Gladney University recently hosted a talk entitled “Practical Self-Care Planning” by Lindsay C. M. Garrett, a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW-S). Self-care might be something you hear about often, but you may not know how to implement it. With society’s presentation of self-care as these huge things we should do to pamper ourselves, it can seem downright unattainable. I was looking forward to hearing this talk to learn about new ways we can all effectively take care of ourselves on a daily basis.
What is Self-Care?
Lindsay points out that society says self-care needs to be these big things we do to pamper ourselves, such as getting massages, going for spa days, or getting pedicures. However, these things aren’t realistic for many of us. Furthermore, many of us may not actually find these things enjoyable.
Lindsay asserts that true self-care is something that nourishes your body and your soul. Self-care is processing your own emotions so you can be emotionally present for the people in your life. Self-care is also doing what you need to do so that you don’t burn out.
Did you know there are actually two types of self-care? I didn’t!
Restorative self-care is what most of us think about when we think about the concept of self-care. Restorative self-care is doing activities that feel good to us, putting our energy into loving relationships, pursuing physical activities that feel nurturing, and prioritizing people and things that fill us up.
Protective self-care is another type of self-care. We engage in protective self-care when we let go of toxic relationships, limit our exposure to social media that makes us feel bad, moderate or eliminate food and drinks that make us feel bad, set boundaries, and let go of ideas of what we “should” do.
Why is Self-Care Important for Parents
Self-care is important for everyone, especially for parents. As a parent, it may be more difficult for you to find time for daily self-care, but it’s important. Taking care of yourself allows you to recharge so that you can be present for your children. When you take care of yourself, you are also modeling for your child how to find balance in our busy, chaotic lives. When parents take care of their personal needs, they find it easier to manage their children’s challenging behaviors, be patient, be present with their children, and stay calm in stressful situations.
Self-Care is Not Selfish
As a parent, you probably feel like your children’s needs should come first, but it’s important to realize that your needs matter, too. Being a parent doesn’t mean you always have to sacrifice your own needs for your children. Instead, it’s about finding a balance. There are certainly times where you will need to sacrifice things you want or need to be there for your children, but it’s important that you don’t completely neglect your own needs.
Meeting your own needs actually helps you be a better parent. So, self-care not only benefits you, it benefits your children as well.
Finding Ways to Implement Self-Care
Lindsay emphasizes that you need to find what works for you in terms of self-care. While your best friend might enjoy a nice bubble bath, you might not find a bubble bath relaxing, and that’s okay.
In determining what works for you, ask yourself what you find rejuvenating. What makes you feel good? What leaves you feeling refreshed? It’s important to find something that both feels good and leaves you feeling energized and refreshed.
Sometimes what feels good may not leave you feeling energized. Lindsay says that as an introvert, she feels good socializing with her friends, but it leaves her feeling drained. As a fellow introvert, I can relate to this. This makes socializing not the best choice as a self-care activity for introverts.
Lindsay suggests thinking about things you liked doing as a child if you are having trouble thinking of things that feel good and refresh you.
Here are a few ideas – dancing, singing, taking your dog for a walk, taking a bubble bath, listening to music, reading a book, watching YouTube videos, chatting with a friend, or cooking.
Once you’ve come up with some activities that make you feel good and refreshed, you must decide if they are realistic for you to do. If something isn’t realistic for you to do, it’s not a good self-care activity for you.
For instance, perhaps you find working out at the gym refreshing and rejuvenating. Is this a realistic activity for you to do regularly? If you have to drive there, spend an hour in the gym, shower, and drive home, it may not be realistic for you due to time constraints. Or perhaps you find massages relaxing and rejuvenating, but you realize they are too expensive for you to get regularly. Try to think of self-care activities that fit into your schedule and budget restraints.
Lindsay suggests figuring out what is appealing to you about an activity that isn’t realistic for you to do regularly and then finding a way to fit that into your daily routine. For instance, you may not have time to go to the gym to work out every day, but you love to exercise. Instead, you could try scheduling short walks throughout your day, dance to a song, or take the stairs instead of the elevator at work.
After you’ve thought of some realistic self-care activities to do, it’s time to add them to your routine. Ideally, you want to do a self-care activity every day. Some people find it helpful to schedule self-care into their routine by writing it down on their calendar. You could also set reminders for self-care activities on your phone or smart device, such as the Amazon Echo or Google Nest.
Adding self-care activities to your existing routine is a good way to ensure that you actually do them. For instance, you could sing in the shower, listen to an audiobook in the car on your way to work, or take a little walk on your lunch break.
Another way to ensure that you do self-care activities is to hold yourself accountable. You can do this by telling a family member or friend about your self-care plan and asking that person to follow up with you.
Lindsay emphasizes that some self-care is better than no self-care, so if you only have five minutes to do self-care activities a day, do five minutes because it’s better than nothing. While big self-care activities are great, small self-care activities add up.
