Family, Parents, Informal mindfulness 3 minute read

Self-care tips for parents, from The Wholesome Doctor

Self Care is all about checking in with yourself regularly and asking yourself "What do I need in this moment?" 

As a doctor and a mum, my days tend to be jam-packed, making it difficult to find moments just for me. As parents and carers, we spend so much time supporting and caring for our families that often we overlook the importance of applying this same love and attention to ourselves.

As we move through this global health crisis together, many of us have been actively engaged in supporting the wellbeing of our children. However, it is important that we create regular opportunities for self-care so that we can continue to support others and look after our own wellbeing at the same time. I often tell my patients who are parents to put their oxygen mask on first; the line you’ve likely heard often on an airplane also applies to self-care!

Self-care has become a bit of a buzzword but contrary to what some people believe, self-care doesn't have to be lavish or expensive; it doesn’t have to involve day spas and face masks. It’s often the simplest things that can make the biggest difference. Self-care refers to the activities and practices that support physical, emotional, and mental health and for me personally, it involves a walk with headphones in.

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There is nothing selfish about self-care - in fact making time to check in with yourself and incorporating regular self-care practices will allow you to be the best version of yourself and be better placed to support the needs of others.

Below I have broken down specific times of the day with some suggestions on where you can find a moment for yourself. Remember self-care looks different for everyone so take some time to check in with yourself and ask: “what do I need in this moment?”

Morning 

  • Find time for five - Finding time in your morning routine for five deep breaths is a quick and simple way to focus your awareness and check-in with yourself to start the day off on the right foot. Do this at the same point in your routine every morning – straight after brushing your teeth, waiting for the kettle to boil, even in the shower.
  • Feel the weather – When you first step out the door in the morning, take a moment to feel the weather. Notice the transition from inside to outside. Noticing the transitions in our day can help us reset, refocus and refresh.

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During the day:

  • Break for lunch -Skipping lunch, lunch-on-the-run or desk lunches can take their toll on our focus, mood and energy. So, build a proper lunch break into your daily routine. Make time to fully taste and appreciate your food and give your brain a break too!
  • Move your body –It’s great if you can fit in a workout during the day but if you don’t have time to hit the gym just aim for something small, perhaps opt to walk to a destination rather than driving. Or take a moment to do some stretches to release any tension. Exercise does not have to be fancy or high intensity to be good for the brain and body - some squats in your bedroom or crunches in front of the TV all count. Movement is also a great tip for supporting your child's mental health.
  • Connect with others –Self-care isn’t just about doing things alone. A great way to look after ourselves is by spending time with others. Take time to think about who makes you feel your best and reach out to catch up or speak on the phone. Remember asking others for help when you need it is an act of self-care too!

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In the evening:

  • Me time –Make some time in the day for an activity that’s just for you! Take a bath, read a book, learn a new skill, watch something you truly enjoy (without worrying about how embarrassed you would be if anyone knew you were watching it!), or simply spend time with your partner or pet. This is your time, enjoy it!
  • Prioritise Sleep –Being well-rested can make a big difference in how we feel in ourselves and interact with others. Although sometimes being a parent may mean being woken up in the night, try and create a simple bedtime routine that promotes restful sleep. This means avoiding screens 30 minutes before bed, making sure your room feels safe and comfortable, and avoiding caffeine in the lead-up to sleep. Reading a book or practising meditation are great ways to get your body ready for rest.

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Looking for more self-care tips? Check out Smiling Minds FREE Digital Care Packs for Families featuring a range of resources and activities developed by psychologists. 

Download our Care Packs

About the author: 
Dr Preeya Alexander is a practising GP based in Melbourne and holds a Bachelor of Medicine & Bachelor of Surgery from Adelaide University. Dr Preeya specialises in preventative health, general medicine, sexual health, mental health, women’s medicine and shares her expertise and passion on her blog, The Wholesome Doctor.

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