At the beginning of a flight, you’ll often hear flight attendants state “In case of a loss of cabin pressure, oxygen masks will deploy,” and ask passengers to, “Please place the mask first on yourself and then assist children or other passengers.” The logic being we first must help ourselves before we can help others. However, as parents, we often put all of our children’s needs and well-being before our own. Still, like the analogy suggests, when it comes to self-care it is important to ensure our oxygen masks are securely in place, so to speak, before we can begin to assist others and care for their needs.
As a therapist at Heritage, I work with many parents who would give anything for their teenagers and who often do. But I also work with many parents who are physically and emotionally exhausted because all their energy and attention goes to the needs of their children. What I help parents understand is that often, the first step in caring for the needs of their children is to ensure they are caring for themselves, emotionally and physically.
Self-care does not mean ignoring all others’ needs and selfishly only attending to yourself, but it suggests we care for our physical and emotional needs in order to be more patient, more empathetic, and, in general, better parents to our children. Self-care does not have to take up several hours of your day. It could be as simple as quietly eating a healthy breakfast, practicing deep breathing at a stop light or taking a short nap. The more you introduce appropriate self-care into your daily life, the more you will have the energy to help and support others, providing better boundaries for yourself and your children.
What steps can you take today to practice self-care in your daily routine? Having difficulty coming up with any? Here’s a list of ideas that might inspire you:
- Turn on (and dance to) your favorite song.
- Hold hands with your spouse/partner.
- Watch a movie that makes you laugh.
- Write a kind letter to yourself.
- Go for a walk.
- Read a book for pleasure.
- Take a bubble bath.