Parenting requires a lot of things – patience, gentleness, consistency and most of all, energy. But the chronic stress that many of us are experiencing from the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic can drain that energy and lead to fatigue. Now, more than ever, it’s important to take care of yourself!

Give yourself a timeout

Self-care – whether it’s baking, taking a bath, going for a bike ride or reading a book – can help you recharge your batteries and get back that much needed parenting energy. And the great thing about self-care is that it doesn’t have to take much time. Just 30 seconds of stretching or meditation every few hours can make a world of difference. Self-care gives us more bandwidth so we have increased capacity to manage stressors – including children who are likely to be having meltdowns and pushing limits.

As an added bonus, modeling self-care for your children helps them to learn healthy strategies to manage stress, too. Talk to your kids about the ways you choose to take care of yourself and how you handle your big emotions like fear, frustration, sadness and irritability. You can even practice some self-care and coping skills together as a family.

So give yourself a timeout every day. Take a break and try one the following ways to calm yourself and be in the moment:

  • Sit down. Close your eyes. Take several slow deep breaths. Relax.
  • Download a meditation app and meditate for a few minutes, or even longer!
  • Picture a calm, relaxing place, like somewhere you went on vacation. Think about the sounds and smells at that place and how you felt when you were there.
  • Tighten your muscles as much as you can. Then relax them. Repeat several times.
  • Find a positive, calming mantra and say it several times.

The power of positive self-talk

When parental stresses begin feeling overwhelming, focusing on the negative can make you feel more out of control and can make those emotions even bigger. Positive self-talk can help you feel calm and identify the things you can do to control the situation. Next time you feel yourself being overwhelmed, try saying, “I can do this. It will be okay. I’ve done this before and I can do it again.”

Unsure what to do?

Here are some more ideas for parental self-care during this pandemic:

  • Exercise! Try stretching, yoga, exercise videos, dancing, walking or biking.
  • Eat healthy and stay hydrated.
  • Get a good night’s sleep.
  • Do something creative and fun. Cook or bake, do some crafts or draw/color/paint, play some games.
  • Do some relaxing activities like reading or just sitting and having a cup of tea.
  • Connect with your friends. Schedule times to video chat or say hello across a neighbor’s yard.
  • Process your thoughts. Write in a journal or talk to a friend or therapist.
  • Focus on positives. Try creating a gratitude journal or a family gratitude wall.
  • Reach out – ask for help if you’re feeling overwhelmed.
  • Seek professional help if needed –psychologists and mental health providers are offering telemedicine options!

And remember, it’s okay for your kids to be watching TV or playing video games during your self-care time. Just do what you need to decompress, and do it as often as you can!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Laura GrayLaura Gray, PhD, is a clinical psychologist at Children's National Hospital.

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