For busy parents, self-care may feel like a never ending quest, and even more so during the holidays. Yet, when we stop to consider what “self-care” actually means, we can find more ways to achieve the same result. For some, “self-care” may mean bubble baths or a day on the golf course, and for others, it’s just having a private moment in the bathroom, or a few minutes of solitude in the car each day.
What do these activities have in common?
They are all time spent, not in a sympathetic nervous system (SNS) state. The SNS is our fight-or-flight system which produces the stress hormone cortisol and creates a chain of events that suppress the immune system. Contrasted to the parasympathetic nervous system (PSN), which is our rest-and-digest mode, responsible for lowering blood pressure, optimal digestion, and a strong immune system.
As busy parents, we may feel triggered when our children have tantrums, don’t listen to us, or are picky eaters, etc. Self-care means learning how to both identify impending triggers in order to minimize or prevent a SNS response, and to develop sensory calming tools that allow you to quickly return to a PSN state after being triggered.
Self-care to reduce burnout this Holiday Season: SPIRIT
SMILE: Before you open your eyes in the morning, when you greet your child(ren) each day, and at any time you need support or rejuvenation: smile. This sends a chemical signal to the brain that relaxes the body, breathing, and evokes feelings of empowerment.
PAUSE: One of the most powerful tools in mindful parenting is the Pause. When you can pause in between your child’s behavior, and your response, you decrease the chance of being reactionary, and invite an opportunity for intentionality.
INTENTION: Set a simple parenting intention for yourself each morning that you can refer back to throughout the day to guide your interactions with your child. This practice will serve as a reminder of the bigger picture of parenting when you’re caught in stressful and chaotic moments.
RISE: If you find yourself in a power-struggle with a dysregulated child, emotions may be running high for both, yet it’s important to remember who is the adult with many more years of life experience and a fully developed prefrontal cortex. You have the power to rise above and handle things calmly and rationally.
IDENTIFY triggers. What times of day, behaviors, or parenting scenarios are most triggering for you? Having a plan for how to deal with common pitfalls ahead of time will pave the way for a more mindful exchange in the moment.
TOOLS: Jot down your own sensory calming tools. Maybe it’s stepping outside for a moment, having a glass of cold water, closing your eyes and taking 3 deep breaths, etc. Find what works for you so that you have a plan the next time you’re triggered.
Free 15-minute consults with our health coaches at Body Love Café. Visit our website: www.bodylovecafe.com.
By Danielle Murphy Faris, MA, BCHN, NE with Body Love Cafe