You have to take good care of yourself first if you want to take good care of those others – all of us here know that right?
And yet, we parents are the worst offenders when it comes to breaking this basic, fairly intuitive rule.
A couple of weeks ago I was at my breaking point. Within the past few months I have graduated from college, lost my grandmother, remodeled our kitchen and moved my mother-in-law in with us due to health issues, all while raising 3 energetic boys (who are great kids, but can bicker, brawl and in general drive me up the wall like any normal kids) and working as a freelance writer.
No big deal… most parents have a few balls in the air at any given time as we juggle whatever life throws at us, right?
Here’s the thing though. While I did get all these things done, I was noticing that I was starting to lack in terms of patience and the starting to reel from feelings of utter exhaustion and depletion.
At first, for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out why I was feeling the way I was. Then it hit me. I had spent zero time on myself for months on end.
Knowing that we need to take care of ourselves as an abstract concept is one thing. Being able to actually fit that in our tight schedules is quite another.
So I decided to sit down and make a list of all the different ways we busy parents can fit self-care into our schedules (it’s a good thing I’m a writer and can kill two birds with one stone :)) What I ended up is with this monster list of 100 different self-care ideas.
Take a look. I’m sure there are a few you can work into your life no matter how busy it is at the moment.
OK, here we go:
- Give self-care in snippets throughout the day. Ideally for me, spending around 30 minutes a day by myself does the trick. However, it is very hard to always get those 30 minutes in one sitting. So I try to break it down into two 15 minute periods or on some super tight days, even several 5 minute sessions.
- Accept help even when it isn’t exactly what you’re looking for. When my 17 year old decides to take his younger brothers outside on a task, it may not always be the most important task on my list, but they are willing to do it so I accept the help.
- Say “yes” to at least a few things you love doing even if it distracts you momentarily from your daunting ‘to-do’ list.
- Pay attention to the task at hand. When you are mopping floors don’t let your mind fret about the list of other things on your plate. Just pay attention to the floor you are mopping. It helps keep you from feeling overwhelmed.
- Look to the future. Not in the sense of, “Oh my! I have so much coming up!” But in a positive light such as dreams and hopes you have for your future.
- Set realistic expectations for yourself. I have a tendency to pile way too much on my list for each day. Even if I didn’t sleep, I probably still couldn’t get it all done. So ask yourself if what you have planned for the day is realistic.
- Make time to talk to friends or family that can empathize with you. If they are there with you, it might encourage you that you aren’t alone. If they’ve been through it then they can offer some handy advice or encouragement.
- Ignore negative people.
- Start the day by taking a couple of minutes to appreciate what you have. When you wake up in the morning before you let the thoughts of how you overslept or the massive amount of work that is before you that day enter your mind, remember how loved you are. Remember those beautiful little faces that absolutely adore you!
- Take deep breaths when you have a moment alone. It could be on a trip to the bathroom but make it a point to stop, hold your breath for 5 seconds, and then release it along with all of the tension you had within you at that moment.
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- Text a friend or family member during the day. This will serve as a reminder that you still have friends and relationships beyond the walls of your home. As a mom, I sometimes feel like I lose my identity. Non-mom texting serves as a reminder that I am still me, just with different priorities than I once had.
- Give yourself a mental break. Picture yourself in a beautiful location that absolutely calms your heart.
- Hug your spouse for at least 30 seconds when you first see them after a long day apart. This will help to keep your relationship strong, and you both feeling connected. Not to mention, your heart might just skip a beat.
- When you lie down at night try to think of at least 5 things that you are grateful for. An attitude of gratitude can certainly change your perspective to a more positive outlook.
- Get outside and take it all in. Fresh air and nature has a way of calming our souls.
- Don’t forget to get moving during your day. Exercise releases endorphins and makes us feel better all the way around.
- Take a soak in your tub. Even if it is for just 10 minutes, putting on your favorite music or lighting some calming candles can completely transform your day.
- Take a cat nap. I love how this mom from our community shared that she sneaks in a mini-nap every time she is overwhelmed by her kids and needs to take a mommy time out.
- Try a new food you think you might like.
- Say ‘no’ to things that may overwhelm you. You don’t have to be superwoman. If things are coming at you too quickly then pick out the items that really matter to you. The rest, it is okay to turn down.
- Get enough sleep. This is so important!
