'Self-care' is an easy phrase to mock. It's come to be associated with a certain kind of Goop-y excess - highly priced moisturisers made out of snail entrails, that sort of thing. Though tending to your skin may be one way you look after yourself, self-care need not be expensive and it is anything but indulgent.
Think about it this way - on an aeroplane, parents are told to put their oxygen masks on before they help their children in an emergency. This isn't because flight attendants think parents should put themselves first, but because they'd be physically unable to support their children without being able to breathe.
And that's the way we want you to address self-care.
Of course, we know this is easier said than done. It can be hard enough to get everyone to put socks and shoes on in the morning, so the idea of doing more things to relax might seem like a stretch, but we urge you to keep an open mind!
According to research published in Psychology Today, parents work an average of 98 hours per week, when tasks such as cooking and cleaning were taken into account. So for your own sanity (as well as for your capacity to give care) it's vital that you consider your own needs along with the needs of those around you.
Here are some of the things busy parents can do to ensure that they’re taking care of themselves:
SET CLEAR BOUNDARIES
Be clear about when you’re working and when you’re not working; when you’re available to colleagues, clients and friends, and when you’re only available to family. Having a good work/life balance has always been important, but especially as more and more of us are working and living in the same space.
One way of achieving this is to set a regular out-of-office email, politely reminding people of your working hours, and assuring them that you’ll get back to them during that period. This can be especially helpful if you work part-time or in a flexible-working organisation.
ESCAPE INTO NATURE
You might be lucky enough to live near an area of outstanding natural beauty or just near a little community garden. Maybe you're even lucky enough to have your own outdoor space. Whatever it is, getting out into nature is a great way to re-set your body in mind. It's generally free and you'll feel the benefits whether you're with your family or on your own.
For a speedy calming activity, we recommend a bit of 'mindful gardening': prune your Golden Pothos mist your Areca Palm or even divide a plant between pots, if you're feeling ambitious (we recommend starting with a Chinese Money Plant).
LET YOURSELF BE BLUE
We're not saying make yourself miserable! But sometimes you just need to let yourself feel any negative emotions that you’ve been bottling up.
Find some time to reflect on the things that have been worrying you, or events that have been distressing. Writing these feelings down can be a helpful exercise. Sometimes you do need to put others needs before our own, but if you don't tend to your own needs once in a while, you risk getting burnt out, when you'll be no good to anyone.
Organised fun has a bad rap, but when you’re busy, and getting time for yourself is proving difficult, setting aside a specific half hour to relaxation time can be really beneficial.
Put you-time in the calendar you use for work and familial commitments, and honour it the way you would a meeting or an appointment.