Essential, Stress Reducing Self-Care
by Kathy Slattengren, M. Ed., Priceless Parenting (more parenting articles are available)
Do you find yourself feeling guilty when you think about taking time for yourself? If you’re a parent, there are a million other things that need to be done - laundry, dishes, helping with homework, making dinner, driving the kids around and the list goes on.
Do you feel like there isn’t enough time to get all the things you’d like to have done each day? Is your schedule crammed full? Does adding your own self-care to that list make it feel even more overwhelming?
Taking care of yourself is always important and it’s even more critical if you are feeling overwhelmed. Nobody will do it for you – in fact others are likely to encourage you to put even more on your plate that has nothing to do with taking care of yourself!
What is self-care?
Renée Trudeau, author of Nurturing the Soul of Your Family
, defines self-care as “the art of attuning and responding to your needs and desires, moment to moment”. If you have focused on attending to others for many years, it can be hard to tune into your own needs. It may even seem foreign to consider what your needs are, let alone your desires.
What does self-care look like to you? Moment to moment you may have different answers. Self-care may be:
- Singing, dancing, doing yoga
- Biking, hiking, swimming, going for a run
- Playing the piano, strumming the guitar, tapping on drums
- Taking a nap
- Saying “no” to a request
- Saying “I need to think about that. I’ll get back to you.”
- Meditating, praying
- Painting, drawing, sewing, knitting, wood carving
- Gardening, cooking, baking
- Taking a hot bath
You are the only one who truly knows your needs and desires. It’s up to you to reflect on what you most need and prioritize getting your needs met.
Why is self-care essential?
You can neglect your self-care for a while, maybe even years. Eventually it catches up with you in the form of discontent, depression, disease or an uneasy feeling that there must be more to life.
Tragically some parents end up at this point and become suicidal. A mother of three wonderful kids found herself feeling increasingly depressed. Although her children were all excelling in school and other activities, she just wasn’t satisfied … not with them and not with herself.
She eventually got to such a low point that she turned to professionals for help. After a year of hard work, she rebalanced herself and overcame her depression. Much of what she had to do was start putting herself first. She had to figure out what activities she wanted to pursue … not for her family but for herself.
One thing she loved to do was to sing. While she now drove her kids around to their choir practices, she no longer was singing in a group herself. So she joined a choir and added the joy of singing back to her life. Each step took time; it wasn’t easy but it paid off.
A boy at the school where my husband teaches wasn’t as fortunate. Tragically his mother committed suicide and left the family struggling to cope. It’s extremely difficult for any child to handle a parent’s death and even more challenging when that death is a suicide.
Taking care of yourself is essential because your family needs you. You are irreplaceable to your children. One of the best gifts you can give them is being fully present for them. You can only do this if you take care of yourself.
How can you figure out what you most need?
A place deep within you knows what you need. It’s hard to hear your own wise inner voice with the TV or computer on. You really need to quiet down and slow down.
This is easier said than done! If all you can carve out is 5 minutes of quiet time, start with that. Just get comfortable being quietly by yourself. Focusing on your breathing is one way to quiet down your mind.
By taking time to quiet down, you will be able to hear the wisdom within you.
There is a part of you that knows what you most need and desire. If you slow down and listen, you will find your answers. It’s a gift to both yourself and your family.