Self-care is doing something that nurtures or honors yourself,” explains Marni Amsellem, Ph.D., a licensed psychologist in New York and Connecticut. Self-care requires checking in with yourself and asking yourself how you’re doing physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.
“What is self-care for one person will likely differ from someone else, and what’s self-care for you one day might not feel like self-care another day,” Amsellem says.
Self-care is not a luxury or a form of selfishness, but is essential for everyone. Anything you do for yourself intentionally to look after your own health and well-being that makes you feel better or cared for can be considered self-care. It doesn’t involve a lot of time or an extravagant budget – it’s anything that puts a smile on your face. It’s about making a commitment to put yourself first, even just for a short while.
Essential for parents
It can be challenging to give your kids your full emotional support when you are not giving those things to yourself.
Self-care is crucial for parents for several reasons. By caring for yourself, you can prevent exhaustion, burnout and resentment so that you can put your best foot forward. Giving yourself time to recharge helps you replenish your energy, focus and have more positive interactions with your children.
Regularly practicing self-care can help you be a better parent by role modeling healthy habits. Your children will learn to respect your needs and boundaries as well as their own. And they will understand the value of alone time, not to expect others to always meet their needs later in life, and not to endlessly give when they become parents themselves. You are supporting your children to grow into self-sufficient adults.
Being kind to yourself and not judging yourself too harshly is an important part of self-care. Caring for yourself with the same faithfulness with which you care for your children is a strategic act of good parenting. The better you care for yourself, the better you are able to care for others. It is important to know that taking care of yourself also boosts your self-esteem and confidence in parenting (National Library of Medicine), protects your mental health (National Institute of Health), and reinstates balance and joy in your life. You not only need this but you deserve it.
Essential care tips
Basic self-care includes: exercise, sleep, eat healthy foods, and take a hot bath. Here are a few new ways to consider taking great care of yourself.
1. Normalize self-care – feel proud to teach your children the importance of self-care for parents. Healthy habits raise happy children.
2. Small changes result in big differences.
3. Make a plan and schedule some “Me Time” on your calendar regularly.
4. Self-care doesn’t take a lot of time – make a list of activities that you like that you could do in one minute (eg. laugh, take your vitamins, get a hug), 5 minutes (eg. listen to your favorite song, sit in the sun, text a loved one), 10-30 minutes (eg. play a game, nap, yoga online, make a meal, socialize).
6. Know when to say No – learn to set appropriate boundaries.
7. Take time to appreciate nature – take a walk outside.
8. Feed your mind – read, listen to podcasts, create, engage in enjoyable hobbies now.
9. Meditate, pray, volunteer/contribute to your causes; be open to awe; find meaning and purpose.
10. Involve others in your self-care – develop your “village” of family and friends and ask for help; get therapy/join a parent group for support.
11. Get creative – figure out what works for you.
Regular self-care is ideal and daily is even better. The good news is that the more time that you spend taking care of yourself and recharging your batteries, the more positive energy you will have to give to your children. Finding a balance between your own needs and your children’s needs is something every parent deserves to discover. It becomes a win-win situation – positive for parents and children. So take a break. Restore yourself. Then, be present for your children (and all other aspects of your life).
Ann Bradner Byrne is with Bainbridge Youth Services, which has a monthly column in this newspaper.