As a single mom myself, there are two things I know to be true:
· We’re often so busy that self-care gets ignored
· It’s because we’re so busy and because we’re single parents that we need self-care so desperately
It can easily feel like a Catch-22. And it’s generally easier to ignore something that’s difficult than to try to find a solution — especially when that thing doesn’t seem like it’s all that important.
But self-care is important, especially for single parents. As the sole parent, responsible for not only ourselves but our kids, we have to make sure that our own needs are being met in order to be there for our kids. We have to be the ones to make ourselves a priority because we don’t have a partner who can insist we do it and take over the parenting for us so we can have a break.
I believe one of the biggest reasons single parents, and others, tend to ignore self-care is they have a serious misconception of what it should be. They see it as indulgence, doing things like bubble baths, massages, and other luxuries that we often don’t have time or money for. And even if they don’t see it as an indulgence, they do still see it as too time-consuming — or a financial strain.
But that doesn’t have to be true. That’s why I’ve come up with a list of 12 simple self-care activities that you can do. These activities can take as little or as much time as you want — whether you’ve got 30 seconds, 30 minutes, or a whole day. They cost you little to nothing — and when it does cost money, you get to decide how much.
Take a look and choose the activities that speak to you. Chose one, choose a handful, or choose them all There’s really no way you can go wrong.
Put your phone away from your bed at night
I’ll be the first to admit that I sleep with my phone on my nightstand. I have a 19-year-old son who gets up at 3:30 in the morning to go to work, so I like to have the phone close by in case something happens. But having the phone that close creates temptation, too. You get tempted to pick it up when you’re not asleep yet, when you wake up in the middle of the night, or first thing in the morning when you get up.
It can also disrupt your sleep during the night with notifications going off.
If you need to keep the phone handy to use it as an alarm, put it on the other side of the room — and don’t forget to turn on the do not disturb function to silence notifications. Otherwise, try putting it in another room entirely. You’ll sleep more soundly and deeply (and probably more quickly), and you’ll avoid the temptation of grabbing the phone any time your eyes open.
Forgive yourself when you mess up
There is never anyone as hard on us as we are on ourselves when we make a mistake. We relive our mistakes over and over in our minds, beating ourselves up and thinking about the things we could have done to avoid the mistake. We see each mistake as a sign of failure or lack on our part, rather than simply being human. And all that leads to decreased confidence, self-esteem, and faith in ourselves.
Learning to forgive yourself when you mess up can be one of the best self-care activities you can engage in. Learning to learn from a mistake and then let it go can take a huge weight off your shoulders and make you feel more confident, intelligent, and skilled.
Lie in the grass and look up at the sky
Do you remember lying in the grass as a kid and looking up at the sky? Watching fluffy clouds float by in a crystal blue sky and seeing shapes in them? Staring at the distant pinprick sparkle of stars in the night sky, eyes hunting for a comet, meteor or shooting star? Do you remember how good that felt?
Doing it again as an adult can feel just as good. Lying in the grass and looking up at the sky, day or night, gives you a moment to slow down. You can relax, take some deep breaths, and let go of all of your problems and worries even if it’s only for that moment on the grass.
Take a moment to really plant your feet in the grass and run your hands through it, too. Feel the warmth of the sun-heated dirt, the coolness of the blades of grass, the hint of moisture from dew. Savor the moment.
Savor some dark chocolate (or your favorite treat)
My personal favorite is Ghiradelli dark chocolate — the really dark stuff. But whatever chocolate you enjoy, take some time to savor it. Unwrap it and take a moment to inhale the fragrance. Feel the texture between your fingers as it begins to melt instantly from the heat of your fingers. Place it on your tongue. Let it melt, and notice the change in texture as it does. Notice the flavor against your tongue. Let it linger even after you swallow the chocolate.
If chocolate’s not your thing — first, what’s wrong with you? Chocolate is everyone’s thing! But if chocolate’s not your thing, savor another treat you enjoy. Maybe it’s almond or peanut butter. Maybe it’s mint. Maybe it’s whiskey or beer. Whatever it is, savor it. Take your time with it. Make it a true treat, not just something you gulp or guzzle down.
Put up a bird feeder and watch the birds
Take a little time to build or buy a bird feeder and fill it with seed. Then whenever you feel the need for a little self-care or stress relief, go sit near the feeder. Sit really still and eventually the birds will come to feed.
You’ll hear the flutter of their wings, the quiet thunk as their beak hits the bird feeder to pick up a seed, their chatter to themselves and each other. You’ll see the beautiful, rich colors of their feathers and their graceful flight and landings as they come to and leave the feeder.
You can also put in a small birdbath. Watching a bird take a bath is very entertaining.
