This is probably not the first post you’ve read on self-care for parents.
There are a lot of them out there, mostly recycling the same few ideas. Do a yoga class, write 3 pages of a journal every morning, have a date night every week, yada yada…
I can’t be the only one thinking that these popular suggestions are just not doable for most people.
(Weekly date nights? Who has time? While also having a consistently available babysitter, or money to hire babysitters?)
I’ve already stated my agreement that parents need self care, but now I wanted to compile my own list of ideas–but on this list, only ideas taking very little time and money are allowed.
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Self-Care Ideas that are Actually Realistic:
Take a Shower
You know you’ll need to do it eventually. Hot water and some nice-smelling soap can be surprisingly refreshing, if you don’t have time for anything else.
If that’s your thing. We’ve all heard of the benefits, and it can be done in under five minutes if you want. I’ve personally never succeeded in having a “still, focused mind” for even a full minute, but I’ve been trying.
Depending on what season of life you’re in, this one might not seem all that realistic, especially when you hear people who swear by the benefits escaping to the gym for upwards of an hour a day.
Sure, that would be nice, but not everyone can afford a membership to a fancy gym, or to hire a babysitter while they go, or to set aside that much time.
The thing I’ve learned recently is that even ten minutes of sweating is worth it. I don’t leave the comfort of my home; I just follow along to short work-out videos on YouTube, and by the time I’m done, I’m feeling less irritable, more confident, and sometimes even a short burst of energy.
I don’t even separate from my kid to get the exercising done. Sometimes, we follow along to a kids’ workout video together. I feel a little silly doing an “easy” workout as an adult, but it’s better than nothing.
Maybe you don’t feel up to exercising, but you still want that endorphin fix.
A few minutes is all you need to find something in your preferred brand of humor.
– There are plenty of short stand-up comedy clips on YouTube.
– “The Stand Ups” on Netflix has short episodes.
– Blooper reels of your favorite sitcom probably exist for free somewhere online.
– A good supply of jokes and memes can be found by searching “funny” on Pinterest, or almost any other site that uses tags.
– If you’re part of the audience that can appreciate a good vine compilation, there are hundreds of those in the five to ten minute range.
Find something funny.
Just don’t stay up too late. 😉
Read a Book
Most people with the identity “I was an avid reader, once,” didn’t just lose interest. You probably feel like you don’t have enough time. It feels overwhelming to get back into it, but you might be able to make time for one chapter a day, or every other day, or whenever there’s time.
For extra busy schedules, try finding books with short chapters, so you hit easy stopping points quickly. I don’t recommend my current read, 1984, which took me months to get into, because the very dry first chapter was 20 pages long, and several subsequent chapters were just as long, without adding much to the story. I just didn’t have the time or attention span to get through any one of those in one sitting, which meant every time I went to pick it up again, I had to find where I was on the page, which sentence, sometimes in the middle of a page-or-more-long paragraph, and try to remember what our glum, angry hero was complaining about when we last parted ways. (Spoiler alert: Some of those internal monologues are so mundane and forgettable that I had to re-read certain passages several times just to get started again.) That much of a barrier to get started every time did not spark a lot of motivation to keep reading, which meant I didn’t pick it up every day. Not even every week. Which of course, made the remembering more difficult, and increased my frustration.
That’s not to say the story doesn’t get good. It does eventually, but it’s heavy on exposition, and long chapters devoid of action or dialogue really don’t fit a busy, tired parent’s lifestyle.
Fortunately, there are some more modern authors who jump straight into the story on page one, and some even who end the chapter there, too.
For recommendations, GoodReads has a list of short-chaptered books:
Listen to Good Music
Do you have too many chores today to make time for any of those other things?
At least make the cleaning, or cooking, or even sitting on the floor with a demanding toddler a little more fun by listening to some of your favorite music while you do it. Bonus points if it’s upbeat enough to make you bounce a little while you work.
Just because you have small children doesn’t mean you have to listen to music marketed to small children. Maybe you can even teach your children to love your favorite music.
Have Some Caffeine
This won’t work if you do it too often, but once in awhile, if I’m having a particularly stressful day, and it’s far from over, I’ll intentionally consume more caffeine than usually, to give myself a boost.
Unfortunately, there are limits to this. If done several days in a row, I build up a tolerance, and then my normal morning coffee is no longer effective for awhile. That’s when this method backfires.
This one is probably bad advice, but sometimes, you just need to find something that works.
…Which leaves me with nothing to say except:
Find something that works.
If you’re scouring the internet for self-care tips, it’s probably not because you don’t know how to take care of yourself.
Do you have something you already do make time for, that you’d call a “guilty pleasure”?
As long as you’re not doing harm, maybe the self-care you need is to drop the “guilty” from that label.
Just because it’s unconventional, doesn’t mean it’s invalid.
Take care of you.
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