Parenting can be extremely difficult and stressful at times! Between negative behaviors, busy schedules, and social pressure to be perfect, parenting can sometimes seem like an overwhelming task! Self-care can take a backseat to everything that parents have going on; however, it is vital to practice this important skill. For caregivers to take the best care of others, they have to also be taking care of themselves. However, in the business that is life, it can be very difficult both to find time to engage in self-care, and to not feel guilty for taking time for oneself. Some simple ways to engage in mindfulness activities that will help bring parents into the present and reduce stress are listed below:
· Mindful breathing: take a moment to be mindful of your breath. Gently place your hands on your belly. Breathe normally and naturally. When you breathe in, simply be aware that you’re breathing in; when you breathe out, be aware that you’re breathing out. Feel your belly rise and fall with your breath. Now take two more mindful breaths and then continue with your day.
· Cut stress with regular check-ins: Throughout the day, our bodies tend to accumulate stress. Do hourly check-ins, taking a deep breath and noticing where the tension arises. Allow the tense places to soften as you breathe, then stretch and adjust your posture.
· Savor the good: We often feel our emotions, both positive and negative, in our bodies. The next time you feel good, notice how this manifests in your body. Does your body feel relaxed? Is there warmth in your chest, or a slight smile across your face? Becoming aware of positive emotions allows us to broaden our momentary perspective and spark positive reactions.
· Laugh it out: Studies show that laughing for short periods of time can help us reduce stress and increase short-term memory, as well as protect against heart disease. Spend more time with people who make you laugh and doing things that make you laugh. Plus, laughter is contagious, so when you laugh, you are positively impacting the world. Like laughter, a smile sends a signal to the brain that something good is happening. Experiment with gently smiling throughout the day and see how it feels.
Most importantly, it is critical to practice self-compassion. It is impossible to always parent perfectly, and that’s okay! Practice forgiveness towards oneself, and know when to ask for help!
Author: Jessica Harpel, M.A.