Q – I feel so overwhelmed and raw. Between taking care of the kids, juggling schedules,dealing with my Ex and working, I am exhausted mentally and emotionally. One day just rolls into the next. I know I need time for me but I feel so guilty taking time away from my kids. What can I do?
Research indicates that when stress levels are high, our sense of well-being and overall functioning take serious nose dive. We’re more prone to forget things, make rash decisions, act out of character, be short-tempered, irritable or emotionally distant. Along with that logic and reason usually go right out the window too. Our individual well-being and functioning aren’t the only things that takes a hit, so does our parenting.
In short, when you are feeling maxed out to the limit, you’re simply not at your parenting best. Neglecting your self-care doesn’t just put you at risk, it can also create serious complications for your kids. Think about it…they’re depending on you to get them through this. How can they believe life is going to be okay if you’re not?
To avoid wading in the shallow end of the self-care pool – here are a few tips to help you get it together.
Take care of you
- Make time to eat. Choose healthy foods whenever possible and bypass quick fix junk foods.
- Get regular sleep
- Take time to exercise. If you’re having a hard time start small. Take the stairs when possible, go outside for lunch or take the kids to the park and let them play while you walk or run.
Even though it can be hard to make your self-care a priority, it is absolutely necessary that you do. We all parent differently when we are stressed and sleep deprived, than when we are well rested and feeling grounded.
Seek out support for you and your children.
While supporting one another is an important aspect of being a family, children and parents should never be each other’s only support system. Both you and your children will need other outlets as you go through the process of redefining your lives. Make sure you have other adults to talk to and that you are occasionally engaging in activities that you enjoy. For kids, do your best to keep them connected with positive extra curricular activities, support existing friendships and help them identify other safe adults they can talk to besides Mom and Dad.
Pay attention to what’s stressing you out and make adjustments.
Researchers support the idea that not all stress is bad. In actuality, managed stress can actually add to the excitement of life, while stress left un-managed can lead to a myriad of emotional and physical problems. Make a list of your top five stressors and think through how you might be able to better manage them. For things you may not be able to change, give yourself an attitude adjustment. Remember stressing out leaves you less capable whereas giving yourself some emotional space to deal with things leads to better decisions.
Make time to positively connect with your children.
Find at least 20 to 30 minutes a day to enjoy being with your children (quality one on one time, not multitasking time). For most of us, it is easy to get overwhelmed with keeping track of schedules, doing homework and taking care of everyday chores. Propelling ourselves from task to task often cause us to lose track of what matters most–enjoying time with our children.
When life is stressful, redirect your energy and focus on spending more time engaging with your kids in a meaningful way. Balancing life with pockets of quality time often makes it a little bit easier to get through the challenging times. Consider ending the evening with reading a book together, taking a walk around the block, coloring with your children or playing a short game.
Take time to enjoy life, even if it is only FIVE minutes at a time.
As parents we all get bogged down in the idea that we just don’t have enough time especially when we are stressed. However, accessing small simple pleasures throughout the day can make a big difference in your attitude.
Things you can do…
- Listen to your favorite music in the car
- Schedule 10 minutes in your calendar to call a friend
- Take a walk at a local park on your lunch hour
- Get up 15 to 30 minutes earlier than your children and enjoy some quiet time.
- Put children to bed 30 minutes early and read a good book
- Get a massage
- Schedule a date with yourself to do something you enjoy
- Spend 20 minutes just thinking about something you would like to do in the future