I woke up this morning with a hideous cold so today feels like exactly the right day to be writing about self-care ideas for busy parents. When you are a parent (especially a working parent), it’s easy for stress to get the better of you. We often deprioritise our own relaxation and wellbeing because there is simply so much to do and so little time. We can feel guilty taking time out for ourselves. And the people around us forget to help because they get used to us always helping them.
But, ultimately, neglecting self-care is self-defeating. Because that ‘To Do’ list really is neverending (there will always be something left on it). And when we don’t look after ourselves, we quickly deplete our resources for looking after others and for being the calm consistent parent we aspire to be. Stress negatively impacts parenting and by deprioritising ourselves, we make everything harder not easier.
I’m not suggesting that you take a whole weekend off or head off for a spa day (though that would definitely be nice!). Even just tiny bits of self-care time can make a big difference. Looking after yourself is about small daily choices and little snippets of time rather than just occasional big breaks. Here’s a selection of 5-60 minute simple self-care ideas for busy parents.
Go for a walk (without the kids) – a bit of fresh air, a change of scenery and gentle exercise, walking can have a wonderfully rejuvenating and meditative effect. It also requires virtually no preparation. Even just a few minutes’ walking is good for your wellbeing.
Have a bath – lock the door and have a proper unrushed bath. Scented candles, bubble bath, relaxing music. (And try not to fall asleep!).
Have a cup of tea – and sit down to drink it. Don’t use the time to make lists or to achieve anything useful. Just sit and drink your tea. And while you are there, you might…
Catch up on a podcast – maybe something funny, or a radio play. I never get the chance to listen to a full radio show while I am busy doing houseworky-parenting stuff. So download your favourite show and take 25 minutes to sit back and listen properly. (If you are not sure where to start, check out this list of great podcasts for parents).
Listen to music – when was the last time you just sat and listened to a song (or even a whole album!). Maybe not since you were a teenager? If talking radio shows are not your thing, how about a songs playlist?
Just breathe – you know, you don’t have to do anything at all. A few minutes’ focusing on your breathing is wonderfully relaxing. Breathe in through your nose for a slow count of five, hold for a count of three, then exhale for a slow count of five. And repeat. Your cortisol levels will reduce almost instantly.
A bit of mindfulness – bring your attention fully to the present moment for a few minutes. Focus on your senses. Close your eyes. What can you hear? What can you smell? If thoughts intrude, just recognise them as thoughts and let them pass, and bring your attention back to your senses.
Use a meditation app – there are lots of popular apps (like Headspace) with guided meditations to help you deal with any emotion you are feeling. If you are new to guided meditation, try this 3-minute visualisation on my blog (courtesy of Louise Kelly).
Sit outside – I am lucky enough to have a garden and the best investment I ever made was a comfy place to sit in it. Even in the winter (as long as it’s not raining), I will grab my coat and that cup of tea and sit and watch the robins and listen to the birds sing. A bench in a local park would do just as well.
Read a book – the older I have got, the quicker I am to ditch books that aren’t doing it for me. Because when you get the right book, even 15 minutes of reading can transport you out of your world. (My current tip is Code Name Verity for a truly enthralling read!).
Do a crossword (or a sudoku if you are more numerically minded) for a distracting mental workout.
Get some exercise – whatever type of exercise does it for you: run, swim, gym, yoga, preferably something quick that you can just head out and do spontaneously when you have a spare half hour.
When it comes to self-care ideas for busy parents, I know that you all know all this already. You know you should be doing it. You know what the options are (and I’m sure there are many more quick-win self-care ideas out there too). So, stop finding excuses, just do it.
You’ll find more inspiration for being a positive parent in our monthly newsletters!
©Anita Cleare 2018