Written By: Larry “Odele” Prentice MS, LPC, NCC, CCTP, CYMHC, Mental Health Clinical Supervisor-Birmingham, Chelsea, & Huntsville

The Importance of Self-Care

When I was training to become a mental health therapist, my instructors and supervisor always emphasized the concept of self-care. The idea is that self-care enables therapists to maintain an optimal level of functioning and being the best version of ourselves. Essentially, we are not as effective with our clients, if we are overwhelmed.

The same is true for parents! Raising a child is a fulltime job, as children are constantly wanting our time, making demands, and unaware of the needs of others. Therefore, children often rule our households and leads to the household becoming emotionally overwhelmed. We all need time to ourselves and to hit the reset button! However, this can be easily said than done!

Strategies for Balancing Parenting and Self-Care

1. Setting Boundaries: It’s Okay to say no to additional commitments or responsibilities that may cause you to feel overwhelmed. Setting boundaries with your time and energy is crucial for maintaining balance. Some examples can include maintaining a regular bedtime, household chores, limiting screentime, and creating clear rules around homework. Some other boundaries include being able to say “no” and being able to communicate wants and needs. A lack of clear boundaries can provoke the development of narcissism and entitlement, and kids may get the sense that the world revolves around them.

2. Schedule “Me Time”: Make self-care a priority by scheduling time for yourself on a regular basis. Whether it’s a few minutes of meditation, a walk in nature, or a relaxing bath, find activities that help you unwind and recharge.

3. Ask for Help: Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. Whether it’s enlisting the support of a partner, family member, or a friend to watch the kids for a few hours or seeking professional help from a therapist, reaching out for support is a sign of strength, not weakness.

4. Practice Mindfulness: Mindfulness techniques, such as deep breathing or meditation, can help you stay present in the moment and reduce stress and anxiety. According to the National Institute of Health, incorporating mindfulness practices into your daily routine can lower blood pressure, improve sleep, cognition, and reduce chronic pain.

Intentional Practice

Self-care must be intentional, which means engaging in practices that cultivate a healthier mental and physical self, as well as advancing our overall emotional resilience. This intentional practice can be setting aside an hour in the day or five minutes. The time can be spent for solo activities, such as meditation, reading, or exercise, while also making time for meaningful connections with loved ones. By prioritizing self-care, caregivers can model healthy habits for their children, reduce stress and burnout, and increase their ability to show up fully and lovingly for their families.

Developing your own strategies for Self-care is not an exact science. If you are struggling or feeling overwhelmed by the thought of practicing self-care, ask yourself the following: “Can I be brave enough to recognize my own limitations, then take responsibility by exercising greater self-care?” When you find yourself “stuck” with answering yes to this question, it may be helpful to out help or support from a counselor!