What self-care activities can you fit into your daily routine? Lindsay gives some great suggestions on little things you can do to take care of yourself. You can use your favorite coffee cup in the morning, wear your favorite outfit for the day, go outside for a few minutes on your break, listen to a song you like, watch a funny YouTube video, read a few pages of a book, spend a few minutes journaling, or chat with a friend for a few minutes.
Levels of Self-Care
You can tailor your self-care plan to how much stress you are experiencing on any particular day.
Level 1: Baseline
Develop a self-care plan that allows you to manage emotions and handle stress on a daily basis. These activities are the things you need to do every day in order to have a generally good day. You can figure out what you need to do every day to take care of yourself by tracking your habits and moods.
I’ll use myself as an example here. Some of the things I need to do daily to make sure I have a generally good day are getting enough sleep, drinking coffee in the morning, connecting with at least one person via online chat, having some alone time, eating regularly, spending time with my cats, and reading a little before I go to sleep.
Knowing what helps you have a good day can also help you set expectations. More specifically, if you don’t get something you need for the day, you can set your expectations accordingly. For example, if I don’t get as much sleep as I need one night, I can expect to have a more difficult day, and I can plan accordingly.
Level 2: Stress
When you are starting to feel stressed, check in with yourself and see what you can do to get back on track. Knowing what causes you to feel stressed and what helps you feel calm will be helpful on stressful days.
Lindsay suggests checking to see if you’ve done your baseline self-care activities when you begin to feel stressed. Did you get enough sleep last night? Have you eaten regularly today? If it’s been a while since you’ve eaten, eating something might help you feel better. If you require time outside every day, have you spent any time outdoors? If not, spending a few minutes outside might help you feel better.
If you’ve done all of your baseline self-care activities, do something that helps you feel calm. For instance, if your stress level is triggered by too much noise and you’ve been in a noisy environment, take a few minutes to go somewhere quiet to decompress.
Level 3: Spiral
Level 3 self-care activities are for when you feel completely overwhelmed or panicked. Figure out what helps you feel calm when you are feeling panicked. For instance, something that helps me when I’m feeling overwhelmed is talking to a trusted friend about what is going on. It also helps me to figure out a plan on how to deal with the overwhelming situation. For me, having a plan for what I will do helps me feel calmer and more in control.
A Few Helpful Tips for Starting to Care for Yourself
If implementing a bunch of self-care activities into your routine all at once seems daunting, Lindsay suggests starting small. Start with one self-care activity you can build into your daily routine. For instance, you could listen to an audiobook on your way to work in the car. You could sing to yourself while you’re waiting for your computer to boot up at the beginning of your workday. You could take a short walk on your lunch break. Commit to adding just one self-care activity to your daily routine, and build off of that.
Once you commit to adding just one activity, find a way to keep yourself accountable. Tell a family member or friend what you’re going to do, and ask that person to follow up with you about it. Set a reminder to do the activity on your phone or smart devices, like your Amazon Echo or Google Nest. Write the activity on your to-do list or leave yourself a sticky note to remind yourself. Put the activity on your schedule just like you would a meeting or other work task.
About the Presenter
Lindsay Garrett is a licensed clinical social worker, writer, and mother. Lindsay has been working with the Gladney Center for Adoption for approximately ten years. She primarily works with families post-adoption. She works with people who are becoming parents for the first time and those who are adding another child to their family. As exciting as these times are, they are also incredibly stressful.
Lindsay has written a book entitled Parent Goals: The Millennial’s Guide to New Parent Preparedness. When Lindsay was becoming a parent herself, she wanted a book that would help her prepare for the upcoming season in her life, but she couldn’t find such a guide anywhere. Lindsay says her book is the guide she wished she had when preparing to become a parent. In her book, Lindsay helps readers identify their motivations for wanting to become parents, helps prepare readers to plan out parenting roles, division of labor, and finances, build their support system, develop a self-care plan, and helps readers learn how their own baggage and personal history affects their parenting. You can learn more about Lindsay and her book on her website.Considering adoption? Let us help you on your journey to creating your forever family. Visit Adoption.org or call 1-800-ADOPT-98.
Sierra M. Koester is an award-winning freelance writer and professional blogger. She earned her BA in Psychology in 2004 and has worked with several nonprofit agencies. She began her writing career in 2006 and has written extensively in the areas of health, psychology, and pets. Sierra advocates for the adoption of children as well as homeless animals. When she isn’t writing, you can find Sierra with her nose in a book or hanging out with her two kitties, Carmine, a wise old orange tabby Sierra adopted when he was a kitten, and Tylan, a cat whom Sierra adopted after he was rescued from a hoarding situation in Thailand. You can learn more about Sierra by visiting http://www.sierrakoester.blogspot.com.