- Make a craft. I am not a crafty person, but I want to be. I honestly feel better if I have the opportunity to make décor for my home. I feel accomplished, and I love that it gives my home a more personal touch. And the compliments I receive are just icing on the cake.
- Rock out to your favorite tunes. With so many free smartphone apps that let you stream practically any kind of music, it is a cinch to find something that mellows you down at a moment’s notice.
- Keep your self-care routine simple. Do a few of these tips a little at a time each day so you are not overwhelmed by a fad and are more likely to incorporate self-care into your routine regularly.
- Oil pulling. I know there are differing opinions on it but in my experience I had whiter teeth, more energy, and fewer headaches.
- Try a new ‘up do’ or hairstyle. I’ve been doing this lately and it adds a little pep in your step when you are trying things a little different from what you normally do with your hair.
- Try a new make-up tip. You probably have a stockpile of face masks in your bathroom. How will you know which are the best face masks if you never give yourself the opportunity to try them?
- Limit your time on social media. Social media provides a window into the highlights reel of others life making our own perfectly normal life feel like they are coming up short – it’s simply not worth it.
- Limit your time reading or watching the news. With so much negative, scary things that take place in the world on a daily basis that we have no control over, it is very easy to grow depressed or frightened.
- Get a manicure or pedicure.
- Plan a day with your girlfriends. You could go to the movies, grab lunch, or get a massage. The sky is the limit.
- Go out on a date with your spouse.
- Go for a walk alone. We have a beautiful nature trail at our local park. It is a great place to get moving and take in the scenery.
- Eat a healthier diet. We are what we eat. So fuel your body with healthy foods.
- Take a multi-vitamin.
- Read a good book.
- Take time to pray and memorize scripture.
- Get up at the same time daily.
- Then go to bed at the same time every night.
- Make breakfast a priority. Studies show that breakfast is important for our overall health. It can lower our risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure.
- Put your most daunting or tedious jobs on schedule. Set a specific time each week to take care of tedious tasks such as laundry, paying bills, responding to emails, phone calls you don’t like etc. so you don’t have to worry about them the rest of the time.
- Create margin in your life. If your schedule is just too full where you don’t have a moment to breathe then it might be time to cut things out that are simply not a huge priority at this season in your life.
- Try to create a routine while still remaining flexible. It is good to have an idea of how your day goes usually, but don’t become so rigid that you get upset if things come up that throw your schedule off. Life does happen so flow with it.
- Take time to lotion your body. It is like a mini-massage that helps relieve tension.
- Paint your toenails or fingernails if you can’t get away to go get a manicure or pedicure.
- Take the time to groom (i.e. pluck eyebrows, brush your hair for extended periods of time, shave your legs, etc.) It makes me feel better when I do these things because I just feel more put together.
- Eat some dark chocolate. While more studies are required, recent studies seem to indicate that chocolate may have heart healthy benefits and could prevent cardiovascular diseases.
- Turn car line into ‘me time.’ If you sit in a car line for extended periods of time, just turn off all noise around you, roll down your windows, close your eyes, breathe and turn this otherwise wasted time into a quick oasis of calm in the middle of a busy day.
- Breathe in your essential oils. Certain oils can help you to relax or give your brain clarity. So pack them with you and pull them out when you need a quick ‘pick me up.’
- Do yoga or pilates.
- Better yet, try hot yoga. My mom loves it!
- Challenge yourself to not complain. Check this for a great overview of why complaining is literally killing you.
- Laugh off your mistakes.
- Blow yourself a kiss in the mirror. Remind yourself that you are giving parenting and life in general all you have which makes you a rock star!
- Clean up your social media friends lists. Do you have ‘friends’ on social media that are Debbie Downers or grind your gears? Well, I encourage you to hit the delete button so your social media experiences can be more uplifting and surround by more positive social media friends.
- Learn something new. Education is empowering so embrace it.
- Watch your good movie. Or re-watch a favorite classic.
- Let go of guilt. Give yourself some grace. Make amends where possible and let the rest go.
- Smile more. Studies show that smiling can reduce our heart rate faster and lower stress levels quickly too.
- Walk on the grass barefoot. Doesn’t that just feel awesome?
- Draw a picture of yourself and how you actually see yourself!
- Come up with 5 positive things to say about yourself.
- Work a puzzle.
