Tag: <span>parenting</span>

How to be a better parent by being Self(care)ish: 20 easy 5-minute ideas to nourish yourself


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:

  1. A 5 minute bathroom break alone.
  2. Drinking your morning coffee/tea warm and alone before the children wake up (extra points if you sit down or put your feet up).
  3. Set out a few outfits at night so that you’re not scrambling in the AM.
  4. Sitting in the car and closing your eyes for 5 minutes.
  5. Put on your favorite dancing song and go at it.
  6. Singing or listening to THE song. The one that provides you with clarity, good memories, energy.
  7. Looking through pictures of your loved ones.
  8. 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.”
  9. Gratitude journaling. Take stock of the good in your life and write it down.
  10. Belly breathing. Good quality breathing is great for managing anxiety and resetting the system.
  11. I’m a big fan of 5 minutes of skimming or even reading bits of an article or book.
  12. 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.
  13. You can color with your children or take it a step further and use an adult coloring book.
  14. Come up with a term of endearment for yourself. “My dear;” “My love;” “Amorcito;”
  15. See free apps like Headspace, Mindfulness, Simple Habit Meditation, Relax Meditation, Calm Meditation, 5 minute escapes – Guided Meditations.
  16. Drinking water – it’s important to stay hydrated.
  17. 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.
  18. 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
  19. Watch funny or heartwarming videos (the ones with the dressed-up dogs or baby hedgehogs)
  20. 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.


“I’m not bad…”

Ever want to shout out at a naughty child, “Stop it, you’re being BAD?” You are definitely not alone. Parenting, caregiving, teaching children requires lots of patience and skill especially when they are not complying.

Growing up, I knew a lot of kids who heard this from teachers, siblings, and well-meaning neighbors. These kids didn’t listen, were very hyperactive, and above all, mischievous. I didn’t like some of them. I was friends with some. Later, I would come to find out that kids aren’t bad, they just engage in behaviors that are either not expected, liked, or accepted for the situation.

Which is why when one of my daughter’s first words were, “bad! bad!” I cringed and as I was trying to tolerate the shame of having my daughter say this (and with conviction), I of course, yelled at my husband. You see, in her first year of life, my husband would constantly tell our chihuahua, Millie that she was “bad! bad!” when she would bark at strangers, family members, the baby, nothing, or a knock on tv (she’s just protective!). My family would laugh at me when I would say, “Millie’s not bad, she just makes poor choices.” Yes, these are the conversations in the home of a therapist. My point was that Millie was responding to her internal alarm, her “flight and fight” response telling her to protect us and the home. And while she has a lot to learn about life and real and perceived danger, we as her parents need to train her to do better, instead of making her feel as though she’s bad. Every time I hear someone say “bad person” it’s like nails on a chalkboard for me. Mainly because I know how much people suffer when they believe it about themselves.

In my work, the “I’m a bad person” core belief comes up quite frequently. A lot of people believe they are inherently BAD. When we examine this belief and its history on their life, we find that the message (or “seed” as I like to refer to it as), “You’re bad” was planted back in childhood. It might have been an innocent, non-ill intentioned experience, and it kept being reinforced through time and other experiences. I tell my clients that these reinforced experiences are like oxygen, water and sunlight… all the things that a core belief and “tree” needs to grow and thrive. Then people start to believe the message and can develop assumptions about themselves and act accordingly. Two extremes can be: 1) continue to act that belief out, ex: “Since I’m bad and everyone knows it, I will continue to do bad things.” and/or ; 2) do everything possible to combat this belief or “inherent trait”, ex: “I have to go above and beyond to do nice things so that no one catches on and sees that I’m actually really a bad person.” Such behaviors can cause people to suffer and ultimately, behave in ways that are opposite to their values or goals.

Now that my daughter is 3.5 years old, I see her personality flourishing, how she developmentally appropriately pushes boundaries (and bedtime, and more snacks, or juice after brushing teeth, or stalling to clean up toys and on and on), and asserts her independence (no, I do it!),  and how she is also starting to hold on to certain beliefs about herself and even others, like Millie = bad. It won’t be before long that an experience plants a seed about how her behavior is a direct reflection of something or someone she inherently is, even though it really isn’t.

And so this post is for her, for me, for you and your children. Let this image be a reminder that kids aren’t bad, they’re just:

Hungry. Tired. Bored. Overly Stimulated. Super excited. Frustrated. Delirious. Loopy. Sad. Having bad memories (trauma reactions look a lot like hyperactivity in kids – more on this in a later post). Legitimately not listening to you or the directions.

Sure it frustrates the hell out of us parents or caregivers (or aunts, teachers, sitters, cousins, grandparents), mainly because we’re:

Hungry. Tired. Bored. Overly Stimulated. Super excited. Frustrated. Delirious. Loopy. Sad. Having bad memories (trauma reactions look a lot like irritability in adults – more on this in a later post). Legitimately not listening to them or the directions they have for us.

And that doesn’t make us bad either.

Hey, parenting, teaching, caregiving – it’s all hard. Every day is a whole new ballgame. Be kind to yourself and those kiddos.

Stay tuned for the next post focusing on what you can do to help with some of these behaviors.


If you feel triggered by this article and are in need of some immediate resources, I urge you to contact:

  • 911 or go to your nearest ER if you feel you a danger to yourself or others
  • 211 – in LA County it’s the social service directory for grief groups, therapy resources, housing, and more. It’s also online, google, “211”
  • LA County Access hotline for a psychiatric evaluation wherever you are located. The ACCESS/HOTLINE Phone number is : 1-800-854-7771. ACCESS operates 24 hours/day, 7 days/week as the entry point for mental health services in Los Angeles County.
  • Email me at info@sofiamendozalcsw.com if you’d like to inquire about an appointment with me in the Long Beach area. I can also help connect you to other therapists if you live elsewhere.
  • If you would like to access your insurance mental health benefits, there should be a Member Phone number on the back of your insurance card. Ask them for their list of approved therapists. They can also email it to you, making it easy to cross reference the list on www.psychologytoday.com where you can check their profiles out.

Thank you for reading. Follow me on Instagram under @mendingrootstherapy to get updates about new articles, quotes and other musings on mental health.


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