The Benefits of Busy Parents Practicing Self-Care

Working parents may find themselves “running on empty” if they don’t take time out for self-care. They run the risk of falling into a rut if they never give themselves a break and keep working until they are exhausted. Since parents, in particular single parents, are the foundation for the family, it is critical that they take time to focus on their own well-being-to practice self-renewal-in order to have the strength to meet the demands of work and family life. Eugenia L. Reeves, LCSW, an outpatient counselor at the Carle Pavilion in Champaign, Illinois, facilitated parents in exploring techniques for keeping themselves performing at peak levels at home and on the job.

What is involved in self-care? It is useful to look at four dimensions of people’s lives in thinking about our range of needs, as well as some activities or techniques that may be readily available for replenishing ourselves. The group was asked to think about people’s intellectual, spiritual, emotional/social, and physical needs and to generate ways people might care for themselves with respect to those needs. The intellectual dimension is defined as the need to expand one’s mind. Spirituality includes uplifting or inspirational aspects of one’s life including those that relate to the core value system. The emotional/social aspect involves learning about oneself, especially through relating to others. The physical dimension is concerned with taking care of one’s body. According to Ms. Reeves, it is essential to renew ourselves in these four realms, and each person is responsible for self-renewal.

Activities and techniques for meeting intellectual needs:

· going to the library
· taking continuing education classes or workshops
· watching documentary and other informative programs on television
· listening to radio programs
· talking with other people about ideas
· reading newspapers, magazines, and journals
· participating in creative arts activities
· writing, thinking, teaching, playing
· participating in volunteer work

Activities and Techniques for Meeting Spiritual Needs:

· participating in organized religion through churches, mosques, synagogues, etc.
· visiting a natural area of beauty
· attending a performing arts event or museum
· meditation
· being a part of social groups
· eating out and cooking at home
· having a workout followed by a deep bath while listening to music
· participating in volunteer work
· watching a sunrise or sunset

Activities and Techniques for Meeting Physical Needs:

· exercising and eating right
· getting enough sleep and/or taking “power naps”
· avoiding too much television
· walking or biking to work
· incorporating family exercise
· getting massages

Activities and Techniques for Meeting Emotional/Social Needs

· spending time with friends
· spending time alone
· deciding what is a waste of time
· having fun with old and new friends
· taking a weekend alone with a spouse
· working on flexibility to incorporate social activity
· talking with friends as a “sounding board” and for help with coping with pressures
· prioritizing activities and seeking balance
· listening to oneself and conducting an inner dialogue
· gardening
· journaling

To make life easier you could try some of the following:

· Prepare a week’s school lunches and freeze them
· Make up double quantities of foods like casseroles, mince and hamburgers. Freeze half so you can have a night off cooking when you want.
· Find someone to mind your children on a regular basis so that you can have some time for yourself. Ask a friend or neighbor to watch your child in return for watching their child some other time.
· Plan your day well – write lists of tasks you want to complete. It’s very satisfying crossing off jobs as they are done.

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