- Jump on the trampoline, in a pool, or in a pile of leaves. You’ll laugh and feel like a kid again.
- Give yourself a hug.
- Take a walk down memory lane. Go through old photos and smile at the awesome memories. Tell your kids stories about things you love from your childhood or their babyhood. Call your parents, nana or relatives and reminisce.
- Spend a few minutes with someone at a nursing home. You can just listen and make their day. You might even learn a few things while you’re at it!
- Find a way to give to others. It makes you feel good and also helps spur on an attitude of gratitude.
- Let out a big sigh.
- Indulge yourself in your guilty pleasure. Set aside earmarked guilt-free, undisturbed, me-time every week and read (or write!) a saucy romance, binge watch your favorite show on Netflix, squee over lolcats, jump from one random profile to another on social media, cyberstalk your favorite celebrity or whatever guilty pleasure that rocks your boat. No, you’re not alone. Yes, we all do it. And, it’s all fine.
- Lay around in unrestrictive clothing for just a few minutes. Being able to slip out of those restrictive work clothes and just be for a few moments is very freeing and helps relieve tension in your body.
- Drink a hot cup of coffee or tea. Or a cold glass of wine.
- Go to your room and dance while no one is watching. Or get a dance party started right in the middle of the living room.
- Go to the library and browse books in total silence.
- Window shop. Or online shop. As long as you aren’t spending money you don’t have, it’s all good.
- Research positive quotes.
- Listen to a comedian on YouTube.
- Make a green smoothie or green juice. I personally do the green juice. I juice a cucumber, green apple, spinach, and a carrot. It tastes great!
- Just stop and look up at the sky.
- Put your hand over your heart and feel it beat. Be thankful for another day.
- Go dig in the dirt. I am a gardener. I love flowers and growing my own fruits and vegetables. Getting out in the dirt and digging around is an enjoyable and rewarding experience.
- Indulge (occasionally). Get a spoon and eat straight from the jar of peanut butter, icing, or the carton of ice cream.
- Brush and floss your teeth. Having a clean mouth makes you feel good and encourages you to smile more.
- Go to the grocery store I don’t know about you, but I find browsing through aisles of options without having little ones to fuss over utterly delightful.
- Pop bubble wraps and air pillows. As I do more and more of my shopping online, I’ve found that the packing materials – from bubble wraps to air pillows – are fantastic, fun ways to relieve stress.
- Watch (or re-watch) your favorite TV show. I do this with Matlock on days where I feel I just need a break.
- If you have a pet, go rub them or snuggle up with them.
- Snuggle up with your kids and/or spouse on the couch and enjoy time together with a bowl of popcorn. Schedule in movie nights to make this a regular happening.
- Declutter your life a little at a time. Clutter can make you feel unorganized and anxious.
- Start using a to-do list system. Make a detailed ‘to-do’ list daily so you can look back on all the items you’ve marked off and feel accomplished. This has the secondary advantage of letting you dump stuff out of your brains onto paper (or a smartphone app) and decluttering your mind as well.
- Realize it’s okay to cry and sometimes. We just need to sit down and get all of our emotions out. If you have suppressed emotions that are niggling you but won’t come out, try watching a sappy movie with mellow lighting.
- Play a game of solitaire.
- Stretch. Gently stretch your shoulder and neck muscles to relieve any tension. Wiggle your fingers and toes. Twist your upper torso or reach out to touch your toes to relax your back muscles.
- Keep a journal. It helps get your thoughts out so you can process them in a healthy form.
- Try your hand at adult coloring books. These are all the rage now and studies show that coloring can help adults combat stress.
- Double recipes. When you cook make extras and stick them in the freezer. This way, on the days that you are beat, you can still serve home-cooked food without having to actually cook it that day.
- Swap kids with friends for a few hours each week. If you have friends with kids that are roughly the same age as yours, fix a swap schedule so you watch all the kids one evening while they take a break and then they watch your kids while you take a break.
- Have regular vacations (or staycations). We aim for at least one big vacation each year with a few short trips in between to break away from the daily routine. If a vacation is not an option at the time, try a staycation or even a backyard campout.
- Learn to delegate tasks. Yes, your spouse and kids are part of the family too and as such, it is perfectly fine to delegate some of the tasks to them so you can take a breather.
So what did I miss? Let me know in the comments below!