A Self-Care Guide for Parents

How Parents Can Practice Self-Care

According to board-certified psychiatrist Dr. Grant Brenner, self-care must be practiced "religiously," a first-priority along with (and sometimes even above) taking care of children, work and other obligations. "Self-care should not be dropped when it becomes more difficult to maintain," he says. Rather, a good tip is to plan for obstacles of self-care and have alternatives available in advance, rather than undermining consistency.

The key is finding what works for you. Everyone's idea of relaxing and recharging looks different. Maybe your self-care is a few minutes of quiet reading at some point in the day; for other parents, a quick workout, a bubble bath or a cup of coffee on the back porch may do the trick.

"Make a commitment to yourself to create at least 15 minutes of self-care every day," Manly says. And be as specific as possible, such as allowing yourself time in the early morning while your kids are working on homework, enjoying screen time or after dinner. "The more specific your plan, the more likely you will be to keep your commitment."

But what happens if you make time in your schedule but feel bad about using it for yourself? May says one way to combat that urge is to create an anti-guilt mantra that supports your self-care practice. 

For example, your mantra might be, "Taking good care of myself allows me to be a more relaxed, loving and present mother."  Another example might be, "By taking time to exercise and care for myself, I am a more supportive, loving and attentive father." Your self-care routine doesn't have to be long, but remind yourself of your mantra each time you practice to solidify the importance of focusing on yourself.

Once you commit to the idea of prioritizing self-care, it's time to explore some ways to practice it. This may be a yoga class, going for a jog or walk, cycling, hiking or practicing putting in the backyard. The list doesn't end there. Meditating, gardening, listening to music, writing, taking a warm bath, baking, cooking or knitting are more examples of self-care parents can practice daily to de-stress. Find more ideas here, and remember the key to prioritizing self-care is finding what works for you so you'll really reap the benefits of the practice. 

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