AN EXHAUSTED PARENT’S SURVIVAL GUIDE
Parenting is tough. Feeding, clothing, nurturing, and providing shelter for the tiny life (or lives) in your care is a daunting task, and today’s expectations seem to be piling on so much more.
Is your child delayed? Is your child gifted? (And what are you doing about it?) Could his hyperactivity be indicative of gluten allergy, is it a sign of an attention problem, or is it just NORMAL? What sports/music lessons/martial arts/pottery classes is your kid signed up for this season? And how does your play date schedule match up with the other moms’ in the school car line – you know, the ones with the freshly manicured nails that are NOT wearing the same pair of yoga pants to pick-up for the third day in a row?All these expectations are miraculously supposed to be met in between laundry, grocery shopping, work schedules, meal prep, paying bills, and other day-to-day needs. The result? You relate a little too closely to the family hamster, futilely spinning its wheel with all its little might, only to find at the end of the day that you’re not any closer to your goal… and you need to start all over again tomorrow.
Day-to-day responsibilities can quickly snowball into an out-of-control avalanche, leaving you in a chronic pendulum swing of fatigue and crisis mode. Do you scrape yourself out of bed in the morning, run headlong throughout the day, and drag yourself to bed at night? In order for an exhausted parent to survive, you need to make time to relax. We know what you’re going to say… “Did you not just hear what my life is like? If I don’t have time to use the bathroom in peace, how am I going to find time to relax?”
Well, good news! There are plenty of ways you can relax while on the go (and get back to enjoying that cute little mini me of yours)! Don’t believe us? Here are 10 ways to survive:
REJUVENATE WITH FOOD
Food is often portrayed as the root of all evil – the Giver of Pounds and the Maker of Thighs, but what we tend to forget is FOOD. IS. AMAZING. There are so many ways that you can use food to help your body instead of hindering it. Here are just a couple you can easily start incorporating today:
1. Head out the door with Green Tea
Instead of making yourself the usual morning cup of coffee, try switching things up with a warm cup of herbal green tea. Green tea is a great source of L-Theanine, a chemical that helps relieve stress without making you drowsy. It also is a great immune system booster. Win-win!
2. Honey, I think I love you
When you’re feeling stress cravings and find yourself reaching for the kids’ old Halloween candy stash, grab a spoonful of sweet honey instead. Honey is a powerhouse of health benefits. Besides its known beauty benefits and antibiotic properties, honey also helps to reduce inflammation in the brain, meaning it fights anxiety and depression. What’s not to love?
3. Hydration is the key!
This may be one of the simplest, yet hardest things to remember. We learn early on in science class that our bodies are made up primarily of water. As a result, they need water in order to function properly. Without it, we can suffer from dehydration and a resulting slew of other complications. When we don’t get enough, we can become tired and suffer from headaches, dry skin, acne, constipation, and dizziness. Water flushes out toxins from our vital organs and carries nutrients to our cells. Yeah. Water is a big deal.
Not a fan of plain water? That’s okay. The Institute of Medicine says that you can get water from other fluids and foods that count toward your daily total. Juice, milk, coffee, tea, fruits, vegetables, and other foods and beverages are all fair game. Hooray!
The amount of fluid we need to take in each day depends on our size, activity level, and the climate in which we live. No single formula fits everyone. There’s an old adage that says, “Drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day.” If you shoot for consuming that much fluid daily, you’ll be in good shape, but there are plenty of fluid intake calculators available for more personalized figures. Key take-away point: Take in fluids and feel better!
You don’t have to book a flight to Aruba in order to get away and relax (You can, but you don’t have to). There are plenty of ways to reset and find peace amidst the busyness of your day.
Some people hear the word “meditate” and think they need to be a limber yogi or a wise seer up in a remote mountain retreat in order to do it. WRONG! You can meditate in any comfortable, quiet spot, and it does not have to involve twisting yourself into a pretzel or seeking out your third eye.
Meditation is a frame of mind. You can meditate in your office during your lunch break, your car while you wait to pick up your children from school, your closet, or even in your bathroom in a pinch.
Take a few minutes to close your eyes. Think about how you are feeling. Tired? Busy? Anxious? That’s O.K. As you concentrate on breathing slowly in and out, count your breaths. If your mind wanders, that’s O.K. Be kind to yourself. Staying focused takes practice, and no one is expected to be able to do it 100%. Redirect your focus back and begin counting your breaths again.
The point is to be able to quiet your mind, get tuned in to your body in that moment, and release those things that are stressing you out. Research shows that even 5 minutes of peace, twice a day, can relieve stress and depression. So, take those spare moments and get to know yourself a little better. We bet you’ll find that you are pretty cool.
5. Progressive Relaxation
Are you wound up like a spring? Having trouble falling asleep at night, despite exhaustion, because you can’t stop thinking and worrying about things? Progressive muscle relaxation is one method of relaxation that focuses on slowly tensing and then relaxing each muscle group.
