Ask Nicole: Self-care is Essential!
This year will be the first time in 23 years that I won’t spend Mother's Day with at least one child in my home. My youngest child is away at college, and my oldest is traveling with a friend (With what money? I don’t know, but that’s a topic for another article.). It’s bittersweet. When my kids were younger and I was an exhausted parent, the only thing I wanted for Mother’s Day was the chance to sleep in and have a break from parenting duties for the day. Now that they’re older and more independent, I would cherish the chance to be woken up by their smiling faces and spend the day with them. But I’m reminded of how overwhelmed and exhausted I felt (still feel sometimes) as a parent juggling family, work, and life – and how important self-care is to prevent burnout and create physical, mental, and emotional well-being.
This monthly column provides tips for anyone who is helping raise children, based on the world-renowned Triple P – Positive Parenting Program, available to families in Santa Cruz County. If you have a question or idea for a future column, email me at email@example.com.
I don’t have a question but would appreciate any tips or supportive words. I’m exhausted and running on empty. Dealing with the pandemic and mental and behavioral challenges at home and work has burned me out. I’m losing my patience with my toddler and tween-ager even more than usual and then end up feeling terrible. I feel alone and overwhelmed. I’m not the only one, right?
You’re definitely not the only one! It takes enormous physical, mental, and emotional energy to be a positive parent. It’s hard to find that energy on a “regular” day, and it’s been very challenging for many parents and caregivers who have dealt with one emergency after another the last few years. It's natural and common to feel exhausted and overwhelmed, and you are not alone. Here are some tips and supportive words for you (and others who feel the same way):
Prioritize self-care. This is crucial, especially when you're feeling burned out and overwhelmed. Taking care of yourself will help you renew and sustain the energy needed to be present and patient with your family. Take time every day to do something you enjoy and that makes you feel content, whether it’s reading a book, cooking, working on a hobby, going for a walk in nature, or something else. Self-care also includes eating healthy foods, getting enough sleep, and exercising regularly.
Practice mindfulness. This is a powerful tool for managing stress and reducing feelings of overwhelm. It's about being present in the moment and accepting your thoughts and feelings without judgment. When you feel stressed, try taking a few deep breaths, focusing on the sensations in your body, or doing a short meditation. Mindfulness can help you stay calm and centered during challenging situations.
Strengthen your support system. It's vital to have people you can turn to when you need help or guidance (and we all could use help and guidance at some point) – whether it’s related to parenting, your own mental well-being, other family relationships, financial needs, child care, school, health care, or other issues. Asking for and accepting help and support from family members, friends, and other people you trust in your personal and work life can help you avoid burnout and reduce stress.
If you want to talk with people who aren’t involved in your daily life (i.e., the ones contributing to your stress), consider participating in parenting classes or joining an online parenting community to connect with other parents, get support, and share experiences. This can help you feel less alone and provide you with valuable insights and skills.
Take breaks. This is an essential aspect of self-care. Every parent needs time to “recharge their battery” so they have the energy to be a positive, nurturing caregiver. This could mean asking someone to watch your kids so you can take a break from being a parent and spend some time alone. It could also mean taking a break from the hectic pace of daily life and saying “no” to additional activities and commitments that add stress instead of relieving stress.
FINAL THOUGHTS: Parenting can be challenging, especially during difficult times. It's natural to feel exhausted and overwhelmed. Remember that you’re not alone, and it's okay to prioritize taking care of your own needs so that you can be a positive, nurturing parent for your children.
Nicole Young is the mother of two children, ages 19 and 23, who also manages Santa Cruz County's Triple P - Positive Parenting Program, the world's leading positive parenting program. Scientifically proven, Triple P is made available locally by First 5 Santa Cruz County, the Santa Cruz County Health Services Agency (Mental Health Services Act) and the Santa Cruz County Human Services Department. To find a Triple P parenting class or practitioner, visit http://triplep.first5scc.org, http://www.facebook.com/triplepscc or contact First 5 Santa Cruz County at 465-2217 or firstname.lastname@example.org.