Work, family, study, life. When you’re juggling it all, as a busy working parent often you neglect one of your most valuable assets: your health. Olivia Rowan of OLR Coaching reminds us to put our oxygen mask on first.
“Put your oxygen mask on first.” Do you remember this in the airline safety briefings? This may not be your natural instinct in the event of an emergency, as I’m guessing for most of us our first reaction would be to help our loved ones first, wouldn’t it? But if you think about it, the reality is that we are not able to help others if we have no oxygen ourselves. Then why is it that as busy working parents we often look after ourselves last?
We are always so busy looking after others that we don’t take enough time to look after our own health and wellbeing. Sometimes so much to the point that we are literally crashing with fatigue, stress and illness—but even then we still don’t always give these warning signs our body is telling us the necessary attention they deserve. “I’ll see how I feel tomorrow,” is what we tell ourselves, isn’t it?
The reality is that working parents often do not look after themselves properly and do not give themselves the attention they need. Let me give you an example…Is that doctor’s appointment for your check-up always something ‘you’ll get around to’, yet you always take the kids for their regular check-ups, and you probably also even take the dog to the vet! Sound familiar? Yep, I thought so.
Looking after yourself needs to be at the top of your priority list so you can not only live your best life, but also so you can effectively care for and support those around you.
Think about the life roles you play—parent, partner, son or daughter, friend, etc. I know I play my life roles much better when I am functioning at my best both physically and mentally, as I am much more present and engaged. This enables me to better support my family, and I also enjoy the interaction and involvement I have with my loved ones so much more too.
Let’s be clear—looking after yourself by practicing self-care is not something that is self-indulgent that you should feel guilty about doing—it is essential.
So what is self-care?
There are many definitions out there, but essentially it’s all about taking proper care of yourself, just as you do for others.
Self-care needs to be not only your physical wellbeing, but also your emotional, social, mental and spiritual wellbeing too. What this means is that even if you are physically fit and eat healthily, your other non-physical needs such as your emotional wellbeing must also be met.
Self-care needs to be self-initiated and deliberate: it’s not one of those unplanned activities that just happens—because, guess what? If you don’t schedule and plan for it, it will never happen. Other priorities (and usually other people’s priorities!) will consume your attention!
Self-care must be nourishing—whereby you feel the benefit of it, whether that be an improved mood, more relaxed, more energised, less anxious or less stressed.
If you think you could benefit from participating in some more self-care (and I would struggle to find a working parent who doesn’t!), you can very easily incorporate self-care activities into your daily life. It doesn’t need to be a major time commitment, nor expensive. Remember, the key is nourishment, something you enjoy doing that will make you feel rejuvenated. It can be something as simple as taking time out of your day to read a chapter of that book you have been meaning to start, going for a walk around the block by yourself, having a call with that friend who lives interstate who you never get around to calling, or listening to your favourite music.
Make a list of all the activities you enjoy doing (outside of normal home and work related tasks, of course) that make you feel happy or energised, content, rested, relaxed, or even some that make you laugh out loud! Then schedule these activities into your calendar. Aim for one per day. Some will be the type of activities you can easily do everyday, whereas some might be a once every three months type of activity or a once a year activity. Make sure you schedule these less occurring activities in too, as this will make them real and you are committing to them by writing them down.
Also, don’t forget to tell those around you about your focus on self-care, as this not only increases your commitment to your self-care, but also, at a practical level, you may need to arrange for someone to look after the kids when you schedule your activities, so you can truly focus on yourself during these times. Tell people proudly what you are doing—you are an important human being and you deserve to be healthy. It also won’t hurt to tell them that a healthy and happier you will also benefit the people around you too!
You can do this. And remember: don’t feel guilty. You need this to be the best person (and carer) you can be.
Written by Olivia Rowan, founder of OLR Coaching. OLR Coaching loves helping people to live their best life. OLR supports people to get clarity on their self-identity, determine what is really important to them, set powerful goals that are aligned with their life vision, make career changes, and assists with self-management strategies such as time management, reducing stress and habit-busting. OLR works with people through personal coaching and workshops. For more information and to connect with OLR visit their website and Instagram page.