Self-Care for Caregivers
Self-care for parents and caregivers is important to ensuring we are doing what is best for our children, our families, and ourselves. Learn more from CareNectar expert Shenley Seabrook.
Parents and caregivers tend to allow self-care to get pushed down to the bottom of their priority list. Sometimes it even gets pushed off the list altogether! But it is important to remember that we cannot care for others effectively if we are constantly feeling burned out and overwhelmed. The COVID-19 pandemic has changed how we work, gather, eat, and shop. We must put in the work, so it does not also affect how we take care of ourselves. Here are some tips on ways to incorporate self-care back into your daily routine.
Try to be Realistic
You will never be able to accomplish all of the things you need to do every day, and that’s okay! Give yourself grace if the laundry and dishes pile up more than they used to, or the kids get more screen time than they had in the past. You can also choose 2 to 3 household tasks to prioritize for the day. Maybe one day it’s getting the garbage out to the curb and wiping down countertops and another day it’s vacuuming and two loads of laundry. If the toys don’t get picked up at the end of that night, permit yourself to let them stay there.
Choose your top 3 favorite self-care tasks and write them down. Then add a few others that aren’t quite your favorite, but you enjoy. Keep this list posted somewhere and attempt to engage in your top 3 at least a few times a week. You can also make a list of people outside of your household or workplace with whom you have healthy relationships. Try to choose at least one person each day to reach out to and have a meaningful connection, even if it’s just 15 minutes.
Set Healthy Boundaries
Remember, it’s not your job to always be everything to everyone. You are the only person who knows how much you can handle. If you notice you are starting to feel overwhelmed, you will need to decide where (and with whom) to set boundaries. Try using these phrases to start – “I would love to help, but I’m not taking anything else on right now”, or “Thanks for the offer, but I won’t be able to commit.”
Try to identify your self-care barriers. Are you the type of person who doesn’t think you have enough time in the day, or maybe you feel guilty about engaging in self-care? Try your best to find solutions to these barriers. You can also flip the script. When you tell yourself, ‘If I go for a run, my child will be upset’, change it to, ‘If I get in a run, I will feel better and be able to be more present for my child’. Also, if you feel guilty about not spending as much time with your kids, make sure that the time you spend is quality time! This means that you are 100% engaged with zero distractions. That way, even if you only have an hour or a few hours that are broken up throughout the day, it will be enough.
Prioritize Your Health
It’s not easy feeling stuck inside the house all day. Try to find a safe way to spend time outdoors at least once a day. You should also be moving your body daily. This doesn’t have to be your typical gym workout – go ahead and count your trip to the grocery store if that’s all you get to that day. You can also get your kids involved! GoNoodle and Cosmic Kids Yoga are perfect for this. Finally, make sleep a priority! I know it’s tempting to stay up late watching tv or scrolling social media for hours after the kids go to sleep, but your sleep is so much more important.
Do a Mental Health Check-In
Ask yourself honestly each day how you are handling your emotions. Are you speaking gently to yourself when things don’t go how you planned? Are you allowing yourself to feel your feelings without getting stuck in those emotions for too long? Are you feeling anxious most of the day, concerned about things that are outside of your control? Are you so over this pandemic and everything that comes along with it that some days you just can’t find the energy to even fake a smile at work? If so, I promise you are not alone. A few things that can help are to build a support network of family and friends, limit your time spent consuming media (including, *gasp*, social media), and consider finding a counselor in your area.
We must first nurture ourselves so we can effectively take care of others. Whether you are a childcare worker, a parent working outside of the home, a stay-at-home parent, or a work-from-home parent, this has been a challenging year for everyone. But as difficult as it may seem, allowing yourself to prioritize self-care will have a positive impact on your body, mind, and overall well-being.
Meet The Expert
Shenley Seabrook is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor who works primarily with children and adolescents in a private practice setting. She is also a foster parent and lives with her husband and daughter in Indiana. Shenley recently wrote her first children’s book, We Have the Same Heart, which celebrates diversity, inclusion, and community service.