Self-Care: When Taking Care of Yourself is the #1 Thing You Can Do for Your Child
By Alisha Parker-Cummins
Responsibilities in life cause us to forget to take care of our personal needs. We say it’s time to do a self-care check-up! This is most commonly true for parents who typically tend to have many caregiving responsibilities. Regardless, we moms certainly don’t own the “letting life get in the way of taking care of ourselves’ monopoly. This is also true of professional educators. They can often easily lose themselves in the mission of education, and will find themselves feeling the need to do more, or work harder for their students. This could easily lead to a burnout if self-care measures are left out.
Whether you are a parent, a spouse, or an educator, self-care is not a “nice-to-have” goal only when you have the time. Self-care is the foundation that allows all of us the focus and energy we deserve, along with serving as an important aspect of stress management.
One might ask what self-care is. Angela Essary, a Master’s level counselor, and the Adult Program Manager with Psycamore Psychiatric Programs, defines self-care in a practical way. She warns that parents can often view the job of parenting as only being done correctly through self-sacrifice. This mindset lends no time for, and often causes feelings of guilt after in relation to self-care practices. She uses the metaphor of an airplane with mechanical problems. The crew will tell you, if the oxygen masks drop down, PUT YOURS ON FIRST. This is because if you pass out, you are no help to your kids or anyone else. Self-care is the same principle. If you don’t care for yourself, by stopping to refuel, you won’t be able to provide your kids with the things they really need, like the warmth of being fully present with them.
Referring to a 2018 research study (Mikolajczak, M., and Raskam, I., Frontiers in Psychology), Dr. Sudha Madakasira, Chief Medical Director of Psycamore Psychiatric Programs, states that certain parents may be at higher risk for burnout if their belief system of perfect parenting outweighs their inability to use available resources. He recommends parents should evaluate their own attitudes about parenting responsibilities and to reach out for community resources (nurseries, churches, families, friends, etc.,) to prevent a burnout.
So, what happens when we don’t make time for self-care in our daily schedule? Emily Lehigh, LCSW, the Child Program Manager, and Zach Thompson, MA, PLPC, the Adolescent Program Manager at Psycamore Psychiatric Programs, shared with us that you may be experiencing burnout if you notice any of the following:
Low energy, tired all the time
Feeling more irritable than usual
Increased headaches, stomach aches, and other physical symptoms of stress
Difficulty falling and staying asleep
Challenges in choosing healthy food and urges to eat comfort foods
Feelings of depression or anxiety
Strain or distancing in the relationship with your spouse or partner
Trouble conversing with others when not child related
Reduced performance at work
Feeling obligated to say your happy 100% of the time
Reducing the chances of burnout includes self-care daily. Although self-care means different things to different people, when self-care is the last on the list of “to-dos’” it can be easily skipped and the rinse and repeat of life’s chaos can continue. The key is just trying. Start small. Maybe you tried one thing and it just didn’t give you that relaxed feeling you had hoped for. Then just try something else until you find what works best for you. The secret to self-care is making it a habit we wouldn’t second-guess doing.
Below are some simple ideas:
Listen to upbeat or relaxing music
Go for a walk during your lunch break
Write in a journal for 5 minutes
Turn off your phone for 30 minutes
Maintain quality friendships
Schedule a date night with your spouse, partner, or friend to connect without distractions
Light a scented candle
Go to bed 15 minutes early
If you are feeling overwhelmed in thinking about how to make changes to better prioritize your own self-care, help is available. The consequences of a burnout can lead to neglect, harm and thoughts of escape. Especially if we struggle with mental health concerns, it can be really hard to find the energy or motivation to start making changes to better ourselves. Psycamore can help you break down your goals into easier, achievable steps and will support you in this goal of making yourself a priority. For more information reach out to Psycamore at 601-939-5993 or visit www.psycamore.com.