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Written by Nikki Cox

Self-care mean good parenting, although many of us have been led to believe it means selfish parenting.

Although it is natural, normal and sometimes necessary to put your children's needs ahead of your own, more often than not we tend to over-action this message. Practicing self-care restores the internal balance that is often disrupted as a result of endless giving; to your children, your partner, your work... and the list can go on.

It’s absolutely vital to learn how to listen to and consider your own needs against the needs of others, and how to feel good about caring for yourself as a parent. Neglecting your own self-care can lead to short-fuses, poor decisions, depression, anxiety and feelings of meaninglessness — none of which is good for anyone, let alone a parent.

As a parent, caring for yourself is a behaviour you have to train yourself in and commit to, and refresher courses in self-care practice are part of this commitment.

What Is Self-Care Anyway? (Tuning Into Your Needs)

Simply put, self-care is about nurturing your mind and thoughts, your body and physical health, and your emotions. But the concept of ‘self-care’ has become a bit of a buzz word on social media these days, with many misconceptions about what it truly is and what it looks like.

It is very important to understand that self-care is essentially made up of two different categories of activities. Firstly, there are your ‘basic needs’; things that are important predominantly to your physical wellbeing, such as bathing, eating, brushing your teeth and hair, and being clothed. Secondly, there are your ‘cup-fillers’; activities that you enjoy, that you consider fun, make you feel happy, fulfilled and inspired.

Sometimes these self-care activities can cross-over — a long hot shower can be extremely enjoyable and is also important for our health. With that said, it is perfectly ok if some days all you can manage is your basic needs. Finding opportunities for deeper self-care activities from the second category, however, is a critical part of achieving and maintaining wellness. It’s about treating yourself like you love yourself and acting like your needs and enjoyment matter just as much as anyone else’s.

How Can I Hear What I Need?

When was the last time you asked yourself “What do I need right now?”

This question can help you practice self-care by briefly reconnecting with yourself to identify and satisfy a need that is going unnoticed and unmet. If you can take less than a minute to habitually ask yourself this question, you might uncover the need for:

  •              a quiet moment to think
  •              something to eat or drink
  •              getting outside for some fresh air
  •              a hug or physical connection
  •              sleep or rest
  •              a change of scenery
  •              someone to talk to
  •              some help
  •              a few deep breaths
  •              a change in perspective

This question can totally change what happens next for you; from a decision to be made, to a conversation with someone, to how you spend your next 5 minutes or the rest of the afternoon.

It’s also important to understand that self-care activities that fill your cup look different from parent to parent, and don’t always need to be done alone or without your kids. If scented bubble baths and meditation bring on a major case of the eye-rolls, then you probably won’t feel replenished by doing them. Don’t like yoga? Don’t do it! There is no wrong or right way to ‘do’ self-care. Remember the old K.I.S.S. principle (Keep It Simple, Stupid)? It applies to your self-care choices too. Acts of self-care could include anything from taking a nap to exercising, spending time with friends, catching up on a favourite TV show, getting your hair done, watching a sunset or reading a book.

How Do I Effectively ‘Do’ Self-Care? (Tuning Into Your Needs)

Although it’s extra important to practice self-care when you have lots of outside stressors, you feel unwell or run down, you are feeling overwhelmed or you notice your inner voice is putting your down, regular, small pockets of time for self-care are far better for a parent than occasional big actions such as a massage or even a weekend away. This is the notion of ‘Sustainable Self-Care’.

  1. Sustainable self-care is scheduled. Have a weekly planner that marks out self-care time for either you or you and your partner.
  2. It is short but sweet. With 15 minutes totally for yourself each day you can meditate, take a short walk, drink a cup of tea that is still hot, sing or dance to a couple of your favourite songs or read a chapter of a book in the garden.
  3. Sustainable self-care is a commitment to constant work in progress.

Self-care is an essential part of your being. It helps give us the energy to give and give and give to our children. It helps preserve our patience and sanity.  We know that not listening to our self-care needs can lead to chronic stress, weight gain, complete burnout or even more serious mental and physical health issues, such as depression, diabetes or obesity. Ultimately, taking the time to tune into and give yourself what you need leads to greater happiness, calm, emotional resilience, clarity, motivation, and energy.

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