Many parents have children experiencing anxiety, and they feel they don’t have a moment to take care of their own needs.
If this is how you feel, try one of these 8 tips to start taking care of yourself again.
1. Change how you prioritize your list
There’s a reason why this is first on our list. Where do the things that are solely for you rank on your to-do list? You’ve probably got one a mile long, and if there’s something on that list that’s ‘just for you’ then it’s time to re-prioritize. Self-care isn’t just for taking care of yourself in the bits and pieces of the day that are left over. It’s something that needs to come first so that you’re able to put your best self forward throughout the rest of your day.
Have you been meaning to get a massage but just haven’t found the time? No, a massage won’t take out the trash, get dinner on the table or help get the homework done. But you’ll be doing those things, and getting to have that massage helps you, so in a very real sense, it does help with all of the things you need to do, and those types of things need to go on the top of your list.
2. Celebrate the mistakes that are part of success
You already know that nobody is perfect and life will throw curve balls. But when you’re running late and there’s a flat tire and you’re just not going to make that important doctor’s appointment no matter what you do—you have a choice. Neither cursing nor trying to hold it together by sheer willpower is going to transport you to where you need to be.
Instead, take a moment to accept where you are and appreciate that you will get through this moment—that in the scheme of things, even though it was an important appointment, you’ll figure it out later after you figure out the moment at hand. You’ll be building coping techniques that can serve as a model for your child. Sometimes the bad thing happens, and when it does, it’s never the end of the world. And that’s a beautiful thing.
3. Instead of perfection, make balance your goal
There are a lot of resources out there and there are so many activities and projects that would be great for you and your family. But if you try to over commit, the benefits are going to be lost. Even if all of the choices for treatments and activities are great ones, sometimes less is more. It’s important to be discerning and choose which things are most important to you and your family and pursue those while letting the other ones go.
Yes, just laugh. Are you thinking easier said than done? You probably know what’s most likely to make you chuckle. Whether it’s old stand up routines of Eddie Murphy, videos of cats and dogs on the internet or lists of text messages gone awry, carve out some time throughout your week to spend time with what you find funny. And enjoy it!
5. Combine exercise with what brings you joy
Yes, every list will tell you exercise is a vital part of self-care. And there truly is nothing that has such an immediate positive impact on mood, with the added side effect of providing integral health benefits. But exercise won’t do you any good if you don’t actually do it, and unlike watching your favorite video, it’s not just about finding the time, it’s also about finding the motivation.
Find a way to combine things that truly bring you joy with your exercise routine. Maybe there’s a workout outfit that you know you’d love to put on every day, but feels like a splurge. If it gets you moving, it’s worth a lot more. Or perhaps there’s a class across town that you’ve been wanting to take, but it’s hard to justify when you’ve got a perfectly good treadmill in the basement. Make it work. It will mean a healthier, happier you, which also means a healthier, happier family.
6. Make space for your own ‘bad’ emotions.
When you’re raising a child who has anxiety, it can oftentimes feel like you’re not allowed to have those kinds of emotions, and are certainly not supposed to express them. But just as you give your child the space to express her own emotions without letting them overpower her, it’s important to give yourself the same treatment, and allow yourself to feel anxious, sad and angry. You do need to have the coping skills in place to make choices that are not ruled by those emotions, but not letting yourself acknowledge that you feel these natural things is just going to lead to a build up. Treat yourself with same loving kindness with which you treat your child.
7. Have a space that is yours alone
For different families, this will mean different things. You may not have the option to have an entire room that is solely yours all the time, but it is important that you have space in your own home that is fully your own, and that you let your family know that sometimes you need privacy in that space to do whatever you want, whether it be read a book, think quietly or watch those funny cat videos.
8. Help is on the way
It can be hard to ask for help and it’s true—there are plenty of fair weather friends out there who won’t necessarily come through when you’re in a jam. But asking for help is a skill and as you practice it you will learn that there are plenty of friends, family and community members who are only too happy to help if they just knew what to do.
These people are your support network, waiting to be built, and when you do ask for help, not only will it feel more comfortable, but it will be easier because you’ll already know the people you can count on and trust.
When you make self-care a central part of your life you’ll find that the kindness you show to yourself infuses your own life and the life of your family with positivity. It will provide a model for your child and make a path to reach your goals and those of your family so much smoother.