Many parents are overworked and exhausted. In fact, a recent study showed that mums work an average of 98 hours per week and that the average mum gets only 17 minutes of free time to herself each day.
Another surprising source of parents' weariness is feeling out-of-sorts or lonely due to complex changes in relationships with friends, partners, or family. Research suggests that loneliness, not just overwork, contributes to a feeling of burnout.
It's essential that parents care for themselves - for their own well-being - but also because any effort they put into self-care has huge payoffs for their children. When parents "fill their own cups," they have more patience, energy, and passion to spread to their families.
Here are a few self-care strategies to help parents strengthen relationships, be compassionate toward themselves, and renew their energy:
1. Journal for 20 minutes. Write in a free-flowing stream-of-consciousness style. Notice feelings that are just under the surface.
2. Turn on uplifting music - maybe a song with a strong message you need to hear, some rock and roll song you loved in high school, African drumming, flute music, or a catchy pop single.
3. Write and send a sweet card to someone - a birthday card, a “thinking of you” card, a “get well" card, a "congratulations" card, or a “no-reason” card. Caring for someone else can make you feel great.
4. Make yourself a nice drink like chamomile tea, hot chocolate or juice and sip it slowly. But unlike the coffee you microwave 27 times, try to finish this one.
5. Schedule at least one uninterrupted hour with a close friend. Go out for coffee or a drink, talk on the phone, go out for dinner, or go for a walk together.
6. Colour a picture from a colouring book with or beside your child. Take your time - it's amazingly therapeutic.
7. Go on a social media kindness spree. Use 20 minutes to post nice comments on people’s social media or through messenger. Much like number 3, this can really boost your own feelings.
8. Make a cozy spot. Make a blanket fort with your kids and climb in it with them (resting and hiding and giggling).
9. On a single piece of paper, write down everything that’s weighing on you, stressing you, or bothering you. Put a dash after each one with a single action-step that may help relieve it.
10. Plan a special one-on-one date with your child - hiking, painting pottery, or going to a minor-league baseball game.
11. Call a friend or loved one and say, “I’m having a hard time with this. Do you mind if I talk this out with you?”
12. Go for a walk (preferably in the woods or near water). Nature is a great healer.
13. Download a gratitude app and record what you’re thankful for - e.g. a short commute, a great babysitter, a cozy home. I do this every day and review it every week. It's amazing how many little things make up our world when we stop to think about it.
14. Do a short meditation by closing your eyes, breathing deeply, focusing on your breath, and saying, “All sounds return to the breath, all thoughts return to the breath, all distractions return to the breath.”
15. Do a single tiny household chore that’s been bothering you - empty one drawer, give away one bag of clothes, or clean one shelf of your fridge. Pat yourself on the back for completing it. You do these things all the time but do you ever celebrate it?
16. Sit on the couch and put your feet up and close your eyes. Take a catnap or a daydream nap. Notice what shows up when you close your eyes. Unless it's the kids - take no notice of them right now.
17. Let yourself be blue for a bit. Cuddle under a blanket, play sad bluesy music, eat chocolate ice cream, or cry.
18. Get your nails done. Pick an off-the-wall colour for your toes.
19. Write down one goal or intention you have for the week and post it on your fridge. Take everything else (like magnets, pictures, art projects, to-do lists, etc.) off your fridge.
20. Choose something you’re going to savour today - taking a shower, riding the train, walking, chopping wood, or reading a celebrity magazine. “Savour” it instead of just “doing” it.
21. Go somewhere local that you’ve never been before - a new forest preserve, a new park, a new beach, a different library, or a conservatory.