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Self Care Tips for Exhausted Parents
By Madeline E Albright
Posted on 11/20/2020 9:28 AM

 



Photo credit: Seattle Times


My heart goes out to all you parents out there, working endlessly and tirelessly to keep up with the chaotic rhythm of daily life amidst so much of the uncertainty and stress that have unfolded in 2020. The general consensus as I talk amongst my parent friends is a feeling of being totally maxed out. As we near the holiday season, there may be additional stressors added to our plates accompanied by the frustration and sadness of not being able to partake in our usual holiday traditions and gatherings. A lot of our attention is being focused on trying to shelter and support our kids as their worlds have shifted, and rightfully so. Self care can feel like just another thing to add to our never-ending to-do lists, and it usually gets quickly buried by more pressing priorities. If you are feeling exhausted, emotionally or physically, and craving some me time, you are most definitely not alone. 


I like to think of self care not as a luxury, but as my own foundational need for moments of peace and solace which are my rightful experiences even as a busy parent. When I was a new mom with my oldest child, exhausted from sleepless nights, I was bombarded like so many parents with tips advising me to Take a nap! Go run errands by yourself! Have a hot shower alone!  Amidst parenting chaos and particularly now during pandemic parenting chaos, these little things can feel like luxuries. Sleep, showering, and running errands are also everyday necessities and trying to find solace in the long term only in these activities can contribute to burnout. By all means, a leisurely hot shower without a little person trying to pry open the bathroom door can certainly feel good right now and I would definitely encourage you to carve out time for that as possible. But remind yourself that it’s okay if your self care needs might extend a bit beyond that. Below you’ll find some practical self care tips that I’ve learned through my time as a yoga teacher, new parent, and working mom that hopefully will inspire you to sprinkle your schedule with a little more self love. 


Laughter

Find ways to bring more humor into your life. This can feel particularly hard when everything feels heavy in the world right now. Personally, I tend to err on the side of seriousness, so I have to work at this one. I lean on my partner, who is an eternal optimist and can help me find humor in just about any situation. We’ve lately taken to watching stand up comedies on Netflix at night (and, yes, we Netflix hard at night because...pandemic parenting). Forty-five minutes of Dave Chappelle lets me unwind and actually laugh out loud and not just use LOL in my text messages. 


Breath & sound 

When I say breath and sound, I am basically saying meditation. For the context of pandemic parenting I am finding it is best to keep meditation really, really simple and just distill it down to easy deep breathing and soothing sounds. Think of meditation as simply finding quiet and solace, and allowing yourself time to space out. Keep it to 10 minutes or less, so you’re not tempted to feel like you don’t have time. Use noise canceling headphones and lie down; bonus points for putting a warm cloth over your eyes. You absolutely do not need to spend money on a meditation app nor do you need to commit to a 45-minute meditation, but if that helps you, then go for it! Nature sounds, like the crackling of a fire or waves on a beach, can be incredibly soothing and you can find plenty of free sessions on Spotify, Pandora or Youtube. Personally, I love a simple rain sound to allow me to loosen my mental chatter and really space out, and bird sounds seem to cheer me up. Find a soothing soundscape and let yourself really chill out for a full 10 minutes, focusing only on the sounds and your relaxed, deep breathing. 


Sacred space

Find a spot in your home that can be solely yours and can become your go-to spot for a mental break. Ever escape to your car for a quiet moment away from the kids? Me too. It feels good to have your own quiet spot that is separate from the rest of your house inhabitants and where you feel safe and protected. Try to bring some of those qualities into your own sacred space. Maybe you add some floor cushions and keep your yoga mat rolled out in a corner of your bedroom. Maybe it’s a cozy reading chair that you can find solace in when the kids are napping. Add a blanket, maybe a candle or crystal. 


Energetic body breathing exercise

We focus a lot of our attention on our physical bodies, and rightfully so. Consider for a moment your energetic body, which can manifest itself differently depending on the belief system. Without getting to woo-woo, I like to think of my energetic body as the more subtle way my energy and mental state interact with my physical body. For example, when I’m stressed or anxious, I feel it intensely in my chest and shoulders. When I don’t acknowledge that, the discomfort tends to increase and I’m left with hunched over, sore shoulders. To address this, try lying down in a supported position with your eyes closed. Rub the palms of your hands together vigorously and then place them on your chest, absorbing that warmth and feeling the pressure of your hands. Take slow, deep breaths, keeping your palms pressing down. Imagine any tightness and tension melting away under the warmth of your hands as your breath expands the space in your chest. Sometimes this can stir up feelings of discomfort; let the touch of your hands support you as you move through any uncomfortable feelings. Repeat as needed. 


Conscious media intake - only essentials

One final point I feel worth mentioning ties into my first tip. Try to be incredibly conscious of your news and media intake. I am a self professed news addict, so 2020 has been a particularly rough year for me as I have had to restrain myself from being glued to the news all day, every day. I’ve cut out my morning TV news routine, canceled a lot of the email newsletters I used to get from various news sources, and instead opted for a once-a-day news essentials check on a news station that is at least a little less sensational than other sources. Some days I skip the news altogether. If you like keeping up with political news, try ingesting it with a little comedy like on a late night show reel or even better, via Saturday Night Live, which is my new favorite way to keep up with news (hello more Maya Rudolph!). By all means, stay informed, but remember to draw healthy boundaries around your media intake just like you would any other relationship. 


If you are strapped for time and feeling like you already have too much to incorporate into your day, please don’t let these suggestions stress you out further. Start with one small thing, and see what works best for you. A reminder, you have a village here at BPC. You have probably heard this many times already but it helps to hear it again; you are not alone. If you feel like you need a little extra help during this time, please please reach out and get professional help. Call your doctor, or send them an online message. Message or call a trusted friend or confidante. It is essential to reach out for help when you need it. 


We wish you a wonderful weekend and hopefully some moments of true relaxation and peace as we head into the final countdown of 2020. Take care!



If you enjoyed the above topics, here is some suggested articles that might be of interest: 


Harvard Business Review - Lessons from a Working Mom on Doing it All:

https://hbr.org/2020/06/lessons-from-a-working-mom-on-doing-it-all


The Nap Ministry - Rest as Resistance:

https://thenapministry.wordpress.com/


Cincinnati Children's Health - Self Care for Parents:

https://www.cincinnatichildrens.org/patients/coronavirus-information/family-resources/self-care-parents


CDC - Coping with Stress:

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/managing-stress-anxiety.html


NYT Parenting - Self Care During Uncertain Times: 

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/11/04/parenting/exhaustion-burnout-rest.html