How to Practice Self-Care During Busy Times
Here are 5 tips to practice self-care during busy times.
1. Readjust your expectations
It’s important to realize that sometimes things will not be able to happen the way you would like them to. And the disappointment, frustration and guilt that can come with unmet expectations can be really hard to process. Especially when children are also disappointed or sad. But helping yourself readjust your expectations can do wonders for your mental health. Take a moment to feel your feelings. Then offer understanding to yourself that things are outside of your control. It is not a reflection on you as a parent or as a person. And then come up with the next best thing that you know you can do. This will help take some of the pressure off of you and make you feel more successful when things do work out.
2. Take a breath
What we feel as parents often gets transferred to our children without either of us knowing it. When we as parents feel stressed, our children will be stressed as well. This can lead us to an unhealthy stress response cycle where kids and parents are feeding each other’s stress until there is a big explosion. Which usually ends in tears and us not feeling very good about our parenting.
So as hard as it can be and as guilty as you might feel, it is important to practice self-care during busy times. And I know what you are thinking, you don’t have time for that. But, think of it this way. Parents set the tone for their families. So if you want to have a smoother day, you need to set the tone of being calm and relaxed. And the only way to do that is to actually become calm and relaxed.
Which brings us back to self-care needing to be a priority. Schedule it in as though it is an important meeting, because it is. Start asking for more help and taking more time for yourself. Help yourself get into the habit. Tanks can’t run on empty so make sure you are meeting stressful times with a full tank.
3. Practice self-compassion
Emotions tend to become more intense when we are busy or stressed. It’s okay to feel sad, overwhelmed and upset. These are emotions people feel everyday, especially parents. And it is okay to feel these emotions even during times when we are ‘supposed’ to feel happy. There is no ‘right’ way to feel. But you can make sure you are processing your emotions in a healthy way for you and your family. What can help you process tough emotions easier is practicing self-compassion. In short, self-compassion is treating yourself like you would a close friend. Realizing that you are dealing with something tough. Recognizing that others are also struggling like you. And that this is just one moment in time. And because it is a tough time, you deserve to meet yourself with kindness and understanding. As you would a friend. Studies have shown that self-compassion can help increase oxytocin in your body. Oxytocin is the love hormone that can counteract increased blood pressure and cortisol, the stress hormone. So the more self-compassion you practice, the less stress you will feel. Plus self-compassion has the added benefit of helping you stay in the present moment. And it is the ability to stay in the present moment that can further help your mental well being. It can be a hard skill for parents to learn, but the more we practice self-compassion the easier it becomes.
4. Get some exercise
Exercise is one of the best ways to relieve stress in your body and reset your stress response. Whether you like to run, lift weights, go for a walk, or something else, just get your body moving. The reason exercise works so well is because it helps to complete the body’s stress cycle. It’s easy to get stuck in a stress cycle when we experience prolonged stress. But when we exercise, it provides a natural signal to let our bodies know to stop the stress response. When we can get our body to stop signaling a stress response it will reduce the levels of cortisol in our system. Less cortisol allows us to think more clearly, function better and sleep better. It also gives us more control over our emotional regulation, making it easier to keep our calm. Which is a win for parents and kids.
5. Practice mindfulness
Mindfulness is the exercise of staying in the present moment. Some people may hear the word mindfulness and dismiss it because it feels too difficult. But anyone can learn to practice mindfulness, even kids. And the easiest way to do that is to take a minute every day where you breath deeply and focus on your breath. For some, this will be easy, and in that case you can always increase the amount of time. But for some people just trying for a minute can feel challenging. Most people who struggle with mindfulness think they need to keep their mind completely clear. But that’s not true. Mindfulness is about being in the moment and noticing things and then letting them go. So it is okay if you begin to think about something that takes you away from focusing on your breath. You simply acknowledge you got distracted, and then bring your attention back to your breath. Over time, your ability to focus on your breath and your ability to stay in the present will improve. For beginners and for kids, I like to help them learn mindfulness through exercises that engage their senses. This helps them to not worry about staying focused while helping them to actually focus. A very popular mindfulness exercise for this is noticing 5 things you hear, 4 things you see, 3 things you feel, 2 things you smell and 1 thing you taste. For those with visual or hearing impairments, doing 20 jumping jacks and then resting your hand on your heart and focusing on how your heart rate comes back to normal can be a good alternative. Learning to practice mindfulness, like self-compassion can take time. But the benefits are worth it. You will notice you are more intentional in your actions and you are able to better process your emotions. This leads to better relationships and more enjoyment in daily life.