Any time you travel on an airplane, the flight attendants announce that if the oxygen masks drop down, you should first put on your own mask, and ‘then assist small children.’ This is good parenting advice for life in general. Yes, our children have many needs that need to be met, and even more desires they would like you to fulfill. But in order to have the energy to care for them, you need to make sure that you’re also taking care of yourself! Take a few whiffs of parenting oxygen now and then, and it will help to rejuvenate you.
Here are some tips for what to do when you’re “running on empty.”
Ideas for meeting your physical needs:
1. Exercise, on your own and as a family.
I’ll be honest, as soon as I hear the word “exercise” it causes an automatic physical and mental reaction….”ugh”. I immediately feel weak and ill. However, I logically know that there are several benefits to exercising daily. Now, I just have to convince my brain and body.
2. Sleep (as much as you can), and nap when your child naps. I used to feel guilty when I needed a nap. Now I try to rest as much as possible.
3. Eat right: Food affects mood, so try to cut down on sugars and processed foods. Easier said than done. And DRINK WATER! This is another thing I am terrible at doing. I am basically dehydrated all the time. I do not like water. I have to put lemon juice or some other kind of flavor enhancer to drink water. However, there are so many health benefits to drinking large amounts of water.
4. Get or give a massage. I’m totally okay with receiving a massage. I could do this one EVERY day.
5. Cuddle, kiss, or make love with your spouse. I’m sure my husband will be highlighting this one and making me read my own article to remind me of how brilliant I am. 😉
6. Take a hot shower, or a long bath (add a little lavender oil to increase relaxation).
7. Have a cup of chamomile tea or warm milk. (or hot chocolate with marshmallows!)
8. Go for a long walk outdoors – on your own, or with your child in a sling or stroller.
Ideas for meeting your emotional and social needs:
1. Spend time with friends. (These are people you actually like.) This will be difficult for people like me who would rather hide in our house and pull the shades. But, healthy frienships can alleviate stress and create happy memories.
2. Spend time alone each day. Even 15 minutes can make a huge difference.
3. Prioritize the activities that make you happy. For instance, I write! I can see the puzzled look on your face right now. I also write music, lyrics, play bass, sing. My newest musical project allows me to express myself and gives me a healthy outlet.
4. Be creative. This goes along with #3 for me, but can also include painting, drawing, coloring….anything that involves creating.
5. Be flexible about social activities you can work around your child’s needs. Do not overbook yourself. Learn to say NO. (Good luck!)
6. Allow yourself to cry. You are not weak. Sometimes it’s ok to “let it out”.
7. Find things that make you laugh. I LOVE NETFLIX! Endless movie selections.
8. Find a way to have a weekly date with your partner. This is extremely important. The bond you create and maintain with your spouse will carry you throught the darkest and brightest days of your life.
9. Say no to extra responsibilities. (I’ll have to practice this one.) SEE #5
Ideas for meeting intellectual needs:
1. Take your child to the library, but pick up something for yourself while you’re there… (and then read it).
2. Listen to radio programs, audio books, or podcasts from the web while you drive, or while you work around the house. I’ve found free college coursework on Coursera.com, and I get a lot of use out of my Audible.com account.
3. If your child is doing an art project, sit down and create your own art! I am currently homeschooling my preschooler and so we do projects together nearly every day.
4. Write – stories, a blog, a personal journal – get your thoughts out on paper.
5. Identify a project that would be challenging and rewarding and TACKLE IT!
6. Return to old hobbies you may not have pursued since baby’s birth.
Ideas for meeting spiritual needs:
1. Go to religious services. Find a church where you feel connected, encouraged, challenged and lifted up. My home church is like my family.
2. Pray each morning, or each evening. Prayer is proven to do several things, including improve your attitude, offer hope, bringing you closer to God and so much more!
3. Do volunteer work or help out others spontaneously. Keep in mind you’re a finite person with finite time and resources, and that you shouldn’t take on too many responsibilities.
4. Spend time outdoors. Living in Colorado is a blessing!
5. Write in a journal – reflect on your new life.
6. Look for the blessings in your life. You will find what you focus on.
7. Contribute to causes you believe in. Helping others is incredibly important to the health of your mind and body.
Every morning when your alarm goes off, or shortly after your child wakes you, spend one minute in bed deciding what you are going to do for yourself that day. Start small – promise yourself just 15 minutes a day. You’ll soon see the rewards (for yourself, and your family) of a little bit of “me time.”
A Busy Mom