The following is a guest post written by Kassandra Brown of Parentcoaching.org.
I open my eyes and feel two little bodies snuggled up against me. The pull to stay under the covers is strong especially since I know the chill I’ll feel going downstairs to the cold woodstove and unheated room.
But after a couple of breaths I quietly slip out from under the covers, careful not to awaken my girls. I nudge my husband and he drowsily rolls over to sleep in-between the girls for the next couple of hours. I slide into layers of pants, sweaters, socks, coat and boots then walk outside to take my first deep breaths of the day. Why?
I know that if I go and stand on the land and greet the sunrise I will have that anchoring with me the rest of the day. When I skip my morning practice too many days in a row, I start to get irritable, grumpy, short-tempered, and off-balance. I lose my perspective and start taking my children’s complaints personally.
Do you think a self-care practice could be right for you?
Tips For Self-Care
1. What nourishes you?
Ask yourself what you like to do, what you feel good when you do, and what you’d like to do more often. Avoid things you’re doing for other people. Trust yourself.
- Tip: Brainstorm on possible self-care practices. Write them down. Paint them. Journal. Dictate them into the voice recorder on your smart phone on the way to the grocery store. The medium doesn’t matter. Giving yourself time to think about what you need does.
2. Get help.
You may not know what nourishes you. You may want to try something you don’t already know how to do. Asking for help is a great idea. At parentcoaching.org I often help parents learn self-care including radical honesty, reflective listening, yoga and meditation. We also work through any negative beliefs around taking time for self-care.
- Tip: Think of three things you’d like to do that you don’t already know how to do. Learning piano, taking voice lessons, and learning to draw are three things that I’d like to do. What would you like to learn?
3. Try it out.
Now that you have some ideas for your self-care, start trying them out. Be playful. Find what works for you.
- Tip: Try one thing for three days and then go to the next thing on your list. Or try mixing a few things in the same day. For me, I love to greet the sunrise, journal, and do some yoga. My resilience, creativity, and compassion are better with all three of these and decrease with each practice I drop.
4. Invite the kids.
As homeschooling parents, our kids are around more often. The good news is that they can benefit from learning self-care practices from you. Sometimes you’ll want to be by yourself, but sometimes invite one child at a time to join you.
- Tip: If you’re feeling brave, you can invite all your kids in to share your special time and then you’ll have special family time. This does not take the place of self-care that we do alone. Please don’t try to substitute one for the other.
5. Give up your practice.
The real proof on whether it’s worth it to have your own self-care time? Give it up. If you’re just as happy, just as productive, just as capable, and just as nice to be around without your personal practices, then maybe you don’t need them. But otherwise, overcome your own resistance to change and make self-care part of your daily or at least weekly life.
- Tip: Self-care is OK to do even if you just like doing it and can’t point to any tangible benefits to others. You can take back your practices just because you want to.
Many parents have a hard time taking care of themselves because they feel selfish. We’re taught that it’s good to take care of others, but that it’s selfish to take care of ourselves.
Personal self-care practices challenge that belief and I’m going to challenge it further. What if taking care of yourself is the best gift you can give your children? What if you parented from your own joy of being with your children rather than through guilt or responsibility or a fear of what will happen to your kids if you don’t?
Self-care practices give you the inner energy and resilience to do what you love and to love what you do. Just think how wonderful it would be to be parented by someone who really wants to be with you and loves the time they spend with you.
Now contrast that to the feeling of being parented by someone who is overworked, stressed out, and would like to be somewhere else: Which feels better to you? Which would you choose for your own children?
Do you need to make self-care more of a priority? What’s stopping you?