For me as a helper working with a highly vulnerable population the theme of encouraging healthy habits cannot be closer to my heart. As a child and youth care practitioner/registered psychotherapist it is virtually impossible for me to do my job well if I am not healthy. This is why self-care is of tremendous importance in our field as a mental health clinician. Additionally a practice that benefits me personally; it is a skill that can benefit you our reader as well. Let me explain more.
What is self-care? In the context not of you as a parent/caregiver but as an individual, self-care is one’s ability to recognize and honour oneself through the regular practice of nurturance. It is a practice that is intended to foster optimal growth and personal potential in a positive and healthy way, for you the individual. For example, moms in particular tend to do unto others, to be the best employee, the best mother, the best wife and then forego enjoying acts of self-nurturance. For dads there may be pressures related to financially supporting the family and ensuring there is enough money to cover monthly expenses.
Self-care is not meant to invade space but to enhance space, it is not meant to be one more thing to do at the end of the day. It is meant to integrate and weave into each day in order to help provide some balance.
If self-care is practiced regularly I believe it can open one up to the concept of mindfulness, the enhancing of personal self-reflection helping one grow into new awareness about themselves; awareness not previously obvious. An inability to reflect may be due to lack of knowledge around what can be done. How can this affect us as parents/caregivers? Daily life stress and poor communication, unhealthy eating and lack of self-care all can mask our mood and our best intentions towards our children, this becomes the outcome.
Mindfulness, this awareness space in our lives that we intentionally create is where a new understanding of – who we are as parents to our children – can emerge. Think of the potential here. Space in our lives? What a concept! What does this mean? Mindfulness through self-care nurturance can begin to open more space and opportunity to find places of understanding towards who we need to be as a parent for our child(ren).
Self-care is not an open invitation to drink oneself into oblivion or a free ride to negate all of your responsibilities and duties in your life. This is not what self-care is. Self-care will be different for every single person. Self-care can be a big ticket item such as a family vacation in the sunny south or it can be as simple as taking the time in your busy day to enjoy a hot cup of tea with no distractions. This is one of my personal favourites and one that can fit into any busy day! Self-care could be the twenty minute walk with your dog or sitting by a warm fire. These are just some examples and the opportunities are endless. There are no limitations and the smaller more intimate acts of nurturance are usually the ones that can string you through the most difficult of days and are therefore the most effective.
The intention behind self-care is not to pleasure oneself but to honour oneself. To embrace who we are as individuals whether it is as a parent, a care-giver to elderly parents, a hard-working employee or a son or daughter. In each day it is an opportunity to take moments to embrace accomplishments and to acknowledge where we are at in our lives. It is also a regular practice that can evoke excitement about what is to come, if things are extremely busy I know I still have a nice hot green tea I can look forward to that will ground me back into myself and out of the busyness of life. I am committed to being the best parent I can be and this is not always possible given daily life struggles and circumstances, we are all human. One of my favourite all time quotes is from Dr. Wayne Dyer. “If we change the way we look at things, the things we look at change”.