By: Penelope Chan, Lead Teacher
There are many self-care articles and lists out there with things like "take a hot bath" or "try journaling!" that don't seem helpful to actual stressed-out parents. Here’s a list of practical alternatives that can help you focus on self-care and manage your stress - with kids around! Turn up the tunes While doing chores, listening to your favorite upbeat music can instantly lift your mood and make the task go by quicker. Have even more fun by listening to songs that are tied to fun memories, like ones that were popular when you were in high school or that you listened to on a road trip. If your kids are around and the music is appropriate, blast the song on the stereo and have a dance party!
Guided Meditation Listen to a guided meditation, audio of positive affirmations, or a distance reiki session. There are many available for free from YouTube or as podcasts. Podcasts such as Stress Free Naturally with Ashlie and YouTube channels like The Daily Positive and The Lune Innate are gentle audio guides that instantly help listeners find calm and centeredness. No time to sit in lotus position? Just listening to a guided meditation while working on other things can help you to feel calm.
Plan for Self-Care
Integrate self-care into your budget and calendar. Remember, taking care of yourself and managing stress is NOT a luxury. It is absolutely vital to your overall health. If you can, hire a cleaning service to come in and tidy up so you can spend time relaxing with a book, going for a hike, or visiting a friend. Make a non-negotiable appointment each week for something you enjoy: yoga, forest bathing, massage, spa/salon, book club, date night with your partner, etc. This way you'll always have something fun and relaxing to look forward to.
Take Comfort in Routines
Develop a routine for at least part of your day. Part of what causes stress is anxiety over what is going to happen next. The very word "routine" might make you cringe, but they can be important emotional scaffolds. Family schedules, especially when parents are working from home, help children know when they will have your undivided attention and make space for all the things that must get done. Routines can help to avoid fights over bedtime and childrens' rowdy attempts at bargaining, too.
Ease Physical Tension
Identify the places in your body where you hold tension. It may be your clenched jaw, tense shoulders, tight stomach, or furrowed brow. We do this without thinking during times of stress, and it can lead to tension headaches. Make a conscious effort to relax the muscles of these areas. If they are still tense and painful, a cheap and easy solution can be applying hot or cool compresses. Cool gel eye masks can soothe an oncoming headache. There are plenty of products on the market for soothing tight muscles, but you can make your own for free: Take a long sock and fill it with uncooked rice and a handful of dried lavender (optional). Tie a knot in the cuff to keep it all from spilling out. Next, warm up the sock in the microwave for two minutes. Place the warmed sock around your neck or on your stomach (make sure it isn't too hot!). The gentle warmth will ease tension, and the scent of lavender can also aid relaxation and encourage deep breathing.
It’s easy to de-prioritize your mental health in the daily chaos of modern life. Remember that mental health is linked to physical health, so take care of yourself when you are stressed, just as you do when you are sick.