It can be said that in times of crisis, self-care goes out the window. I can attest to this. Ask me what I’ve done for myself in the past month of the pandemic, and the answer would be that I thought about scheduling a massage when they opened back up only to back down from the idea when scheduling the massage became an ordeal. That’s as close to self-care as I’ve gotten. Seriously!
That isn’t to say I don’t need it. In fact, as I write this, Hurricane Douglas aims itself at my island state, and I almost consider myself lucky if it hits. We’re prepared for it with all the food, water, insurance, etc. So what would two to three days of being forced to unplug do? It’d probably compel me to focus on a few home matters that need attention that I’ve been putting off because working and managing a household during a pandemic just take too much time and energy.
“Take care of yourself first. In order to cultivate the social and emotional skills of your children, you must take care of your own mental and emotional wellness,” as Sara Potler LaHayne, founder of [Move This World],(https://www.movethisworld.com/), a social-emotional learning program, told Mom.com. It’s a good reminder that I don’t need a hurricane to get some quiet reflection time in.
Here are some things that parents can do to take care of yourselves, so you take care of everyone else just a little better.
Taking care of your physical health during the pandemic
First, ask yourself if you are doing anything to really take care of your physical health. There has been a surge in drinking since the pandemic began, and increased drinking can certainly lead to health risks. To top that off, most of us stopped going to the gym, well, because they closed. Neither of these are helpful to our physical health.
But there are some things you can do to help yourself unwind from the stress of the day without taking a drink or needing to attend a Zumba class. Colorado mom Brandy Voller knows that getting out on her bike is imperative. “Even when people say I need a recovery day from my bike, I know I need to get out for even a little while for my own sanity,” she told Mom.com.
Here are some physical self-care ideas parents can do during the pandemic:
Take a walk:
Take turns with your spouse or co-parent and go for a stroll or a jog. Sure family walks are great, but you each need the time to stroll without worrying if the kids are running into the street.
Get more sleep:
Agree to go to bed 30 minutes earlier or take turns indulging in a midday nap. You’ll be surprised at just how refreshing an extra 30 minutes will make you.
Take 10 minutes to focus just on breathing and encourage your partner to do the same: This is harder than you can imagine if you aren’t used to it, but what it does is helps slow your thoughts down so that you can focus better when you return to your daily tasks. Plus, better breathing means better oxygenation to your brain and muscles. You’ll just feel better all around.
Do 10 minutes of stretching or yoga together:
Keep the kids in sight while you elongate those muscles and clear your mind. Chances are you’re spending a lot more time at a computer that may not be situated in the most ergonomically correct space at home. Eliminate the tension in your back, neck, and shoulders with some deliberate stretches to work out stress.
Make and keep necessary medical appointments:
Don't put off important doctor visits because of the pandemic. Check with your doctor, and if they have safety protocols in place, head in for your mammogram and other vital checkups.
Making sure to assess and tend to your and your partner's mental health
The mental health of parents is vitally important to maintain your patience throughout the pandemic. It’s one thing to say that we are all in this together, and it’s another thing to deal with your child having a bloody nose in the middle of your most important Zoom call of the year. Trust me, these things are not going to schedule themselves at conducive times. Keeping your mental health in check requires work.
Here are some mental health tips you can do during the pandemic to keep yourselves fully charged:
Even just sitting in your backyard and getting a change of scenery from the inside of your house can do wonders for your mood. “Studies have proven that even the smallest bit of nature — a single tree, a small patch of flowers, a house plant — can generate health benefits,” University of Washington researcher Kathleen Wolf wrote on the UW website.
Make a routine:
Set and maintain a routine so that everyone in the household knows the schedule. This should include work, meals, bathing, television time. Lay it all out and stick to it.
Start a journal:
Allow yourself to write freely for 10 minutes to get things out of your head. Then stop and write down 10 things you are grateful for today.
Connect with friends:
Make it a point to talk to your friends regularly, both together with your partner or co-parent, and separately. The pandemic has kept us from our normal social interactions. Find ways to connect with friends and other parents so that you get the support (and laughs) that you need to keep going.
Take a break from social media:
While we can find a lot of good things on social media, there are days when everything in your news feed is negative and controversial. This doesn’t help you keep your mental health in check. Take a break, and encourage your kids to do the same. Don’t worry, all the drama will still be there when you return.
Signs parents need to take a break and make self-care a priority
It can be easy to lose sight of the fact that you aren’t taking care of yourself and expending all of your energy tending to the needs of your kids. In fact, by the time you realize you need to do something, you’re probably already fried or risking burnout.
Consider the symptoms suggesting that you need to do a little more in the self-care category:
You can’t concentrate on even simple tasks let alone your work for the day.
Everything makes you feel anxious and you don’t feel you have control over anything.
You might get angry at the kids or your partner for something that shouldn’t really bother you. Your patience might be very thin.
Feeling hopeless or helpless:
This is where you really need to stop and take an inventory and do some self-care. Find the things that bring you joy and give you hope.
The better you are at recognizing the signs of needing a break, the quicker you will be in addressing the problem.