By Janeen Hayward, Principal and Owner of Swellbeing
This week I presented at a wellness workshop at a large corporation, led a small group discussion on “Three-nagers” for Bump Club and spoke to several parents who are bleary-eyed and desperate for help with their little ones’ sleep and/or behavior challenges. The theme that I find myself coming back to in each of these scenarios is the fact that only a few parents are exercising good self-care. In fact, it’s often pushed to the bottom of the priority list.
The thing about self-care is that if you don’t practice it, the muscle atrophies like any other. The truth about parenting in the early years is that the physical and emotional demands are exceptionally high. However, if parents aren’t taking the time to fuel and refuel, they quickly end up in the “break down” lane, which means that we become much more reactive and find ourselves doing things – such as yelling – that don’t reflect the kind of parents we wish to be.
As I talk to parents about positive discipline, I really encourage them to look at their child’s behavior as a manifestation of a feeling that hasn’t been adequately expressed or a request to attend to an unmet need. The idea is that all people have needs (attention, agency, touch, etc.) and when they’re not met, behaviors reflect that. This usually resonates with parents who can see that their child is acting out their feelings and when the child has permission to label and unpack those big feelings, they can often move forward quickly.
This brings me back to my point about self-care. Parents have needs, too. And these days, we are stretched thinner than ever – expected to have fulfilling careers, Pinterest-worthy birthday parties and children whose enrichment activities span from rock-climbing to learning Mandarin. It’s exhausting under the most ideal circumstances, and most of us aren’t operating under such circumstances.
In light of this epidemic of being over-stretched and under-prioritizing self-care, I want to make the challenge that self-care isn’t a luxury. It’s a necessity. And, contrary to what you might think, it doesn’t require hours of your time. In fact, little things can have a big impact. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Online meditations – meditation is a wonderful way to pull yourself back into your body and to bring calm to your nervous system. Since we know that emotions are contagious (see more about mirror neurons here) being calm will help your children to be calm, too.
- Interact with nature. Take the time to go for a walk, rake some leaves or simply sit out on the front porch with a cup of tea or coffee. Nature is proven to increase our sense of wellbeing.
- Practice appreciation. A recent Time Magazine piece on increasing happiness illustrates how powerful it is to look for the positive. Challenge yourself to start the day with three things you appreciate. It will change your outlook for the better – and fast!
I’d love to hear more ideas and suggestions from you to inspire and support one another in making your self-care a top priority! Tell us what works for you below as a great reminder for everyone that good self care can be so simple once we put it on our priority list.
Janeen Hayward is the Principal of Swellbeing, a complete parenting resource. Swellbeing specializes in smart solutions and sympathetic support for modern parents—and their kids. Simply put, they’re the missing manual to parenthood.For more information visit Janeen’s blog where she writes about parenting topics on a regular basis. Janeen regularly speaks at Bump Club and Beyond events on sleep, positive discipline, potty training, preparing for a second sibling and more.