Self-Care for the School Year
By Jennifer Seawell, MD, FAAP
Up until a couple of years ago, I had never even heard of the term “Self-Care.” So what exactly is it? In short, self-care is something you do on a REGULAR basis to take care of YOU. It doesn’t have to be big or expensive. And it doesn’t need to be the same for everybody.
With school starting and after school activities also gearing up, it is especially important to take some time to take care of yourself. After all, you have to keep yourself healthy to best take care of your sweet kiddos. So here are things to keep in mind to practice good self-care during the school year.
Get some rest
Sleep is important for parents as well as kids. And most people don’t get enough. So put away the electronics and set yourself an early bedtime. And stick with it!! Pay attention to your body. Do you know how much sleep YOU need? Some folks function really well on 6 hours a night, others of us really need 8 or 9. But pay attention and sort out what works for you. Rested parents are less irritable and more flexible, both a bonus when dealing with the day-to-day challenges of parenting.
Fuel your body
Make sure you’re not skipping out on regular meals. Sometimes, we get so busy that meals are skipped. Sometimes we get so busy that we resort to unhealthy fast food options to save time. Rather than changing everything at once, try to make sure you are eating SOMETHING good for you each day. Remember that our kids are always watching us. Setting good habits for ourselves will make it that much easier for them to set good habits for themselves.
Get a Hobby
When was the last time you did something just for you? If it has been a while, it’s time to make a change. Pick out some great books to read. Start learning a new language. Take a rock-climbing class. It is very easy to get so hyperfocused on the kids that we forget to grow ourselves too. So reach in deep and remember what made you the awesome person you are BEFORE you became a parent. And keep growing your own kind of awesome.
Learn to Relax
Sometimes we are on the go so much, we forget to take a moment to breathe. Set aside a few minutes each day for relaxation. Maybe it’s a walk outside, or perhaps a bubble bath. Spend a few minutes with a journal or try coloring. Connect with the great outdoors and learn to appreciate silence. The important thing here is to make it a continued effort to look for the stuff that chills you out. And once you find it, do it regularly.
Spending even a few minutes a day reminding yourself of what you have to be grateful for is one of the quickest and easiest ways to improve your outlook and take care of yourself. There is a compelling article in Forbes, 7 Scientifically Proven Benefits of Gratitude… dedicated to this exact topic. A positive attitude can take time to cultivate so be patient with yourself. For an added bonus, bring your kiddos into the mix. Incorporate your gratitude into your dinnertime or bedtime routines and talk about it as a family. It can be as simple as having each child say just 1 thing that they were grateful for that day.
Remember that you have to take care of yourself to be able to take care of others. Self-care is not just a frivolous luxury to get to when all the important work is done. It is actually one of the most important things to do so that you can be present and mentally available to your kids. Remember healthy parents grow healthy kids. Take care of yourself.