Parent Self-Care 101
I don't know about you.....but I am not going to shy away from the fact that I am feeling pretty pooped these days. Juggling family, work, and life in general seems far more exhausting that it's ever been. Daily life as we know now it is unfamiliar territory. We are navigating through each day with minimal sleep, and copious amounts of caffeine. We are playing the role of parents, housekeepers, careers, chef's, and educators all at once. It's only natural to lose your true self in this concoction of role descriptions day in, day out.
When the sun finally sets on each day, I am finding myself taking a moment before I fall asleep to reflect upon what I (as of late,) refer to as the 'chaos of activities' I have more often than not, fumbled my way through. I question, analyse, dissect, and criticise my actions, thoughts, words and mistakes. I focus my thinking on where I dropped the so-called 'ball," and how I could have been better with my approach at doing something at a particular moment in time. With this way of thinking, I am exacerbating my stress and frustration, and only elevating the pressure I put on myself. And to top it all off, I then become riddled with guilt. Because quite clearly, I have not put myself down enough!
As human beings, we all are somewhat accustomed to self-criticism, and a bit of an emotional bashing. We are raised to become more acclimatised to the negative-bias within our thinking and perceptions, which then therefore inhibits our way of viewing the positives in our life. However, by nature, I honestly am a "glass half full" kind of girl. I often see the light at the end of the tunnel, and see the good in most things. I truly believe that there is a lesson to be learnt in all that we do, and that everything we face happens for a reason. So all of the negative thinking that has been circulating my mind is VERY MUCH out of the ordinary for me.
After receiving a lovely email from a wonderful parent who so kindly expressed her gratitude for my blog posts and YouTube videos, she proceeded to pass on her very valid feedback (which might I add was positively overwhelmingly and appreciated) alongside her requests for my future work in this space.
Needless to say, it is this amazing parent who has ignited a flame within me to research and construct today's post about the importance of parent self-care during these unprecedented times. It is also her email that has allowed me to review my own physical, mental, emotional and spiritual self-care practises over recent times.
It's only now upon reflection, that I have realised, and therefore acknowledge, that I have been my own worst enemy. This enemy has driven with full force all of the negative and toxic thinking that I have allowed myself to do. I lost myself in the mayhem of day to day living, and amongst this, let loose the aggressive, negative, wild thinking woman from within. And might I add to this, I really don't like her!
I am not proud of this inner flaw. But I am not ashamed to admit that she exists. In fact, I would like to publicly acknowledge her mere existence...because this is how I am now taking back control of my true self. This is how I am hoping to encourage you to take back your control too.
During any time in our life, but more importantly now, it's vital that we recognise the importance of looking after ourselves. And remember, what works for one, may not necessarily work for another. But our power comes from our knowledge. And our knowledge comes from our experiences. So I encourage you to not shy away from anything that is recommended to you. Rather, give it at least a chance. If, after few attempts with an open mind and heart, you are finding no satisfaction or sense of inner-peace that is reflected upon your physical environment....THEN you can move on to the next strategy, and at least say you gave it a good go.
So....here is a list of some self-care strategies that you can explore to help nurture your own wellbeing.
1. Try to do one thing in your day that is just for you.
I know this almost sounds like an impossible feat, especially with most of the hours in our day being consumed with chores and other people that require or need our attention. However, the key to being successful in actually achieving this, is remembering the two letter word ME. Remembering that you are just as important...if not more important, than some, or all of your daily chores. And just as important as all the people you help, care for, and love in your day. So if you are equally as important, then why do you put yourself last? Why do you CHOOSE to neglect yourself?
Bringing recognition and acknowledgment to these two prominent questions, will help you to action trying to do one thing that is just for you in your day.
2. Do something that makes you happy.
Alongside strategy number 1, try to make your efforts in doing something just for you once a day that brings you happiness. Think about what makes you smile. What makes your heart sing. Or puts a skip in your step. And then do it! Be it reading a chapter of a book from your favourite author. Or watching an episode of the latest Netflix series that you've been meaning to take an interest in. What ever you do, do it with a love and a passion for taking some time out for yourself because you know that you deserve it.
3. Stop and smell the roses. (aka - mindfulness)
Unless you're out soaking up the sunshine and getting some fresh air in your day, I mean this metaphorically. Stopping to smell the roses can literally be while you wait for the kettle to boil as so you can make that coffee you've been longing for. It could mean that you take a moment to feel the warmth of the sun on your skin as it shines through your kitchen window whilst you do the dishes. Or perhaps it's taking a moment to close your eyes after checking your letter box to listen to the sounds that you can hear around you that you would normal be completely oblivious to. This practise of just simply taking a moment to stop, and live no-where else but in the moment can greatly decrease your stress levels.
4. Just breathe
Known as the tenth cranial nerve, the Vagus Nerve is the longest, largest, most complex of the cranial nerves within your body. It sprawls out of your brain and into your body as this magnificent and intricate network of nerves, and essentially acts as lines of communication between your brain and your body's many systems and organs. The action of taking a long, conscious deep breathe in through the nose, and out through the mouth, acts as a reset button to our Vagus Nerve. Stimulating this nerve has a positive effect on the functioning of your body, and can help to decrease or eliminate fear and anxiety.
Exercise is a wonderful way to allow your body to release endorphins. These hormones interact with the receptors in your brain that help to reduce negative thinking and stress. So whenever possible, try and get a good 30mins of exercise in to your day. Whether it be a walk around your neighbourhood, a jog around the local footy oval, or a yoga session to kick start your day, your overall sense of wellbeing will greatly benefit from your efforts.
Learning to meditate is not as difficult as it might sound. A regular practise of meditating helps to quite the mind, and initiates the para-sympathetic nervous system within your body, helping the natural state of homeostasis (the body's natural relaxation response) to occur. This practise will very quickly and significantly reduce your stress levels, and bring forth a great sense of calm and clarity to many areas of your life.
7. Learn to express your gratitude
I have slowly come to the understanding that gratitude is very much, multi-faceted. The research demonstrating the efficacy of either expressing, or receiving acts or words of gratitude can have incredible impact on a person. It also suggests that gratitude could quite possibly be associated with many benefits for individuals, including better physical and psychological health, increased happiness and life satisfaction, more positive and lasting relationships, the desire for materialistic possessions, and much more.
Neurologically, when gratitude is expressed or received, our brains release dopamine and serotonin. Both of these neurotransmitters play a pivotal role in allowing us to experience positive, 'feel good' emotions. They essentially enhance our mood immediately, and make us feel happy.
8. Be kind to yourself
At the end of the day, alongside all of the strategies above, the best thing you can do is BE KIND TO YOURSELF. You are at the end of the day, only human. You will make mistakes. You will get tired. You will at times get angry and feel frustrated. But you will have another day to wake up and start all over again, knowing that each brand new day offers to you an opportunity to grow, and put everything you are learning with each new experience to the test. Each new day offers you the opportunity to be the best version of yourself that you can be. And for all of this, we should be grateful.