Parents Need Love Too: A Guide to Self-Care

by Kristin Cofield, Family Engagement Specialist

Being a parent has never been easy, but we all know in this age of social distancing and COVID-19, it’s only gotten harder. Many of us are experiencing the current events personally. You may have loved ones suffering from the coronavirus. You may have lost a job or financial stability. You are likely juggling many priorities at once, with children at home doing distance learning or while working remotely.

When your mind is racing with thoughts of what can – or should – happen next, understand you are not alone.  We all are in this together.  We all feel the uncertainty, stress, and anxiety regarding what is to come.   During this challenging time, it is essential to prioritize your mental health. 

Self-care is not selfish.  Mental wellness is paramount to how you perceive and cope with stress.  After several weeks of social distance and quarantine, you may feel like you are riding a never-ending emotional roller coaster.  Being intentional about your mental health is in your best interest and benefits your entire family.  The following tips suggest ways to implement self-care into your daily routine. 

Make time for yourself.

It is okay to take a break to recharge and reset.  A shower, bath, or walk in your neighborhood allows time to release stressful energy.  Start with 15 to 30 minutes.  Hey, some time is better than no time!  Consider adding, “Be By Myself” time to your daily schedule.  You can encourage children to participate by reading, writing, resting, or engaging in activities that do not require your help. 

Make healthy choices.

It is easy to slip into unhealthy habits.  Maybe it feels good at the moment to binge-watch Netflix or Disney Plus while eating cookies-n-cream ice-cream and Doritos! To prevent long term health consequences, Dr. Jill Emanuele, a clinical psychologist from the Child Mind Institute, recommends eating properly, getting enough sleep, and including physical activity in your daily routine.  Now, this is not the time to pressure yourself to achieve Beach Body results! However, be mindful of how you are treating your body. 

You can involve your little ones in these routines as well. Spend family time cooking a healthy meal. Have a dance party in your living room. If you don’t have one already, create a soothing bedtime routine.

Be realistic.

Set realistic expectations and give yourself grace if you do not meet them.  COVID-19 turned the world upside down in a short amount of time.  You and your family are learning how to adjust and conquer these abrupt changes the best way you can. Whether you are single, married with children, a teenager, or a senior, it is difficult to comprehend the dramatic changes facing the world today.  Clinical psychologist, Dr. David Anderson states: “Perfectionism and coronavirus don’t mix.  Practice forgiveness, self-compassion, and cut yourself some slack.” 

Set boundaries.

Of course, you want to be well informed regarding COVID-19 updates.  To reduce stress, consider limiting your news intake, including social media.  Set boundaries or emotionally distance yourself from extended family and friends who are prone to send messages provoked with anxiety and fear.  Setting boundaries is not about hurting other people but about acknowledging your needs and being kind to yourself.

Reconnect with things you enjoy.

Work, school, family responsibilities, and extra-curricular activities may have left you with little time to engage in personal hobbies and interests.  Consider this enforced time as divine intervention to reconnect to the things you like to do but have been too busy to begin.  What about that project you planned to start last spring?  Or the new skill you want to learn but pushed aside due to a lack of time and commitment?  Let’s not forget the importance of building stronger family relationships during this time.  Remember, children are experiencing anxiety and stress as well.  They depend on you to be their safe place right now.  The project may be self-care for you but can develop into cherished memories with your family. 

To cope with stress in a healthy manner, make an effort to implement the five tips described above into your daily routine. These coping strategies are effective ways to promote mental wellness and reduce stress.  Remember, self-care is not a luxury or a needless practice!  Your body and mind need your time and attention more than ever.  Being kind to yourself does not mean you have abandoned the people who love and need you.  When you put your oxygen mask on first by practicing self-care, you have a greater emotional ability to care for others.   

Join us for our weekly Parent Mental Wellness online series!

Licensed marriage and family health therapist Abram Sinn joins us for these informal but important weekly discussions via Zoom. We invite parents (married or single), grandparents, foster parents, adoptive parents, or anyone integral in raising children to ask questions, comment, or just listen in. Click each link below to register.

What are you doing to practice self-care? Tell us in the comments below!

References

Jacobson, R., & Child Mind Institute. (n.d.). Self-Care in the Time of Coronavirus. Retrieved April 3, 2020,.

Rylander, A. (2016). Soul 7: Poetry 4 the Soul The Red Diaries. California.

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