Taking care of children means taking care of you
Useful advice for how to manage stress as a parent.
You matter. Of course you do. But somewhere in the course of parenting, self-care for moms and dads (especially moms) is often forgotten.
Here’s the deal: You are the foundation of your family. If the foundation is not sturdy, how will you support your family’s needs?
Many of us experience stress when we look at our to-do lists: taking care of children; household chores; feeding the family; work demands; paying bills; taking care of the car or the yard or the family pet.
Facing all these daily pressures, it’s easy to ignore our own needs. But if we don’t learn how to cope with stress and the daily challenges of life, we can’t take good care of our children, either. Here’s some strategies you can use.
Stress management tips for parents
Long ago I made peace with those exercise to-do’s by doing what was right for me on any given day. I’m not a fan of gyms. Others love them, and that’s great. I like walking outdoors, even in winter. Each day I consider when I can fit in a walk. Some days it’s a walk in the neighborhood with my daughter, other times it’s a 45-minute hike in the park. Sometimes I simply walk around the block. The important thing is doing something. If you work outside the home, can you walk or go to the gym during your lunch hour? Exercise is not just about keeping the number on the scale down but it’s also about mental health.
I don’t feel quite right without morning yoga and meditation — and if something’s bugging me, I’ll also write in my journal. Often I can find a solution to a problem by writing it down. My yoga and meditation often total just 10 minutes. At least I’ve stretched. At least I’ve gotten quiet. It’s better than nothing. If I don’t make time to be alone and still, I become stressed, more vulnerable to the chaos of the world around me. Others find peace as part of a spiritual community. There’s something to be said for a steaming hot tub soak. And a good book. Or a pedicure.
And then there’s what we put into our bodies. I once heard a speaker say: “You are what you eat. And some of you are jelly doughnuts.” Ha. What I got by with in my 20s doesn’t work in my 50s. It will catch up — in an abundance or a lack of energy; in how we look; and especially in how we feel. During times I have eaten poorly, I have not been effective, patient and energized enough to care for my daughter, who has autism. Food is fuel. Keep the engine running with an optimum grade.
Rest, relaxation, recreation
We often fail to realize that these three Rs are crucial. How we accomplish all three (other than a good night’s sleep) varies from me to you to the next person. I need recreation time. I also want to create more visual art. For now, I satisfy that urge with iPhoneography and Instagram.
I’m an extrovert and need a certain amount of connection with others. Yes, the virtual kind has its perks, but I want real face-to-face friends who understand me and listen to me. I give them the same. Do you have a friends who gather for fun? What about a friend with whom you’ve not spoken in a long time? I have several groups of friends who are also mothers. The group that especially nourishes my spirit is the one composed of mothers of children with special needs.
How well are these areas represented in your life? What can you do better to support yourself, and thus your family? I’m still working on these dimensions. It takes daily discipline to be my best self and the best parent I can be.
How are you nurturing yourself?
This post was written by author-blogger-speaker Leisa A. Hammett. She blogs at www.leisahammett.com about “The Journey with Grace: Autism, Art and All the Rest of Life.”