We teach our kids how to brush their teeth, to safely cross roads and the importance of healthy eating, self-care for kids is about broadening the focus to include practices that boost our children’s emotional and mental wellbeing. We all want to raise compassionate, resilient kids and we achieve this by empowering them with their own self-care toolkit, helping them navigate challenging situations and difficult emotions such as anger, anxiety, and sadness. As parents, it can be hard to find the time for self-care and often we feel guilty about it. Rather than seeing self-care as something that needs to be solo, something special, somewhere away from home, let’s take a look at the ways we can nourish ourselves together as a family! The beautiful win win is that by engaging in self-care we are modelling for our kids how to mindfully tend to their health, and this is a skill that will sustain them for the rest of their days.
What is self-care?
While self-care is a buzzword right now and we all appreciate its value, as a concept it’s often misunderstood. There are good reasons for this confusion! What one person finds soothing might not resonate for another and even our own needs change over time. It’s not a one size fits all approach and we all need a broad toolkit from which to draw. To keep it as simple as possible, I define self-care as health care. It is nourishment for the head, the heart and the body. And in case there’s any uncertainty about what constitutes a true act of self-care, there’s a second part to my definition: self-care nourishes you in this moment AND nurtures who you are becoming, your future self if you like. This will stop self-care from turning into self-sabotage… for example, is a second large glass of red self-care? Ask your future self and it becomes crystal clear.
What is self-care for kids?
It is about teaching your kids life-giving habits. We do this by actively involving them in family self-care practices and by modelling healthy behaviour and skills for them. We need to get self-care proactively on the radar by talking about it and by guiding them to use soothing tools when they’re facing a difficult life experience or emotion.
Why do we need it?
We all need self-care to help us cope when life gets tough, to recover from difficult experiences, to boost our resilience in the face of future challenges, and to give us access to our best self. Well nourished people tend to be kinder and more resourceful in response to life’s demands and engaging in self-care together is deeply bonding, boosting the health and harmony of the family unit.
How do we do it?
Having a framework helps bring self-care to life. I created the Vitality Wheel to connect us with something nourishing in the moment. Take a look at the wheel and you’ll see eight different ways that we can look after ourselves. The spokes of the wheel are not designed to be distinct and you’ll see that an activity like taking a walk in the woods could fall in several categories. The whole point of it is to help you identify something nourishing and accessible in the moment, because in my experience, when we’re feeling frazzled, fatigued and full up, it is hard to put your finger on it!
Use the Vitality Wheel for inspiration, thinking of all the activities, rituals and practices that resonate for you and your family, and jot them down on the wheel. We have ours hanging up on our kitchen wall and whenever tempers are flaring or boredom hits we take a look at it to help us choose what to do to create a shift. Make your own poster with the Vitality Wheel spokes: Eat and Move, Sleep, Relax and Breathe, Connect, Happiness Treasure Box (all your favourite mood boosting activities and skills like gratitude, kindness and savouring), Goals and Accomplishments, Values and Strengths (teach your kids that there are many ways to shine!), Nature, and Coping Skills (like mindfulness and growth mindset).
Make your own toolkit:
Another way to help your kids cope is to build bespoke toolkits in response to challenges they are facing. If your little one is old enough to write, they could start a self-care journal and keep their toolkits there. For younger ones, reminding them that these feelings are normal and giving them different things to try can help dial down anxiety. Think along the lines of ‘what to do when you can’t get to sleep’ or ‘what to do when you miss someone’. Have fun brainstorming options together!
5 quick ways to fill your collective cup!
Please don’t think of self-care as yet ANOTHER thing to add to our already heaving ‘to do’ list. There are lots of ways we can imbue everyday life with a little tenderness!
- Music – pop on some tunes to lift the spirit or classical to soothe.
- Move your Body – the quickest way to change your mind is to move your body. A single yoga pose will do or head out in Nature’s Beauty together and blow out the cobwebs.
- Scent – Transform your mood in an instant by using scent – room sprays, candles, pillow spray. My kids love my Neom Organics stash as much as I do.
- Breathe – when you breathe better, you feel better. Take some mountain breaths together. Stand tall like a mountain, arms down by your sides. As you breathe in, take your arms out wide to the side, reach them up overhead and look up. As you breathe out, lower your arms back down by your sides and look forwards. 6 reps and it’ll change how you all feel and you’ll have a giggle together in the process.
