The Parent's Guide to a Self-Care Mindset
Updated: May 13
As a parent, you've likely heard it before; “Put on your oxygen mask first”.
Parents are told time and time again that they need to practice self-care in order to be there for their children and it makes so much sense in theory.
But how can you give to others when you’re feeling burnt out and depleted?
Putting self care into practice often feels like just one more thing to do on your never ending to-do list and the idea of "self-care" may be enough to make you cringe.
In my practice, I hear from parents every day who are exhausted and burnt out. They know they need to take care of themselves but they lack the desire, time, or energy to commit to a regular “self-care” practice.
In my experience, that may because you’ve been told that there are only a handful of ways in which to practice self care. The good news is that self-care can be far more accessible than what you’ve been told. It can be simplified.
Self-care is more than a bubble bath
When you think of typical “self care”, you may think of massages, spa days, weekends away, meditation, and exercise.
While these tools are all very helpful, these are all things to DO. These are things that take time and may be hard to pull off when childcare is an issue.
Add in a pandemic and lockdowns and they can be downright impossible.
I’ve recently become very curious about finding unique and genuine ways to look after myself and to bring to my clients.
I’ve been searching for ways to practice self-care that don’t add to the long list of to-do’s or “shoulds.”
In fact, thinking about what I “should” be doing is quite the opposite of self-care.
The underlying assumption when you say to yourself that you “should” do something or “should” be a certain way is that you aren’t good enough right now.
This “should” way of thinking undermines the very thing you’re trying to do –treat yourself with care.
Acts of self-care feel good, loving, and supportive. They extend kindness and compassion to honour who you are right now so you feel energized to move forward. They make you feel cared for, encouraged, and refreshed while challenging you to grow and thrive into the fullness of your being.
I have often gone for a massage or a weekend away in an effort to practice "self-care" only to come back to the feelings of stress and overwhelm I had left behind.
As much as I enjoyed the time away, it did little to help me feel supported in my day-to-day life. Within a few hours of my return home, that energy and refreshed feeling began to fade and I quickly fell back into my old patterns, habits, and feelings of resentment.
This is why I’ve become increasingly curious about adopting a self-care mindset.
What is a self-care mindset?
A self-care mindset is a perspective and way of being in the world that inherently supports your sense of self so that you can feel energized throughout the entire day - every day.
A self care mindset:
Is something within your control and is not dependent on external circumstances in order to occur.
Is something you can choose to do at any given moment even if the children are around, the hair salon is closed due to lockdown, or you don’t have a weekend away booked in the calendar.
includes identifying what you need at any given moment. It’s about being acutely aware of what your triggers are to indicate a break, change, or action is needed.
Is an element of self-awareness that allows you to be fully present in your life and show up as your whole self.
Allows you to feel connected to yourself most of the time so that you are capable of better connecting with others. If you’re feeling fragmented or disconnected, it’s hard for others to connect with you and vice versa.
Here are a few questions you may want to ask yourself to help you develop a self-care mindset:
Is there a frame of mind I can cultivate that will help me practice self-care on a regular basis?
Is there something I can do today to take care of myself that doesn’t require childcare or an appointment?
How can I practice self-care in my daily life and within my interactions with my family?
Developing a self-care mindset
A self-care mindset is best supported by a strong mind-body connection.
Your body is providing clues to where your mind is at all the time. Because most of us are living in our heads, it’s easy to miss these signs within our bodies that we are heading down a path that can lead to burnout.
When you start to pay attention to how stress, anxiety, resentment, anger, guilt, and shame manifest in your body, you can intervene earlier. You can take the mini-break you need that prevents the feelings of burnout and exhaustion.
Self-care practices you can start today
Here are some tools that are helpful in strengthening the mind-body connection.
This list is not exhaustive as there are many ways to build a cooperative relationship between your mind and body. Find what feels good and discover practices that you enjoy.
The key is setting the intention to pay attention to what your body is telling you so you can remain in the present moment.
Practices for a Self-care Mindset
Setting Intentions. Remind yourself who you are and who you want to be as a parent and partner.
Create and uphold boundaries to prioritize your values.
Communicate your needs to your friends and family on a regular basis.
Choose to operate from a place of love, kindness, and compassion for both yourself and others.
Choose to be generous in your understanding of family members’ intentions.
Practice self compassion every day, but especially on a more challenging day where you’re tempted to lose your cool and become reactive.
A self-care mindset is an ongoing process. It’s one that will need re-evaluating on a regular basis as your children grow, your family needs change and your priorities adjust.
But know that developing this mindset and supporting your self-care will help you stay internally connected so you can better connect with your children.
And most importantly, it gives your kids permission to think about their needs and how to stay true to who they are as they grow into adults. Long story short, when you choose a mindset of self-care and self-compassion, you’ll set your children up for a happier, healthier emotional wellbeing for the rest of their lives.