By Renee Koenig, Family Living Educator, UW-Extension
Parents have a lot of demands on their time, energy, and attention. This means that parents often neglect their own needs, which can strain your mind, body, and relationships.
The American Psychological Association’s Stress in America survey shows that parents who have a child under 18 at home report having higher stress levels than other adults. Chronic stress is associated with increased risk of long-term health problems, such as anxiety, heart disease, insomnia, and weight gain. Stress can also impact your parenting. For instance, feeling stressed and not practicing self-care can make parents less sensitive, patient, and responsive to their children. Nearly half of parents say they lost patience with their children in the past month when they were feeling stressed.
There is a bright side to this story! Even though stress is unavoidable, it can be managed! Parents can care for themselves and simultaneously model for children that self-care is important. This doesn’t necessarily mean self-care is a weekly trip to the spa or lavish vacations. Rather, self-care involves building healthy and rejuvenating physical, emotional, mental, relational, and spiritual practices into daily life. For some this may simply involve turning off all electronics an hour before bed. Others may find taking a walk with a friend or neighbor to be key for increasing well-being. You can’t stop being a parent, but you can incorporate small, daily practices that keep you sane and happy in the midst of the parenting whirlwind.
Here are more ideas of how you can incorporate self-care into your life.
- Care for your Body – get enough sleep, exercise and nutrition
- Take a hot shower or long bath
- Give and get hugs and kisses everyday
- Spend time with friends
- Laugh and find things that make you laugh
- Attend a local place of worship
- Spend time outdoors
- Ask for help – no one can do it all alone.
- Make something (paint, do crafts, sew, knit, make jewelry, build something, do woodworking)
- Try to disconnect from work when not at work
- Listen to music
- Read a book or magazine
- Volunteer for something not connected to your children, like the local food bank, a community garden, or the Humane Society
- Keep a journal – Write down one thing you are grateful for each day
No single self-care idea will work to eliminate all your parenting and life stress, but combining several practices will help decrease your stress, improve your parenting, and make your daily life more satisfying.
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