How annoying is it when people say, ‘Be sure to get some rest’ or ‘Make time for yourself’. Or even worse, ‘Are you looking after yourself?’
I’m a parent! I feed, tend, cuddle, soothe, dress, clean and I love my baby. So yeah, plenty of time for self-care… not!
The trouble is it’s such a huge job and babies or toddlers are not designed to wait while you tend to your basic needs, like showering! So how do you care for number one, i.e. YOU?
Self-care is actually incredibly important, but the the idea of finding time can make a parent laugh and/or cry in despair.
A micro break can make all the difference
Try to think of ways to give your brain a tiny break – a moment to breathe. A very small interruption in parental duties can make a huge difference to your mental health. Here are some ideas you might find manageable:
- find a scented candle to burn
- put on some music
- hum a song you love whenever you cuddle your baby
- take some deep breaths.
Studies have shown that when we focus on just three long, slow breaths it can change the physiology of the brain. Breathing is effortless – maybe even take five.
It’s not self-indulgent, it’s necessary
Finding more time in a day of constant caring and providing can seem impossible or frivolous. But if you don’t find these snippets of time, you risk losing the ability to keep giving and caring all day long. You may start to resent yourself or your children.
Tiny emotional outlets mean so much because they stimulate release of the ‘feel good’ hormone serotonin. Your baby and children bring joy of course, but you have to always be thinking ahead and responding to their needs.
There will be days when you can’t even manage a shower, but make sure you do something that contributes to your own emotional well-being. Not because people say so, but because it is essential for mental health.
Ask for help
Considering that mood affects work performance by 20%, couldn’t you do with a 20% boost in the joy factor and performance sometimes? That's why so many people ask if you're trying to look after yourself, because they understand how critical it is, even though at the time it feels impossible to achieve.
Next time someone asks how parenthood is and if you're ‘looking after yourself’, be sure to say ‘not enough’ and ask if they can help. Perhaps they could bring dinner over or pick up something at the shops. And you can use that time to ... breathe.
Be creative, ask for help and take the offers of assistance – not for baby-care, but for self-care. Tiny things are essential so you can refuel your emotional tank.
Author: Helen Stevens. RN. RM. MCHN. Manager of Clinical Services, Education and Research. Parent Infant Consultants. 0411880720.