How to be a better parent by being Self(care)ish: 20 easy 5-minute ideas to nourish yourself
Sofia Mendoza, LCSW
Have you ever felt guilty or even selfish for indulging in some down time while your littles are in daycare, with grandparents or friends? If you have, you’re not alone. Every time I ask a parent about how they self-care, there’s a hesitation, then a laugh, and then a “well….” In my experience, not only is it hard for parents to talk about how they self-care, but for many, it brings up a lot of guilt about being selfish for doing pleasurable things for themselves without their kids. The good news is that for you to be the parent you want to be, who’s fun to be around, consistent in your discipline and loving, and present you must practice self-care daily. Self-care nourishes us, it helps ward off stress and illness, and it helps to clear our mind. If you’re like most parents I know, you’re probably feeling all kinds of depleted and in survival mode.
Flight attendants know this well and they remind us that in the event of an emergency aboard, to ensure that we put on our own oxygen mask on before helping others or children. I like to remind myself that I can’t pour from an empty cup. Audrey Lorde, a mother, warrior, civil rights activist and poet, describes the need for self-care as “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” Self-care is crucial as we’re at the intersection of all our roles, responsibilities, and our own (unfair) expectations for ourselves.
Before you start engaging in self-care, start with changing the way your think about self-care. If you have thoughts that self-care is selfish, try swapping it for “self(care)ish.” I think it’s important to acknowledge when “selfish” comes up and I’m not asking you to abandon it, simply swap it. You can also try hashtagging or swapping it for the phrase #meforwe. You’re taking care of yourself now, for the benefit of your important “we” later.
Finding the time or money can be a barrier for self-care, that’s why I asked family, friends, and clients about their favorite 5-minute crucial self-care ideas. The response was great and we all agreed that these 5-minutes of self-care would not solve our biggest problems, but they definitely contribute to having a clear mind to be able to tackle the big ticket-heavy duty problems throughout our day.
Take a look at these easy and (mostly) free 20 5-minute Self-Care Ideas that anyone can do to help fill up their cup:
- A 5 minute bathroom break alone.
- Drinking your morning coffee/tea warm and alone before the children wake up (extra points if you sit down or put your feet up).
- Set out a few outfits at night so that you’re not scrambling in the AM.
- Sitting in the car and closing your eyes for 5 minutes.
- Put on your favorite dancing song and go at it.
- Singing or listening to THE song. The one that provides you with clarity, good memories, energy.
- Looking through pictures of your loved ones.
- Calling a friend who makes you laugh and “gets you.” You might say to them, “I need you to make me laugh right now. I only have 5 minutes.”
- Gratitude journaling. Take stock of the good in your life and write it down.
- Belly breathing. Good quality breathing is great for managing anxiety and resetting the system.
- I’m a big fan of 5 minutes of skimming or even reading bits of an article or book.
- Listening to books on tape or audible. A friend of mine loves listening to podcasts or Ted Talks on youtube. This can be done while driving, washing dishes, or even making dinner.
- You can color with your children or take it a step further and use an adult coloring book.
- Come up with a term of endearment for yourself. “My dear;” “My love;” “Amorcito;”
- See free apps like Headspace, Mindfulness, Simple Habit Meditation, Relax Meditation, Calm Meditation, 5 minute escapes – Guided Meditations.
- Drinking water – it’s important to stay hydrated.
- Taking medications, vitamins or supplements. After taking my emergenC, I usually feel like a champ and every time I get sick, I realize I haven’t been keeping up with my vitamin regimen.
- Self-compassion. It’s incredibly important and can sound like this:
- Replace “selfish” with “self(care)ish to remind yourself that you need some you time to be well for everyone else
- Tell yourself that you can’t pour from an empty cup and that’s why you are choosing to be kind to yourself
- You’re doing the best you can right now
- Parenting is hard. My love [or whichever term of endearment you came up with], you’re doing a very hard thing right now. Be easy on yourself.
- It’s ok to feel [insert emotion]. My dear, you’ve been through a lot
- Watch funny or heartwarming videos (the ones with the dressed-up dogs or baby hedgehogs)
- Engage any of your five senses and observe (taste, touch, smell, see, hear)
I had a really hard time limiting this list to 20 self-care activities. I bet there are lots of things you all are already doing. Feel free to share your favorite ideas in the comments. My goal is to provide a 100-idea list in the future.
Coming up with self-care ideas can be hard, especially if you’re dealing with a lot of stress, depression or anxiety. Remind yourself to get help if you need it. Therapy can be a great way for you to be able to self-care, be kind to yourself, and focus on your well-being. You deserve it. You are the most important person in your child’s life.