Airplane flying 101.
“Put your oxygen mask on before assisting anyone next to you”. My favorite metaphor for self care that can usually elicit
an eye roll or a list of tasks that are “more important” than taking some time
to indulge oneself. This response is especially true with my single parent
clients. This notion of self care takes a back seat to the day to day tasks and
chores that fall solely on your shoulders. Let’s also not forget that it takes
a lot of time and money to engage in the typical self care like a massage, spa
day or a night out. So what do we do when something seems out of reach? We
don’t prioritize it. Instead we make time for the more tangible self care such
as eating unhealthy food, a couple glasses of our favorite beverage, and
cancelling on social plans to stay at home in comfy clothes. When we don’t tend
to our own needs, but consistently prioritize other’s, is the breeding ground
for anxiety, depression, anger and resentment. Prioritizing healthy, regular
self care is necessary for you to live a more joyful life and it is also an important
skill to model for your children. If you can’t take the time to prioritize and
take care of yourself, how can you teach this skill to them? Re-defining what self care looks like to
better fit your life style is key to actually engaging in it. Below are some ideas and tips of how to make
self care work for you!
Do the boring stuff.
Self care isn’talways about pampering and indulging. Sometimes the best form of self care is organizing and
completing the tasks that we least want to do. Everyone has their certain chore
or engagement that they put off until the very last minute or blow off all
together. This can be paying bills, going to the doctor, sending thank you
cards or going grocery shopping. The common mantra of “I’m so tired I’ll do it
_____ (insert: later, tomorrow, next week, next month, never)” allows us to do what
feels comfortable with our time off such as sitting in front of the tv, eating
take out, having another glass of wine or shoving laundry into a pile. This
practice of avoiding mundane tasks can give us immediate gratification, but if
this becomes a common practice, can lead to increased levels of stress and
anxiety. Crossing the tough stuff off the to-do list regularly can be an
immediate source of gratification and accomplishment. I don’t think anyone has
ever had clean sheets on their bed or all the bills paid on time (or early) and
felt more stress afterwards about doing it. Setting a specific time to do
whatever you typically put off and holding yourself accountable to do it is
self care at its finest.
Ask for help.
We often put the expectation on ourselves that if we don’t get X,Y and Z done
independently or without assistance than we are less than or a bad mom/dad.
There tends to be a lot of shame around asking for assistance from friends or
family so we avoid it leading to packed schedules, a feeling of being stretched
too thin, and harsh self judgement. A good form of self care is asking for
help. Whether it is asking another parent to give your kiddo a ride to soccer
practice or home from school, reaching out to a close friend or family member
to come over and watch the kids one night, or taking that co-worker up on their
offer to bring you lunch one day. Help and support is an absolute necessity for
self care and decreased stress and there is zero shame in asking for it.
Chances are, friends and family will be more than willing to help you help
Be kind to yourself.
We are our own worst critics. That little voice in your head that is constantly
judging or critiquing your every move, mistake and success can be absolutely
draining. A simple, but very challenging, technique to increase your self care
every day, is to increase the amount of kindness that you give to yourself.
Making time to reflect on something positive you have done, letting go of a
judgement you have placed on yourself, or affirming yourself can lead to an
instant increase in mood. Positive affirmations are a simple way to work this
type of self care into your daily routine. Positive affirmations can feel a
little funny at first, but there is plenty of research to show the positive
effects they have on self esteem and mood. Next time you find that voice in
your head being critical or when you are not feeling good enough, try replacing
that thought with one of these affirmations: “I am enough” “I can handle what
is put in front of me” “I am at peace even when life gets crazy” “I am doing
the absolute best I can” “I am a really good mother/father”. Even if you
struggle to believe what your telling yourself, say it anyway.
Self care doesn’t have to involve large amounts of money, getting away from long
amounts of time or needing child care. Get creative with what makes you feel
like you hit the reset button. Make homemade spa masks with your kids and have
a “family spa day”. Create a fun and cozy “reading corner” then take 15-20 to
curl up and read by yourself or with your little ones. Go for a long walk. Have
an at home dance or sing along party. Have a gardening day or a cookie baking
contest. Take what works for you and find a fun way to make it kid friendly.
Last but not least, if you can take the time to get a
massage or a night out with friends, take it with no guilt! Remember, if you
aren’t taking care of yourself, you won’t be able to give your best self to
your kids and those who you love around you.
By Stacey Ojeda
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist #100694