All the stores are telling us this is the time of year to focus on chocolate and red hearts and candy and stuffed animals of all shapes and sizes. The other day I saw matching mugs for “Bae” and “Boo” at Wal-mart. Did you buy those? No judgement.
But what about spending some time this month not only figuring out how to help our kids navigate valentines cards & candy or date nights & chocolates, but also taking care of and loving ourselves. As parents of children that often demand every little bit of our being… it is tough to have any energy or time or money left for self care. But, as the flight attendant says, put the mask on yourself first! So, for this week’s blog I thought I would toss out some ideas to help you get through the winter blues, the stress of the kids being indoors all the time, the air that hurts my face, and celebrate YOU!
So here we go, a list of 10 of some of my favourite self care ideas. They are inexpensive, realistic and simple. So read through the list and pick one to try this week! Your stress level will thank you.
1. Bubble Bath! You knew this one would be on the list, so I decided to start off with a predictable favourite. It’s a favourite self care item, because it works! Alone or with a partner, with a book or some music, it is a great way to de stress. Go ahead and schedule one for this month. Take a nice, warm bath with some relaxing oils or bubbles. If you can, splurge on the good stuff. Treat yourself! Goodness knows you deserve it. Around here we love The Honest Co. and Shea Moisture.
2. The next time you are running an errand, intentionally park your car at the far end of the lot. I know it seems crazy and maybe I am losing you already, but trust me. Park at the far end of the lot, and then, when you get out of the car, just stop for a moment and watch the clouds (or stars). Lean up against your car (if it’s not too dirty) and simply watch the clouds for a moment and breathe. Just a moment, just thirty seconds of breathing in the fresh air can literally clear your head. I know you are swamped and busy but during the week can you find a moment to breathe? I know you can. Once you have taken this moment, slowly walk towards the store, taking slow deep breaths while you walk through the lot. Those slow deep breaths will help reduce your stress levels.
3. I know you have some candles in your house somewhere. Smelly or pretty or plain, doesn’t matter. Just light a candle and sit with it and watch it for 3 min. It might feel like a long time at first, but set a timer on your phone and just rest and breathe for 3 min. Slow down for a moment, take some deep breaths and watch the candle. Once you get over how wierd it feels, you will realize how relaxing it is. Trust me.
4. Relaxing scents can be very helpful. But everyone is different, so think for a moment about what scents work for you? What helps you feel better? For some of you, it might be taking tip #3 (the candle one), but using a scented candle and taking some deep breaths. For others, you may want to do some baking and then take a moment to intentionally enjoy the smells in your kitchen, or trying out some essential oils (we all have a friend bugging us to try essential oils - call her up!), or buy yourself some flowers. Whatever works for you, pick a scent and allow yourself to intentionally enjoy it in your home for a few moments today.
5. Yoga. Find a friend or go alone and try out a class! Some places will even let you take your first class for free. There are all different types and levels of difficulty. It feels super weird at first, but by the end of the class most of you will feel so much better. My personal favourite is Yin Yoga as it focuses on slow movements which really help me heal from the stress in my life.
6. Don’t have time or money for a yoga class? Then just chill out at home. All you will need is...a wall. Lay on the floor with your feet up the wall for anywhere from 1 - 15 minutes and you will feel better than you did before. It’s a simple yoga pose that has proven benefits to helping you feel better. Want more details on how to do this pose, click here.
7. Listen to a guided relaxation or do a body scan. Have you done one of these before? If you are struggling to focus and slow down without some added help these guided activities can be just what you need. You can do a simple search and find some on youtube or calm.com is a great website to check out. If you would prefer an app you can download one like Aware.
I once shared this idea with a busy mom and she ended up creating a routine where she would lock herself in the bathroom for 3 minutes once or twice a week in order to do one of these relaxations. She found it really helpful. Other parents I know have used them in the car while driving to a stressful event. Or even while driving home so you are more relaxed when you walk in the door. Just figure out what works for you and start doing it tomorrow.
8. Go through a car wash (by yourself or with sleeping children who are making no noise). It's so oddly relaxing! Or, if you are in a financial situation where you are not going to car washes, just watch this video. I know, seems weird...but trust me, take some deep breaths while watching this video. It’s so calming! Just a quick little break to help you slow down in the middle of your chaos.
9. Read a book. Maybe you have been thinking about it for awhile and you just haven’t done it. Maybe this is the month you actually check out a book from your library and actually finish it. I’m sure you won’t regret it. I'm not a big book reader anymore but I have become a huge fan of audio books and our library has an app we can use to borrow audiobooks through downloads. Might be an option for you! (PS...I’d love to hear any good book recommendations!)
10. Just drinks or dessert. It is tough to find time to get together with friends or spouses. So, for this tip I'm suggesting to skip the idea of going out for a longer event like dinner, and just meet up for drinks or dessert. We don’t always have babysitters ready to jump in and help out. Or we have people offering to help, but we are a bit anxious about how they would handle some of our kid's behaviours. So, as parents of kids from hard places, we need to get creative.
So what I am asking you to think about is, consider going out in the evening for a short bit after the kids go to sleep. This way it might be easier for you to recruit a sitter. So you can spend the evening doing your regular bedtime routine, and then once everyone is settled your child care helper can just hang out in the house giving you piece of mind while you have a night out enjoying a little dessert and adult time.
If you know a family you trust (or another foster/adopt family) consider trading babysitting nights. Maybe they could help you out one night per month and you can do the same for them?
Or, if for various reasons, you really cannot leave the house, find a fun dessert or a new cocktail recipe to enjoy on the couch after the kids go to bed. If you are single invite a friend over, or if you are married make it a date night. Take the time to sit together and connect for 30 minutes as friends.
So there you are dads and mommas! Part One of your assignment to take care of yourself first. I know it isn’t easy, or the first thing that comes to your mind. But if you want to make it through the tough years ahead you will need a strategy not just of how to parent your kiddos, but also, how to care for yourself.
Please let me know if this list has been helpful! I’d love to know what you try and if it worked for you. If you have some ideas I didn’t mention, share them! (Update: Check out Part 2 of this blog here)
If you are struggling to take care of yourself and would like to talk more about this topic. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org. We can schedule a coaching session to talk through your schedule and figure out some simple steps you can take tomorrow to ensure that you are at your best for your family.