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SELF-CARE FOR PARENTS (AND OTHERS)

If you’re anything like me, you put everyone first: your kids, your partner, your friends, your parents, your pets, your boss, your mail carrier. I did that for years after my kids were born and I paid a price for it. I got angry and burned out and completely lost myself in caring for other people. 

It’s a total cliché (but clichés are clichés because they’re true), but you really do need to put your airplane mask on first. 

In therapy school, they hammer the idea of self-care into the deepest corners of your brain, “You cannot care for others if you are empty yourself.” As a therapist, I got it. I was a believer in the power of self-care. 

When I became a mother, however, much of my good sense flew out the window. I was sleep-deprived and overwhelmed. I forgot about me. I lost myself completely in caring for my baby, which is normal. You are consumed with poop, milk, sleep (or lack-thereof), spit up, diapers, teething, crying (so much crying), all of it. 

Self Love

Here is a biggie. Love yourself as much as you love your baby. I know you love your baby. And I know you love yourself, but you might have forgotten how much you love yourself. It’s like that song from your childhood that you haven’t listened to in 15 years, and then all of a sudden it’s on the radio and you remember all of the words and you sing along at the top of your lungs and it’s awesome. You forget about you, and I am here today to remind you that you are just like that song from your childhood, you’re in there, you just need to remember.

I am here to tell you, though, that you can (and should) make time for you. 

Check out my blog about how self-care regulates the nervous system.

How Self Care Regulates the Nervous System

If you have 5-10 minutes

BREATHE

  • Place your hands on your heart and take 5 deep breaths
  • Take some deep breaths
    • Try breathing in to a count of 4 and out to a count of 6 (this slows down your heart rate and activates your parasympathetic nervous system)
  • Bring yourself into the present moment by grounding yourself
    • Concentrate on a physical sensation
      • Feel the breath coming in and out of your nose
      • Feel your feet on the ground or your feet in your shoes
      • Feel your bottom on your chair
    • Concentrate on something visual
      • Look around the room and really look at what is there
      • Pick a color and focus on anything in the room that is that color
    • Concentrate on a sound
      • Really listen to the noises/ sounds where you are
  • Download a meditation app and find a short guided meditation
  • Connect with someone you trust
    • Even if it’s just to text a funny emoji
    • Ask them for help if you need 
  • Laugh
    • Find the humor in it all. Being a parent is stressful, but also really funny
    • Find some funny parenting memes
  • Get outside. Breathe some fresh air and feel the sun on your face
  • Grab a healthy snack – you might be hungry
  • Drink some water
  • Listen to music that makes you smile
  • Read a couple pages of a book on your phone
  • Smell something that makes you happy
    • Diffuse essential oils
    • Rub some yummy lotion onto your hands and feet
    • Spritz some perfume
  • Does wearing make-up make you feel pretty?
    • Put on some lipstick or tinted Chapstick, even if it’s just for you to feel better
  • Put the baby in the crib and go into the bathroom and have a good cry
  • Cuddle/ hug someone or your pet
  • Step away from social media
  • Stretch
  • Delegate! You don’t have to do it all yourself

If you have 30 minutes

  • Call or video chat someone you love
  • Journal – Write about all the things you’re grateful for and the things that are bothering you
  • Dance party! Get silly, shake it out!!
  • Take a hot shower
  • Do you have a hobby that feeds your soul?
    • Drawing, writing, knitting, exercise, reading, cooking, baking, gardening, etc. 
  • Laugh more! Watch or read something that speaks to your funny bone 

If you have 1 hour or more

  • Get a babysitter?!?!? You deserve it!!
  • Nap
  • Stream a TV show or movie
  • Where do you feel happy? Go there, do that
    • A yummy meal, ask a friend to meet you for coffee, massage, mani pedi, haircut, etc.
  • Read a book
  • Make a therapy appointment
  • Go for a work out
    • Walk, Bike, Run, Fit 4 Mom, Yoga, gym, etc.
  • Take a bath
    • Put on relaxing music, light a candle, enjoy
  • Connect with your partner
    • Lay in bed and cuddle
    • Date night when you can
  • Make a new friend
    • Attend a group or class. Be brave. Be vulnerable. Connect.

Long-Term

  • Connect with others
    • Build your village
  • Ask for help
    • We can’t do this alone
    • Family, your partner, babysitters, nanny
  • Accept help. I know it’s hard, but it’s essential
  • Find yourself as a human
    • Re-connecting with your identity as a human, apart from being a parent is important
  • Be gentle with yourself
    • You are human. Humans make mistakes. All. The. Time. 

And, remember, Self-Care is vital because it activates your parasympathetic nervous system, which helps to turn off your stress response (aka fight/flight/freeze).

Self-Care is not selfish! Now go do something kind for yourself!

About the author : Erin Hickman

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