7 Quick, Easy Steps for Parent Self Care

With the election, the approaching holiday season, a recent spike in COVID-19 cases, and a great deal of related uncertainty, it is tempting for parents to forget self care altogether.  Thankfully, for those of us with hectic schedules, self care doesn’t have to mean turning our plans upside-down.  Here are quick steps parents can take toward managing stress and anxiety the moment it strikes.

Make a list of your triggers.

Consider what day-to-day events set you off.  Is it aspects of interaction with others?  Constant news or social media intake?  Disruptions of your routine?  Take note of moments when you felt stressed or anxious, and examine your feelings at the time: how was your heartrate?  Your breathing?  What did you do to manage these sensations?  Log your experiences and rate them on a stress scale of 1 to 10 (1 being the lowest, 10 being the highest).  

Take a break.

When stress or anxiety becomes physically uncomfortable, give yourself permission to walk away from the situation and return later.  Give your children a distraction (a screen, if need be) and take the time you need to reach your emotional baseline.  Making space between yourself and your immediate response can allow for calmer, more rational decisions.

Do a calming activity.

Identify which habits strengthen or weaken your mental health.  Substitute unhealthy responses with healthy ones: instead of reaching for a snack or surfing social media, participate in a go-to exercise or breathing ritual.  Listen to music, meditate, or perform a neutral activity that will realign your perspective.

Speak with friends or family.

Share your feelings with those close to you.  Call up a friend or family member and get emotional support.  Instead of unloading your emotional burden and reliving the stressful experience, begin a neutral, fun conversation.  Although counterintuitive, this process can “change the channel” in your head to ideas you value and enjoy.

Talk positively to yourself.

Look in the mirror and offer yourself the support you would give a friend.  Create positive affirmations, even if they feel disingenuous at first.  Repeat your mantra, take a deep breath, smile, and talk through the issue at hand.  Remember that you can and will get through this.

Spend quality time with household members.

Children may act out as an attention-seeking behavior.  Set aside 5 to 10 minutes and give household members your full attention.  Watch a funny video, go on a walk, or have a random dance party!  Your family will appreciate the social interaction and emotional support.

Get professional help.

With or without an “official” mental health diagnosis, we could all use extra help addressing day-to-day stress.  If possible, consider hiring a counselor to meet regularly.  Therapy sessions are a great way to work through triggers and build solutions.

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