When you get on a plane, they give you a rundown on safety measures. The main rule in an emergency is that you have to put on your own oxygen mask before you can help someone else. This is because if you don’t put on your own mask first, you will pass out trying to get to the other person you are trying to help, making you unable to help yourself or be of any benefit to others either. I love this, because while every day is not an emergency, I think the concept here still applies. We need to care for ourselves before trying to help others. We can’t give our energy and focus away to our partners, our kids, our coworkers, or the lady at the grocery store if we haven’t taken care of ourselves first.
Put Yourself First
We all need self-care, just like we need oxygen and food (or maybe your morning coffee). Without self-care, our body and mind just keep going and going and going… until we can’t go any further with no desire to get up and try again. That’s called burnout. If we spend everything we have on other people, then we aren’t able to spend any time or energy on our own body and mind. This means we never get a chance to replenish that energy or motivation. We just burn out.
Self-care is all about loving yourself and honoring what your body and mind need to work their very best. So, while I know you are putting your energy into your kids and your family, you have to make time for you too. By setting boundaries, creating space for you to process your own emotions or maybe turning your brain off for a second, you can help yourself reset and be ready for the next thing.
Again, we all need self-care all the time. So, we have to find little ways to continuously care for ourselves so that we can continuously care for others. We have to do things that release good chemicals in brains to help us truly feel better and give us the energy we need to be able to show up to work and be our best selves. The good news is that self-care doesn’t have to cost money or take up a large chunk of your day. Self-care is totally doable and is something we can all always get better at!
Your brain needs a break from time to time. We aren’t robots, and we aren’t meant to constantly be doing things. Taking a break allows you a chance to breathe, reset, and get back to work with a fresh mindset. Stand up and stretch, go outside for a few minutes and enjoy the sunshine, ask a coworker about their day, or sit and meditate or practice mindfulness for a few. These little breaks can go a long way in helping you feel better about your day. Breaks don’t have to be long. Time is truly relative, so even setting a timer for 30 seconds in the bathroom to just close your eyes and breathe can feel like a sufficient break.
Changing our perspectives can really make a difference in our self-care and overall stress levels. It can even help you sleep better and combat depression. While some days are incredibly difficult to find something to be thankful for, challenging ourselves to find even one thing can make a big difference. Try reflecting on something you are grateful for while waiting on your computer to load or while your morning coffee brews. Make a list of three good things that happened during the day before you go to bed. Exchange thoughts with your kids or your partner and encourage them to think of their own list as well. You could also post what you are grateful for on Facebook, and encourage your friends to join in on the idea, creating a ripple effect.
Getting up and moving your body can help increase your energy levels, release good chemicals that make you happier and more motivated, and can help release tension and stress you are holding in your body. Going to the gym or a morning run is not always doable, and sometimes is just completely unrealistic. Exercise doesn’t have to be hardcore to count. Something as simple as a walk around the block, parking at the back of the parking lot when you go to the store, or dancing with your kids in the kitchen can help increase blood flow, which increases brain functioning capacity.
Having friends, hobbies, and just any plans outside of your parenting duties can help you have a better balance in life. Humans are hardwired to seek out a sense of belonging and togetherness. We are social creatures and need others to help us thrive. It truly helps us feel less stressed when we can connect with others and maybe even be distracted from everything else for a little while. Socializing is important to our physical and emotional health, and can look like grabbing lunch with a co-worker on lunch break, going grocery shopping with your friend on a Saturday, or getting your families together for dinner one night a week.
Set boundaries for yourself and allow yourself to say no to things. I know some things just have to happen and some responsibilities can’t be negotiated. In our world, notifications on our phones are constant. I think sometimes we forget that we don’t HAVE to respond right away. Emails can wait, a phone call can be returned, and plans can be rescheduled. You are allowed to take time for yourself and just take a step back. A kiddo I used to work with had the BEST boundaries when he didn’t want to do something or wasn’t quite ready for it. He would always respond by saying, “Not today, maybe tomorrow.” Simple, direct, and definite. If you can’t do it today, then okay. It can be done tomorrow, if you are ready for it then.
Consider therapy for yourself
I know time is limited, but carving out that space to work on your own emotions and dedicating time to process any traumas or tough events in life can truly help. Therapy is also a fantastic way to learn new skills to help with your own emotional regulation. It can also help with coping strategies and communication with your spouse, kids, and those around you. Therapy can be empowering and educational on so many levels. Support groups with other foster/adoptive/kinship caregivers can also be beneficial.
CMFCAA’s Advocacy Team is here for you.
We know that sometimes things are too much to handle. Sometimes, no matter how much effort you put towards self-care, it just isn’t enough. We are here for you to be that extra support, to lift burdens, and to help you navigate it all. Being a foster/adoptive/kinship caregiver is hard work. We want you to know that we see you and we are here for you. Contact us at anytime if you feel you could use some extra support.
**This is not to be considered professional advice. Please seek help with a professional licensed counselor or social worker to find what works best for you and your family.**