- Savour together. This is my all-time favourite self-care tip! Savouring is the ability to suck the life out of a pleasurable moment. So when something joyful is unfolding, give it your full attention, with all your senses and share it! You can savour the past too by reminiscing about a happy memory or you can savour the future by happily anticipating something you have to look forward to. Your kids will love building the savouring muscle with you and it is such a powerful mood alchemist!
I hope you enjoy using the Vitality Wheel as inspiration and that your toolkits serve you all well! When we see self-care as something that we can engage in together, it becomes so much more accessible. I hope it also helps to blow mum guilt away, safe in the knowledge that when you nourish yourself you are more likely to be the mum that you aspire to be AND you are teaching your kids the vital skills of caring for themselves.
Beaming you love,
We’re all aware of the power of goal setting but did you know that reflecting on your accomplishments can be just as potent for motivation and even more importantly, your health and wellbeing? In fact, sitting down to acknowledge what I’ve achieved is one of my favourite self-care activities – there is so much zest to mined there! Just about everyone has a ‘to do’ list, the practice I would love you to consider is a ‘what went well’ list or just ‘what got done’. Too often we fritter away the energy available to us in acknowledging our achievements when we leap straight onto the next thing that needs doing. Pause, notice how far you’ve come, see the mini milestones for the true triumphs they are and feel how this lifts your spirits and bolsters your feeling of self-worth and personal power.
For many of us, the end of the school year provides us with a natural pause. Before your mind launches into preparing for the next chapter, take the opportunity to sit, either on your own, or with your kids and look at how far you’ve come and the ways you’ve grown. Whether the school calendar affects you or not, this is a fruitful exercise to engage in. You don’t need to wait for a time of significance. We can pause to reflect at any time and reap the benefits. While this process might not feel comfortable at first, it is worth the effort.
Think along the lines of:
- What events have unfolded recently and how did you navigate them?
- What have you learnt about yourself and other family members, or your work, your colleagues, or about the world in general?
- How have you grown?
- What skills or strengths have you drawn on?
- What’s gone well? Please let your mind sift over the big and the small stuff – they’ll accumulate and fill you with light and life.
If this feels tricky, break it down into a single day. Scan back through your day and notice what you got done, any challenges you overcame and the strengths that you put to good use. Things don’t need to have gone well in your day to feel a sense of accomplishment! Consider what you might reflect back to a friend if they recounted the same information to you. If the notion of strengths doesn’t sit comfortably, know that there is nothing narcissistic about this concept. We all have strengths, every human has something of value to contribute. It’s not about being more special or important that anyone else, it’s about deepening your awareness of the ways in which you shine as an individual and looking for opportunities to put those strengths to good use. Reflecting on your achievements will empower you with insight into your unique skills and abilities, boosting your sense of agency and wellbeing.
I wish you happy reflecting! Write it down too. Looking back on it will fill up your cup all over again. This is how we make self-care simple and do-able.
Got a question for me? Let me know by emailing me at email@example.com.
A: FOLLOW THESE 4 SIMPLE HACKS TO MAKE SELF-CARE REAL AND ACCESSIBLE
Life is full and it’s easy to feel like self-care is just another thing to add to your already heaving to-do list. Here are some simple hacks that will lighten that load and give you access to something nourishing during even the busiest of times.
1 Redefine Self-Care:
It comes down to how you conceptualise self-care. If you think that self-care is hour long yoga classes or spa days then it’s easy to feel like there just isn’t time. Get clear on what self-care is and broaden your self-care toolkit with a selection of nourishing tools and you will see that it needn’t take lots of time. In fact, self-care needn’t take any extra time at all! Remember the mantra: self-care is health care. It is any life-giving act that tops up your energy bank. It can be as simple as noticing something around you that you find uplifting. It might be pausing to feel your breathing for 60 seconds. Sometimes it’s a single yoga pose. I call these micro moments of nourishment, they are surprisingly potent and we all have time for these. It can be found in practicing kindness, gratitude and compassion – these are skills, a way of seeing and being in this world that take NO extra time at all but have a wonderful positive effect on your wellbeing, and that of everyone your life touches. This is how we make self-care fit with the demands of the real world.
