By Julie Morton, LCSW-C
Daily life typically requires each of us to function in multiple roles such as parent, spouse, employee, family member, and friend. In order to satisfy these roles and associated obligations, you may resort to placing your personal needs at the bottom of your to-do list. Doing so habitually can leave you feeling as if you are constantly expending energy and no longer have energy to give.
As a parent, many of your daily tasks require patience and energy- two things which are quickly restricted if you are not attending to your personal needs. Habitually minimizing your personal needs can lead you become more easily frustrated and shorter tempered with your children and may leave you feeling less effective as a parent.
So, how can you meet your own needs when you already feel there is not enough time in the day? Aim for small changes that are feasible and incremental. When you feel overwhelmed it is important to step back and look at your schedule and responsibilities as a whole. Doing so will help you determine what is contributing to your stress and what is feasible to change.
To help you take inventory of your needs, think about the following three areas: Physical, Psychological, and Play. You can use the list below for examples in each area. Remember, everyone has leisure needs and play is not just for children!
- Eat well balanced and regular meals.
- Seek health care as needed & follow up on medical tasks.
- Exercise regularly.
- Get your sleep.
- Monitor your use of caffeine, tobacco, alcohol, and sugar.
- Develop and maintain connections to your friends, significant other, and family members.
- Focus on the moment at hand.
- When possible, limit demands on your time and energy. Consider saying no to additional obligations. (If you have difficulty saying “no” see the link below.)
- When very stressed consider taking a self-time-out (a few deep breaths and/or some time alone) before responding to your child, significant other, boss, etc.
- Engage in a brief, daily activity based on what you find relaxing (such as a walk, a cup of tea or coffee, listening to music while you get ready in the morning or while you cook dinner, etc.).
- Join a club or volunteer group based on your interests.
- Incorporate humor into your day.
- Have FUN!
Remember to start with small, feasible changes. Are you able to select one healthy decision to make, one enjoyable activity to do, or one supportive person to connect with? Maybe you will choose to do one of each. Finally, give yourself credit for making any changes, no matter how small they are.
By Julie Morton, LCSW-C, JCS Therapy Services
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