Mindful Mondays: Parenting & Caretaking
Catching our Breath: Practical Advice for Parents and Caregivers
By Martine Wehr, JD
Other than those on the frontline such as health care workers, I can’t think of a more demanding and stressful job (24 hours a day and no days off!) than being a parent during this time of COVID. Moms are carrying a very heavy load right now. (“Mom” = dad, grandma, stepparent, foster parent, anyone in the primary caregiving role!).
What you are doing every day caring for kiddos, your family, and home without your regular outlets and supports can leave you exhausted and worn out. Don’t underestimate all that you are doing to keep your family functioning and the genuine need to regularly take time to “catch your breath” and nurture yourself. Now more than ever, you need to be deliberate and intentional as to self-care, because there is only so much you can give before becoming dysregulated emotionally, mentally, physically, and spiritually.
What is self-care and what is it not?
Self-care is not a luxury! It is the way to regulate your central nervous system so you can “show up” for those you love, respond instead of react. It is not self-centered or selfish. It is accepting your limits and needs and agreeing to make those needs a priority. Self-care does not have to be expensive or be the same for everyone. It is not a sign of weakness or something to feel guilty about.
Self-care is any activity that we do, or refrain from doing, deliberately in order to take care of our mental, emotional, spiritual and physical health. It is giving ourselves the same grace, compassion, and care that we give to others. The truth is, we all have needs and effective self-care is giving yourself permission to do things that rejuvenate and nourish you.
I think Audre Lorde said it best: “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation.”
What does self-care look like?
Self-care practices are as unique as each of us – there is no one size fits all solution. It is ultimately what helps strengthen your ability to cope with and manage whatever comes our way in life. Yes, please!
Breathe – really. Step back often and breathe deeply several times. Acknowledge how you feel. It is natural to feel upset about how much your life has changed and to feel angry, afraid, anxious, and sad over the lack of control of many aspects of your life right now.
Check in – Get in the habit of checking in with yourself often and listening to what your mind, and body and soul tells you that it needs. Ask, “What is my body asking of me?” “What is my mind asking me to do?” “What is my soul telling me that it needs?”
Basics – Eat healthy meals, practice good hygiene, take time for movement, get enough sleep and rest, make that dentist appointment, buy the clothes that you need.
Identify Pockets – Don’t wait for large chunks of time. See how you can meet some of your needs in pockets of time. What can you do to relieve the stress of the moment? Take a quick break, take a bath, have a whole cup of tea or coffee without interruption, listen to a podcast, take a walk alone, connect with a friend, talk with a therapist, read, watch a show you want to watch, spend time with a hobby. It can mean saying “no” or “not now” to something else, but you must do this.
Prioritize – This may be the hardest part. You must make these things happen on a regular basis. Ask for what you need and accept that others may protest and be disappointed. That is Ok.
Remember even Jesus went away alone, rested, spent time with loved ones,
Ways to Be Flexible and Compassionate with the Kiddos and Others:
Adjust Your Expectations
Take the pressure off yourself to be a perfect caretaker 24 hours day making gourmet meals, entertaining, doing crafts, etc. all the time.
These are not normal times and you and your kiddos should not be held to the same standard for certain things. And it is good for our children and others to do what they can do for themselves. Sometimes we continue to do more than we need to.
Have Compassion and Acknowledge Others’ Stress
We are all struggling right now. Depending on age and stage of life people will express their emotions in different ways, which could range from simply wanting to talk about how they are feeling to changes in their behavior. Don’t be surprised if others act out and equip yourself to stay calm. Process and get support for your own anxiety so that others feel calmer around you.
Let kids and others acknowledge how hard this is for them and provide creative outlets for expression.
Tap into God’s Strength and Community Support
Feed your spiritual self. Pray, meditate, and commune with nature by taking a walk in a park, observing a sunset or sunrise, attending a church group, practicing gratitude, reading or listening to something inspirational.
Rely on God’s strength. You and I are not enough- but God always is. Lean hard into God and ask him for what you need: peace, patience, hope, financial help, etc.,
Matthew 11:29 Come to me all who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.
Isaiah 43:12 When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown.
Phil 4:6-7 Don’t worry about anything- instead pray about everything. Tell God what you need and thank Him for all He has done. Then you will experience Gods peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.
Ps. 11 In the Lord I take refuge