Self-Care! Are you kidding me? Who has time for self-care? Have you seen my “to do” list? Do you know my schedule of school events, extracurricular activities, medical appointments, and therapies? You may feel like you do not have any time to add one more thing to your daily routine but the reality is that parenting a child through foster care or adoption takes parenting to a new level of responsibility and yes, at times stress. You can quickly experience compassion fatigue if you are not careful. Being “on your game” all the time can deplete you physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually so it is vital that you take time to “recharge” your own battery, “refill” your own bucket, and “restock” your own pantry! You get the idea. Your tone and your responses can diffuse or escalate a situation with your child. Every parent has experienced a situation that ended badly because their own resources were depleted! Self-care is mandatory if you are going to be at your best for your child. Self-care does not need to be time consuming as you maximize moments that you have throughout the day. Utilize the time you have alone in the car, laundry room, and even the shower! Evaluate what is refreshing to you and make sure you are engaging in those activities regularly. Following are some ideas to get you started when you have…..
TWO TO FIVE MINUTES:
¨ Take some deep cleansing breathes
¨ Do some stretches
¨ Read a joke
¨ Drink a refreshing glass of juice or water
¨ Name three blessings from God, no matter how small
¨ Suck on a piece of hard candy
¨ Chew a piece of gum and blow a bubble
¨ Have a piece of dark chocolate
¨ Look at a photo of someone special to you
¨ Recall your favorite vacation spot
¨ Recite your favorite scripture verse
¨ Remember a task you did that made you feel good
¨ Listen to your favorite song
¨ Dance to your favorite song
¨ Jog in place
¨ Have a healthy snack
¨ Take a step outside and breathe in the fresh air
¨ Massage your forehead
¨ Massage your hands with a favorite lotion
¨ Sing your favorite hymn or praise song
¨ Text or call the friend that always makes you smile
¨ Play a quick game on your phone
¨ Give and receive a hug
TEN TO THIRTY MINUTES:
¨ Take a brisk walk
¨ Make a notation in your journal
¨ Make a list of your blessings
¨ Spend time in prayer and adoration
¨ Phone a friend
¨ Walk your dog
¨ Give and receive a foot massage
¨ Close your eyes and focus on deep breathing
¨ Eat some popcorn or veggie sticks
¨ Swing on the porch or rock in your favorite rocker
¨ Do some yoga stretches
¨ Get a massage
¨ Talk a long walk
¨ Spend time in the garden
¨ Take a bubble bath
¨ Read a good book
¨ Watch your favorite show
¨ Watch a show that will make you laugh
¨ Eat lunch with a friend
¨ Take a quick nap
¨ Have a private dinner with your spouse, let the children eat in front of the TV for once !
Physical: Make sure you are getting exercise, quality food and good rest. If your child is not sleeping chances are you are not sleeping. Try to take a nap or close your eyes for 20 minutes during the day to refresh and keep you going. As you focus on self-care evaluate your diet. Limit sugary foods and caffeine that impact your mood. Consider consultation with your doctor about vitamin and mineral supplements. Make sure that you are getting some daily exercise. One mom took on the chore of walking the family pet as it allowed her time away from the home, got her moving and she got lots of positive feedback from Fido!
Mental and Emotional: Keep things in perspective and set realistic expectations for yourself and your child. Read or Review The Connected Child by Karyn Purvis to regain perspective on your child’s history and needs. Chapters 4, 8 and 12 are especially helpful. Check out The Whole Brain Child by Daniel J. Siegel, M.D. to develop new understanding of how your child’s mind works. Schedule time with friends for coffee or dessert, attend a talk at the Library or join a monthly book group to keep your brain engaged. If you enjoy the arts and crafts consider taking an art class , joining your church choir or picking up that neglected instrument. Return to a hobby you enjoy or start a new one. Ask a trusted friend to initiate “check in” calls with you to give you encouragement and a listening ear.
Spiritual: Use technology to your advantage and download podcasts of sermons or register for twitter feeds from your favorite pastor to keep that renewal from God readily accessible. Don’t neglect attendance in Sunday school or with your small group even if you and your spouse have to alternate for a while and attend individually. Host the group in your home if that helps you to attend. Check out the devotion guide Ready or Not 30 day devotion for Battle Weary Parents by Pam Parish.
Team Work: Communicate with your partner about your needs and what will help you to recharge. Work as a team to help one another brain storm on how you can provide that extra time you each need both as individuals and as a couple. One family found that they were able to stay better connected as a couple by getting up 15 minutes earlier each morning for coffee together before the children woke up. This helped them to feel connected and strategize for the day. Don’t hesitate to call on your support team to help you reach your goals as a couple, call on them to help provide longer times away such as date nights and anniversary weekends or partner with another adoptive family and swap child care.
The goal of self care is to take time through out the day to evaluate where you are in your mood and emotions so that you can best care for yourself and your child. If you find yourself losing control try to implement some of these quick two to five minute strategies to get grounded. If you can refresh several times through out the day, maintaining your own well being then hopefully you will not be as depleted at the end of the day. As you take time to renew yourself physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually you will be better equipped to meet the challenges that parenting brings. Operating with a recharged battery, a full bucket and well stocked pantry will give you confidence and the ability to set the right tone for your relationship with your child.
Developed by Lynn Beckett, LBSW