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Mom reading a book and having a cup of coffee by herself

The Importance of Self-Care

I recently asked a few new parents what they do in terms of self-care, and I was mostly met with similar responses. One text message reply summed it up nicely, “Hahahahaha. That’s funny, Andrew.” Some of the parents even identified showering as a form of self-care, because that’s when they have a few minutes to themselves.

The idea to ask this question came to me after surveying my own mental and physical well-being. I realized I had been functioning in a state of exhaustion for a while brought on by inadequate sleep and the stressors of trying to balance multiple responsibilities at work and at home. Unfortunately, for a lot of parents, this feeling becomes the new normal, and not much is done to counteract it.

Self-care can help. Taking time to invest in your mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual health is important and allows you to recharge and function at your best. To be able to do this, and still meet the demands of home and work, takes deliberateness. When we get busy, self-care is usually the first thing we sacrifice because we feel like we don’t need it. But taking care of yourself by doing things you enjoy has many benefits. Being a more alert and healthier you can lead to becoming a happier and more engaged parent and partner.

Here are four steps to improving self-care.

Figure out what self-care means to you.

Ask yourself, “If I had the whole day to do whatever I wanted and get paid for it, what would I do?” This prompting question can get you thinking about the things you enjoy doing. It’s often hard for parents to imagine what those things are, because our lives are consumed with caretaking and other responsibilities. Ask yourself this question and see what you come up with.

Make time – even if there’s no time

“There’s never any time,” is an excuse that most people use when asked to add one more thing to their already hectic schedules. Self-care is so important that it needs to be made a priority. It also doesn’t have to take up a whole day. It can be something as small as carving out 15 minutes to read a book, take a walk, or watch a TV show.

Make adjustments

If you can’t make time, make adjustments. What are some changes in lifestyle (nutrition, sleep, etc.) you can make that will help you feel healthier and more refreshed? It might also be useful to consider lightening your schedule if you can.

Do it consistently

In order for self-care to really be beneficial, it has to be something that you do consistently. Rather than something you squeeze in if you can, see if you can identify moments during the week where self-care can become a recurring event.

Parents, what are some of the things (besides showering) that you do for self-care?

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About Z. Andrew Jatau, LPC

About Z. Andrew  Jatau, LPC

Z. Andrew is a Licensed Professional Counselor and the founder of Mylemarks, an online company that develops social-emotional resources to use with kids and teens. Through that company, he creates content such as digital downloads, workbooks, and children’s books. He’s an adjunct professor in the Human Services department at Old Dominion University, and serves as the Fatherhood Consultant for CHKD’s Dads in Action program. When he’s not working, he enjoys spending time with his family, cooking, and listening to music.