Many parents are overworked and exhausted. In fact, a recent study showed that moms works an average of 98 hours per week! Parents also survive with minimal free time. The average mom gets only 17 minutes of free time to herself each day. Another surprising source of parents' weariness is feeling out-of-sorts or lonely due to complex changes in relationships with friends, partners, or family. Research suggests that loneliness - not just overwork - contributes to a feeling of burnout.
It's essential that parents care for themselves - first, for their own well-being, but also because any effort they put into self-care also has huge payoffs for their children. When parents "fill their own cups," they have more patience, energy, and passion to spread to their families.
1. Journal for 20 minutes. Write in a free-flowing stream-of-consciousness style. Notice feelings that are just under the surface.
2. Turn on uplifting music – maybe a song with a strong message you need to hear, some rock and roll song you loved in high school, African drumming, flute music, or a catchy pop single.
3. Write and send a sweet card to someone – a birthday card, a “thinking of you” card, a “get well" card, a "congratulations" card, or a “no-reason” card.
4. Make yourself a nice drink like chamomile tea, hot chocolate, or juice – and sip it slowly.
5. Schedule at least 1 uninterrupted hour with a close friend – out for coffee or a drink, on the phone, out for dinner, or out for a walk.
6. Color a picture from a coloring book with or beside your child. Take your time.
7. Go on a social media kindness spree – use 20 minutes to post nice comments on people’s social media or through messenger.
8. Make a cozy spot – make a blanket fort with your kids and climb in it with them (resting and hiding and giggling).
9. On a single piece of paper, write down 3 things that are weighing on you, stressing you, or bothering you; put a dash after each one with a single action-step that may help relieve it.
10. Plan a special one-on-one date with your child – e.g. hiking, painting pottery, or going to a minor-league baseball game.
11. Call a friend or loved one – say, “I’m having a hard time with this. Do you mind if I talk this out with you?”
12. Go for a walk (preferably in the woods or near water).
13. Download a gratitude app and record what you’re thankful for - (e.g. a short commute, a great babysitter, a cozy home).
14. Engage in a small bit of service – e.g. make fudge for your grandma, call your Congress person about an issue of importance, shovel someone’s walk, get a partner’s car washed, or answer a few questions on www.freerice.com.
15. Do a short meditation by closing your eyes, breathing deeply, focusing on your breath, and saying, “All sounds return to the breath, all thoughts return to the breath, all distractions return to the breath.”
16. Do a single tiny household chore that’s been bothering you – empty one drawer, give away one bag of clothes, or clean one shelf of your fridge. Pat yourself on the back for completing it.
17. Sit on the couch and put your feet up and close your eyes – take a catnap or a daydream nap. Notice what shows up when you close your eyes.
18. Let yourself be blue for a bit. Cuddle under a blanket, play sad bluesy music, eat chocolate ice cream, or cry.
19. Get your nails done. Pick an off-the-wall color for your toes.
20. Follow the “rule of three”: always be consciously aware of 3 things that you’re looking forward to.
21. Write down one goal or intention you have for the week and post it on your fridge. Take everything else (like magnets, pictures, art projects, to-do lists, etc.) off your fridge.
22. Think of one activity you could cut out of your schedule that you wouldn’t miss at all. Cut it out of your schedule.
23. Choose something that you’re going to savor today – taking a shower, riding the train, walking, chopping wood, reading a celebrity magazine, etc. “Savor” it instead of just “doing” it.
24. Go somewhere local that you’ve never been before – a new forest preserve, a new park, a new beach, a different library, a conservatory, etc.
25. Think of one way you compare yourself to others and feel bad about it – remind yourself that you rarely see the hard parts of people’s lives because they purposely hide them or keep them private.
These ideas have been excerpted from the book Joy Fixes for Weary Parents, by Erin Leyba, PhD
Copyright 2017 Erin Leyba
Erin Leyba, LCSW, PhD is a counselor in Chicago's western suburbs. www.erinleyba.com. She is the author of Joy Fixes for Weary Parents: 101 Quick, Research-Based Ideas for Overcoming Stress - and Building a Life You Love (New World Library). Join her on Facebook or Instagram or sign up to get free articles on parenting with mindfulness and joy.