2 Prioritise and Plan:
We schedule in the car for an MOT without a second thought, give yourself permission to prioritise your health and wellbeing and make an appointment with yourself. There’s no point waiting for a ‘good time’, seize the opportunity, plan how you’d like to fill your cup and the enjoy savouring the anticipation of it, lifting your mood before it’s even happened.
3 Smart Down Time:
Make the most of your down time. How often does down time get frittered away with rumination, mindless scrolling on social media or a brain fade in front of the telly? When you’re feeling inspired (spritz your favourite scent, take a few deep breaths and some shoulder rolls or a quick walk around the block if you need to shake off sticky thinking) sit down and brainstorm a list of things you can do to nourish your head, heart or body. When that precious window of time comes up, turn to your list and choose something that resonates in the moment and then go do it with abandon!
4 Get Proactive:
Without our health, what do we have? Self-care is also the means by which we become the kind of people we aspire to be, so take a long deep breath in and blow away any guilt. At regular intervals in your day, check in with your bodymind and just notice how you’re feeling. Take action before pain, low mood, hanger or anxiety show up. It can be as simple as recognising you need a drink of water or you need to reboot with a quick dose of Nature therapy. In this way I think of self-care as preventative medicine, far more time efficient than the enforced rest of incurring an injury or the suppression of our immune system stopping us in our tracks. Make time for self-care because it is important and the dividends are seriously worth it. Just ask your future self!
Suzy is Life + Me’s Wellbeing Psychologist. If you have a question for Suzy for our Q+As, or if you have a suggested topic you would like her to cover, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
A: Self-care tips to boost confidence in an instant.
While robust self-love and confidence can take time to build, we genuinely can change how we feel in an instant with these 5 tools. None of these things take much time but their impact on your mood, subjective energy levels and self-assurance can be potent. Try them yourself and see the dividends ripple out.
1 Posture – research has shown that how we hold our bodies has a significant impact on our sense of self-esteem, energy and optimism. Google Erik Peper if you’d like to learn more. Become aware of how you are holding your body through your day and consciously soften your eyes, jaw, neck and shoulders. Feel a sense of elevation through the crown of your head and broaden your collarbones, whether you are standing or seated, and you will feel more resourceful in the face of challenges.
2 Breathe – this is so simple, when you breathe better, you feel better. As a psychologist and yoga teacher I am passionate about raising awareness of the therapeutic power of working with the breath. Nothing elaborate is required here, just a smooth, relaxed breath. It can be helpful to feel the four phases of your breathing: the inhalation, the moment after you breathe in, the exhalation and the moment after your breathe out. Allowing these natural pauses to be there can be very soothing for your nervous system. Bringing your hands into a mudra can also be powerful – helping to focus the mind on the sensations of breathing. Try this one: curl your thumbs in towards your palms and wrap your fingers around them, making a gentle fist. Bring the back of your fingers with the wrists facing upwards to touch, just in front of your navel. Hold the mudra for 6 relaxed breaths. Feel how this makes your breath feel more spacious, tapping you in with your inner strength and resilience.
3 Movement – use your body to feel empowered. Amy Cuddy is your go to resource for power postures and you will find plenty of them in yoga. When I need to stand firm and feel resolute I opt for mountain, tree or warrior poses. These shapes connect you with the strength of your legs, core and spine and help you feel the support of the earth beneath you. Break out into one of these poses whenever you need to feel strong. Perfect pre-meeting preparation.
4 Mantra – harness the power of your mind by using mantra or primer statements. How is it that you’d like to feel? Simply add that quality to an ‘I am’ statement. Repeat it to keep your mind from rumination or less constructive thoughts.
5 What’s your WHY – when life gets tough, your purpose will galvanise you. If there is something coming up that causes you anxiety, remind yourself WHY you are doing it and this will help you dig deeper. Reflect on your strengths and values and call to mind those qualities that will help you navigate this challenge. It will all be worth it.
Got a question for me? Fire away! Please drop me a line via email@example.com.
A: Whether you’ve woken up feeling a little bleary eyed or you’re experiencing that familiar ‘post-lunch dip in arousal’, these simple micro moments of self-care will help top up your energy bank. Read on for some good alternatives to that second coffee! Try these tips whenever you need a boost to your get-up-and-go.
Scent – spritz some zesty room spray, use your favourite perfume or savour some hand balm. Give the experience your full attention and feel it lift your mood in an instant.
