Your baby needs her diaper changed. The school called to say your kindergartener lost his backpack. You need to get showered, dressed, and out the door to work in 10 minutes. You haven’t had a good night’s sleep in six weeks. Your coffee is cold. And just under the surface, a huge tangled ball of emotions is churning in your stomach.
Stressed? Oh yes. You’re separated now, and worries for yourself and your children weigh heavily. Taking time for yourself seems like the last item on your very long to-do list.
And yet, taking care of yourself needs to be a high priority – for your sake and for your children’s. If you’re like many single parents, you struggle with the logistics of finding time just for yourself, and you may also feel guilty for taking time away from your children. But doing so can benefit everyone. When you have greater physical and emotional well-being, you are better able to manage strong emotions, reduce conflict, and provide thoughtful, quality parenting.
Given that your life feels overwhelmingly busy already, where to begin?
Here’s what I suggest: Give yourself the gift of 20 minutes every day. If you can find more time than that, go for it. But the point is to start with an amount of time that feels manageable. Then make a daily routine of doing something that brings you peace.
Getting exercise daily is an excellent way to reduce stress and stay healthy. Go out and take a brisk walk – maybe share it with a caring friend, or use the time just to savor being alone – whatever feels best to you. Practice simple deep breathing for a few minutes, visualizing a place where you feel safe, relaxed and peaceful. Yoga and tai chi are excellent ways to relax. If you can’t get out to a class, get a DVD at the library and try it out. Get on a treadmill and crank up your favorite music. Whatever activity you choose, clear your mind and focus on creating a calm, rejuvenating experience.
If physical activity doesn’t speak to you, then choose something else that makes you happy – read quietly, dance, play the piano, paint or draw, work a puzzle , make jewelry, or do some other creative or a spiritual practice that deepens a sense of peace within you. Whatever you choose, make it something that engages and absorbs you. Watching TV or playing video games are ok for occasional entertainment, but these activities don’t engage your mind in the same way. The goal is to find routines that deepen a sense of balance and relaxation in your life.
In future blogs, I’ll talk more about other ways to take care of yourself. For now, just get started. You deserve it, and your children will benefit from a more centered you.