Monday, July 29, 2013

Don't Neglect Self-Care

By Colleen O'Connor

Self-care is important for everyone, but especially for parents and nannies. Caring for children is an emotional--and at times highly draining--experience. Because of this emotional investment, it’s easy to give everything you have to your children and forget to save some energy for yourself. Parents and nannies who neglect their own needs are less effective caregivers because they experience constant stress, exhaustion, and burnout. They also lose the ability to respond quickly and creatively to challenges. Children in their care will sense and reflect these emotions as well as the implicit lesson being taught: “Keep giving to others even when it becomes unhealthy to do so.”

Think of every plane safety lecture you’ve ever heard. Remember the instructions about putting on your own oxygen mask before helping others with theirs? The reasoning is that if you become incapacitated, you’re unable to help anyone at all. It’s better to take a few moments for yourself so you can sustainably care for those around you.

Everyone has different self-care needs. Focus on what decreases stress and increases your feelings of well-being. This can consist of anything from exercising to spending time with friends to delving into a new or favorite hobby.

Ideally, your self-care time should:
• Remind you of your identity beyond that of caregiver. Although being a parent or nanny is a deep, important part of who you are, you are also so many other things.
• Have a formal place (such as a corner of the guest room just for your craft projects) or time (a scheduled date night). You’re much more likely to follow through and be free from distractions if you’ve committed to your “me time” in some way and made space for it in your life.
• Be a child-free time so you are focused on no one’s needs but your own.
• Encompass social, intellectual, physical, and spiritual renewal.
• Include healthful activities such as exercising, sleeping, and eating well. It’s good to indulge in a rich dessert or an evening in front of the TV, but you’ll feel truly at your best when you’re also healthy.
• Reflect your true passions and fulfillment. One can garden or read all she likes and still not be at peace. You must also take time to think about whether or not you’re truly satisfied with your life, and if you aren’t, what possibilities there are to explore. Once in a while, find time and space to ask yourself the deeper questions about your vocation, priorities, and passions.

Remember, self-care is a necessity, not a luxury. By giving yourself time to recharge and gain perspective, you’ll be better at caring for others.

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