left before the blaring bells yank me from my bed again.
It is not the best approach to rest and relaxation. I need a change. Do you? Reorganizing the day-time schedule will limit the amount that needs to be done after the kids go to bed. Depending on kids ages and abilities, enlist their help with an after-dinner chore. Do some of the chores together while listening to music and spending time as a family. What if once a week you chose to go to bed right after putting the kids to bed? Adding in extra sleep will provide for extra energy and alertness in your day. You will simply feel better.
Find quick little things that work for you:
I really like this blog post on simple self-care for extremely busy parents, and her advice to “Sprinkle at least 5 “mini” self-care sessions throughout your day.” She lists ideas like basking in the warm sun, letting your kids brush your hair, applying lotion or quick drying nail polish, slowly sipping tea or coffee and purposing to enjoy the flavor. Check it out, it’s a quick read!
The key to self-care is that it is very individualized. A walk might be very therapeutic for one person, but just be viewed as another task added into a busy day for another. Take the time to experiment. When you finish an activity and realize… “I feel quite a bit lighter”, or find the thought passing through your mind “that was nice…” those are the activities to add into your regular line-up.
We’d love if you’d share some self-care ideas that have worked for you below.
This post was written by Krista Caines, OTAS, a fieldwork student, currently studying at Jefferson University to become an occupational therapy assistant. She spent eight weeks shadowing at The Thrive Group.