Make time for self-care: mindset tips for frazzled parents
The summer holidays have arrived and if you have school-age children you know what this means…weeks of juggling many balls and jumping through many hoops to make sure the kids are safe, happy, entertained and cared for while doing all the other stuff that always has to be done. Exhausting, right? Summer holidays can leave parents feeling frazzled!
Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to fit some regular self-care into your summer break…to get to the end of the summer holidays frazzle-free…or at least less frazzled than usual?
Here are some things that you can think about now, that might help you fit some time in for yourself. There are some exercises dotted through this blog, so grab a pen and paper (and a cuppa) and let’s get started.
What is self-care?
Self-care means different things to different people. How do you define self-care?
Task 1: Take a minute or two to write down your definition of what self-care is for you.
“Self-care is doing things every day to nurture yourself and to make your life better”
I think of self-care as falling into three categories:
Fun: the hedonistic stuff! The things you do because you love doing them even although they have little/no other purpose except enjoyment e.g. crafting, listening to music, binge-watching Netflix, days/nights out with friends.
Necessary: the sensible stuff! The everyday things you do to keep yourself healthy and well e.g eating well, drinking enough water, exercising, going to medical/health appointments, managing your medication, taking some quiet time to reflect/nap/journal, getting enough sleep.
‘Boring’: the ‘put it off til another day’ stuff! The everyday things you do to make life less stressful e.g. decluttering, keeping on top of personal admin, housework. (This one is quite controversial - not everyone categorises this as self-care. I do because keeping on top of these things makes my life less stressful to know these things are done.)
What does self-care mean to you?
Every one of us has our own unique lived experience, and we all have our unique collection of needs. So how you take care of your needs is entirely up to you, and how you care for yourself might look different to how your sister/friend/mum/partner takes care of themselves. One of the first things you could do to care for yourself is to let go of any comparisons and judgements about this. Just because your sister swears by wild water swimming to care for her mental wellbeing, that doesn’t mean your crochet habit is a less valid way of looking after yours. Just embrace the differences!
Task 2: Take a moment or two to jot down up to five things you do to care for your wellbeing.
Are there other things you would like to do more of? Jot them down too.
What are your self-care barriers?
Often when life is busy and we are pressed for time, the first thing that goes is the things we do for ourselves. It’s easier to sacrifice your time than to risk disappointing someone by saying no, cancelling or rearranging a commitment. But how helpful is that you in the long-run?
When you’ve been racing around getting the kids to childcare, racing to work and jumping all the hurdles, spinning all the plates and juggling all the balls in between, maybe you realise you don’t feel like going to the pub quiz with the school mums or helping your mum declutter her kitchen tonight. If what you would really love is a nice warm bath or some quiet time at home to destress, is it helpful to deny yourself that? Will your future self thank you? How will that leave you feeling when the alarm goes off tomorrow? It’s all a bit of a balancing act.
What stands in the way of you prioritising your self-care? Is it people…feelings…things?
Task 3: Jot down your top 5 self-care barriers.
Are there things you do that you would like to let go of? Jot them down too.
Now look at the answers for the three tasks you've just done, and think about how they affect one another. If there are so many things you would like to do less of, that they eat up all the time for things you would like to do more of but can't, then perhaps it's time to consider how to change the balance of your life. What do you do from a sense of duty, or because you have always been the one to do it, or because you know no one else can do it better? Do you really need to do those things, or could someone else pick those up instead? Maybe it's time to make some changes and have some conversations.
What can you do to make more time for you?
1. Identify your self-care squad
If one of your major self-care barriers is time, I’m not surprised. For parents of younger children this can be a real struggle and not always one that’s easy to overcome, particularly for single parents who can’t ‘tag-team’ with a partner and who might have limited support. Without someone who can share the load, how realistic is it to fit in some intentional self-care? Difficult. So let’s think about identifying your self-care squad.
Your self-care squad are the people you can call upon when you’re looking for practical or emotional self-care support: the friend who really listens when you need to vent; the family member who enjoys spending time with the kids and sits with them to give you some free time; the neighbour who brings in your bin and pulls up the weeds on your side of the path too; the workmate who doesn’t mind helping you out if you have to leave work early; or the other parents who are happy to arrange for your kids to go for playdates. Keep your squad in mind when things start to get stressful.
2. Schedule self-care time
If you use a diary/calendar to manage your time use it to schedule self-care time. Yes - actually block out time for you. It works for meetings and appointments, right? You put them in your diary and they happen (more often than not). They become a commitment. Self-care can be that too - a commitment that you hold yourself to because it is important.
3. Care about your future self
When you’re having trouble deciding between honouring what you want to do and fitting in an invitation or a favour that’s being asked of you, think about your future self and whether they will thank you for the decision you’re making. A spontaneous night out with a friend on a Wednesday probably would be fun and a lot more exciting than that early night you had promised yourself, but how will your future self feel the next morning when the alarm goes off and you’re still tired and have to get through another long day at work? Sometimes thinking about it from that perspective can make the decision easier.
4. Treat yourself to ‘golden time’
Why should it just be for the kids?! Treat yourself to the ultimate golden time by taking some time off once the kids are back at school. Try it out and enjoy the results! What could you do with 6 full hours of time for yourself? If time off work isn’t possible, maybe a weekend day to yourself is. Who in your self-care squad could look after the kids so that you can have some downtime?
Remember that taking time to rest, recuperate and have some fun is important to staying physically and mentally well so you can care for yourself and for the people you love. Self-care isn't selfish - it's essential.
I hope you find these blogs interesting and helpful. If you’d like to read more of my musings you can subscribe to my blog at https://www.tranquillocounselling.com/blog and follow me on Facebook at www.facebook.com/tranquillocounselling
The Self-Care Project - Jayne Hardy - 2017 - https://www.blurtitout.org/2017/09/05/self-care-project/
Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss how counselling might be helpful for you. I am currently working face to face from my therapy room in Falkirk, and online.