You can start by tensing and relaxing the muscles in your toes and work your way up to your neck and head (or start with your head and work down – your choice!). Tense your muscles for at least five seconds, relax for 30 seconds, and repeat. It can be done while sitting in an office chair, in the car, or lying in bed at night.
Progressive relaxation helps you become more aware of the tensions you are holding onto, so that you can learn to intentionally release them. So, squeeze, baby, squeeze!
6. Give yourself a massage
Who says you have to wait for someone else to offer you a back-rub? Okay, well, a back-rub would be difficult to do on your own. But not a hand- or foot-rub! There are many ways to find relief from tense muscles, aches, and pains that take only a few minutes a day. A DIY hand massage can provide instant relaxation and even slow a rapid heart rate.
Another massage you can easily do while sitting down is a golf-ball foot massage. Simply rub your feet back and forth over a golf ball while you type out those emails or check Facebook. Voilà! Instant relaxation!
7. Push your own buttons
You may be used to having your buttons pushed by the irritable toddlers and demanding little humans in your care. It may be a big reason why you are so exhausted! You’ll be happy to hear that you can counter that stress by pushing some buttons of your own.
Maybe you’ve been interested in the benefits of acupuncture, but are not sure you dig the needles involved… no worries! You can apply acupressure, a form of touch therapy that works by balancing the circulation of fluids and energies in the body, whenever you want.
Acupressure applies pressure with the thumbs or a fingertip to the same points on the body stimulated in acupuncture, and is another effective way to release tension and reduce pain. An easy place to begin is by using your thumb and forefinger to massage the soft area between the thumb and index finger of the other hand. This simple therapy can help calm you, relieve tension headaches, nausea, and has even been known to reduce the severity of hot flashes in menopausal women! So, take back control and start pushing your own buttons!
CREATE A HEALTHY ENVIRONMENT
A fish can’t swim without water, a bird can’t soar without air, and parents can’t be the best parents they can be without an environment where they feel safe, secure, and connected.
Creating a healthy environment doesn’t mean you need a fenced in yard, clean house, perfectly-behaved children, and a home-cooked meal on the table every night. That’s just silly (and if it does, we’re in BIG trouble). Life is messy and unpredictable and … yes … EXHAUSTING, but that doesn’t mean you still can’t enjoy it.
8. Make a safe space
Even if the rest of your house looks like a bomb went off, you can still side step your way through those dirty dishes, clothes piles, and loose toy minefields, and into a safe haven of your own making when you need to. This could be a comfortable chair facing a window, your bedroom, or even a closet. The only criteria being that it should be completely free of stress and a place where you can relax. Light a candle or diffuse some essential oils and disappear there for a few minutes until your tension dissipates.
9. Get outside and move!
Studies show that even mild activity and a dose of natural light (Vitamin D, anyone?) can energize you and brighten your spirits. So, if your energy levels are dragging or you’re feeling particularly “prickly,” head outside for a brisk walk, or run around the yard with your little one for a few minutes. You’ll be glad you did.
10 . Make a connection
We are social creatures. It doesn’t matter if you are an extreme introvert, extrovert, or somewhere in-between; social connection activates the reward center in our brain in a powerful way. And if you interact in a playful, humorous way, the benefits are even better. So, when you are feeling tired, down, or just plain stressed, pick up the phone, hang out with a friend, cuddle your fur-baby, or laugh with your kids. Everything else can wait. After you’ve activated your reward center, whatever it was that was overwhelming you will seem much more manageable. We promise.
Being a parent is tough work. Long hours, little sleep, and no instruction manual may make you wonder how you are ever going to make it. You judge yourself based upon other parents that seem to have it all together, and wonder, “What am I doing wrong?” Don’t worry. We all do it.
But, parenting can be even harder if you neglect your own needs. You can’t make a withdrawal from a bank that has no cash! So, next time you’re scrambling to get the kids ready, make lunches, throw a load of laundry in, and clean the cat’s litter box while replying to work emails, don’t forget to take care of yourself too. Grab a healthy snack or beverage. Pamper yourself in little ways throughout the day. Make time to stop and connect with those most important to you (yourself included!). Start making those little deposits. They add up. Life as a parent is exhausting, but it is also a wonder.
Don’t worry, you’re doing fine.
Pulling out of exhaustion starts with a healthy you. For more ways to do just that, check out 8 Secrets of Happier Moms.
Sources: Institute of Medicine
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Amanda hails from Western New York, but left the snow in search of sunnier places. She landed in North Carolina, where she is a practicing School Psychologist, wife to a United Methodist pastor, and mom to two elementary-aged boys. Outside of office-hours, she can be found puttering around with a half-full mug of coffee in her hand, attempting to practice yoga, reading, tinkering and crafting, or embarrassing her boys by randomly bursting out in song. With any free moments left after that, she’s writing about it. Connect with her at Blog: http://fit-2-be-loved.blogspot.com and Instagram: @gardner812 !