Posture – research clearly shows that an upright, open-hearted posture boosts our subjective energy levels and outlook. You can do this wherever you are, seated at your desk, driving, waiting in the post office queue or at the kitchen sink. Simply elongate your spine, drop your shoulders away from your ears, soften your eyes and your jaw and feel the breadth of your collarbones. If this feels different to normal, ask yourself how you normally hold your body? A daily yoga practice of as little as five minutes will help you maintain better posture throughout your day.
Breathing – when you breathe better, you feel better. Often our habitual breathing pattern becomes short and tight. Expansive breathing will energise you. Imagine your rib cage is a barrel. As you breathe in, the barrel expands in all directions and as you breathe out, the barrel effortlessly retracts back to its centre. Allow your inbreath to fill up all those internal nooks and crannies, feel a little pause, enjoy a long, smooth and effortless exhalation, followed by another pause. Just 5 conscious breaths like this will help you tap into greater vitality and resourcefulness.
Mantra – rather than repeatedly telling yourself how tired you are, harness how you want to feel by using a mantra. Think along the lines of I am energised. I am vital and abundant. I am resolute. Or if the monkey mind gets in the way, simply repeat ‘I’ on your inbreath and ‘AM’ on the outbreath.
Movement – take a quick walk around the block to blow out the cobwebs or use some yoga poses to top up your energy bank. Any side stretch will do the trick. The simplest version would be a mountain side stretch: standing up with your arms down by your sides, breathe in and reach your right arm skywards. Breathe out and slide your left hand down your left hand side. Breathe in and come back to upright. Breathe out and lower your right hand back down by your side. Repeat on the other side. Notice the difference after you’ve taken this a few times to each side.
Sleep – Schedule in an early night! Most adults need 7-9 hours of sleep every night. Our culture of ‘you snooze, you lose’ is seriously unhelpful. Prioritise getting the sleep you know you need to function and when that’s just not possible make sure you are engaging in regular self-care to compensate. Check out the blog for other recent posts on how to relax, soothe and promote better sleep.
Got a question for me? Fire away! Please drop me a line via firstname.lastname@example.org.
We all know we need to engage in self-care to keep our energetic bank balance happy, but what do you do when you’re feeling overwhelmed or fatigued? The key is a broad and well-articulated self-care toolkit from which to draw, so that we have options that lift our energy without requiring any! This will serve you best when that toolkit is written down because when we are low on energy we are also least resourceful and creative to come up with a course of action. Write out some self-care activities, look at your list when you’re feeling frazzled and be reminded of something effective and accessible to you in the moment. This is how we keep self-care on the radar even when we are feeling at a low ebb.
When we’re tired mentally, emotionally or physically, we need a soothing toolkit of practices to turn to – a feeling of receiving rather than having to strive to add another thing to our ‘to do’ list. Healing modalities like massage or acupuncture can be a beautiful way to revive without any effort on your behalf. It is worth writing down on your self-care toolkit some forms of bodywork and make an appointment like an MOT – even if it is only every six months. I appreciate that this does incur some cost but at what cost do we not tend to our health?
There are also lots of other ways that we can receive energy without the expense of paying for a treatment. A meditative shower, soak in the bath, massaging in some body oil, a good stretch out on your yoga mat or just a simple lying down twist on the floor before you hop into bed for the night. Listen to a TED talk, a podcast or an audio book on a subject you find uplifting. Mindfully choose your visual diet and amount of screen time because we can be depleted by what we watch. Instead of watching the evening news or the movie that you find viscerally stimulating, choose something that soothes your nervous system instead, maybe a documentary or something that makes you laugh.
Being in Nature is another potent way to re-energise and connect with what is most important to you – and this doesn’t cost a penny. My favourite way to reboot when I’m feeling overwhelmed is to ‘earth my brow’ – it is a hard wired way to soften and soothe. Either sit at a table and rest your head on your hands or take to the floor for a child’s pose – I hope you find this instantly calming too. Use the mantra ‘I soften into this moment’ whenever you want to access this state of equanimity.
When we are feeling low, the priority in our self-care needs to be soothing activities that promote the functioning of our parasympathetic nervous system – the rest and digest part of the nervous system. Sleep, rest, relaxation, time in Nature, gentle and supported movement like swimming or restorative yoga poses, meditation and feeling the sensation of your breathing will all help restore balance and top up your energy bank.