Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Parenting Stress: How to Take Care of Yourself

You know the saying, “If mama isn’t happy then nobody is happy.” There is some truth to this old adage and it applies to fathers too. It’s easy for parents to focus all of their attention and energy on their children and family and neglect to take care of themselves. However taking care of yourself is just as important as taking care of your family. It’s a lot like the emergency landing instructions that you get on airplanes. You have to put your own oxygen mask on first in order to be able to help others. Here are some tips for taking care of yourself.

1) Do one thing every day that makes you happy. You deserve and need time for your own enjoyment. Carve out at least 15 to 30 minutes a day where you are doing something that you enjoy that’s just for you.

2) Know your limits and stick to them.  It is okay to multitask sometimes, but we also need to know when enough is enough. Cut back on things that aren’t necessary and make your life more manageable.

3) Practice what you preach. You help your kids eat a balanced diet, get enough sleep, encourage them to be physically active and take care of any illnesses they have. You need to take care of your physical needs as well. Poor nutrition, sleep deprivation, lack of physical activity and illness are all vulnerability factors to stress.

4) Put things in perspective.  It’s easy to get caught up in the day to day and think that everything is important. Step back and take a look at what really matters to you. This will help you let go of little stressors and annoyances and instead focus on the big picture.

5) Remember you are a role model.  By taking good care of yourself and managing your own stress you are setting a positive example for your children. Good self-care brings happiness to the whole family.

Dr. Amanda McGough is a licensed psychologist with Southeast Psych in Charlotte. She treats children, adolescents and adults.