Sit by some water
There is something so healing and soothing about the water. Luckily, you don’t have to go to the beach to get the effects. You can sit beside a lake or pond, a pool, or even a water fountain. Moving water, such as a fountain or ocean waves, is ideal, but any water can be good.
Simply sit there quietly and enjoy the moment. Listen to the sounds, maybe dip your feet in to cool off a bit, close your eyes and relax.
Sitting outside while it rains is also a great idea. Sit on your covered back porch and watch the rain fall. If you’re not scared of storms, this can be especially soothing when it’s storming.
And if there’s no water nearby and no rain on the way, a shower or bath can also work.
Place your hand on your heart
In a moment where stress, frustration, or anger is about to overwhelm you, try this simple self-care technique: place your hand over your heart and just breathe. You can close your eyes if you want, but you don’t need to.
Something about the mere act of placing your hand over your heart is enough to slow you down and help you focus. Maybe it’s because with only one hand free, you can’t really do anything else. Or maybe it truly makes a connection between your heart and mind so you have to slow down.
Whatever the reason behind it, placing your hand on your heart slows you down, helps you focus, and causes stress or negativity to drain away. It gives you a moment to step back, reconsider, and come back to any situation from your heart. And approaching anything from the heart is more likely to go well.
Create & follow a simple skincare routine
I rarely wear makeup. Most of the time, I wash my face in the shower using a konjac sponge. It’s faster and easier. But I also do a face mask on Sundays, apply Vitamin C serum and rose toner nightly, and do an overnight gel mask mid-week. These are all relatively small things. They only take a couple of minutes to do but they make me feel pampered, refreshed, and like I’m really taking care of myself and my skin.
You don’t need to invest a bunch of money in a 20-step skincare routine. But you can create a simple skincare routine that will help you feel nourished and pampered. It can be as simple as washing your face and applying a moisturizer afterward. Or you might wash your face, use a toner, apply some serums and then moisturize.
Whatever you do, and however quick the routine is, really pay attention as you do it. Notice how your fingers feel against your skin or how the products smell. Watch as the products are absorbed into your skin. Notice the lines or freckles or dimples on your face. Get to know yourself.
Cuddle with the kids or a pet
A good snuggle might be all you need sometimes. When you feel stressed and overwhelmed, sometimes it’s just because you’re feeling disconnected and out of touch with the ones you love or the world around you. So try sitting down with the kids or your cat or dog and have a good cuddle.
Just wrap your arms around each other or bury your face in the animal’s fur. Enjoy the warm, soothing comfort of being close to another living being with no obligation but to sit there and love each other. Breathe in the scent of bubble gum shampoo, stroke soft fur, and stay present in the moment.
And don’t feel bad if you need to bribe the kids with a movie or the pet with some treats to get them to sit and snuggle with you for a few minutes. If all else fails, just ask for a hug. A few moments spent in a meaningful hug can be enough.
Close your eyes and take a deep breath
Sometimes stress and overwhelm is simply the result of overload. There’s too much going on around you and you can’t keep up with all the sights, sounds, smells, and feelings. So if you close your eyes and take a deep breath or a few deep breaths, you can eliminate some of the overload.
It is literally as simple as closing your eyes and breathing deeply. Do it for 30 seconds, a minute, or as long as you want. Closing your eyes eliminates visual stimulation. And for many of us, deep breathing takes focus and concentration, which can eliminate much of the other stimulation. It brings your focus inward and allows you to take a beat before you return to the world.
Make space between your fingers and toes
We spend our days with our fingers bent over keyboards or clenched around pens or tools. Our feet are stuffed into shoes that, though they may fit, feel tight and stiff by the end of the day. There’s plenty of messaging about moving your body — get enough exercise, stretch your spine after sitting all day — but the hands and feet are often neglected.
Take a moment to create space between your fingers and toes. Stretch and bend your fingers. Spread your toes wide as you stand on your yoga mat. Grab some toe separators and wear them for a little while.
When you take a little time to stretch your fingers and toes, you might be amazed at how good it makes you feel.
Lie down flat on your back and just breathe
Have you ever laid in Savasana at the end of a yoga session and felt like you were just melting into the floor? You just felt warm, gooey, and as if you and the floor were becoming one? It’s a good feeling, right? If you don’t have time for a good yoga session, skip straight to Savasana and get a similar feeling.
Lie on the floor (or the couch or bed if you prefer) on your back. Stretch your legs out straight and your arms at your sides. Don’t put a pillow under your head or anywhere else. Close your eyes. Relax and just breathe.
Don’t think. Don’t worry. Don’t make to-do lists. Just lie there, eyes closed, and breathe. Let your body sink into the floor, allow tense muscles to soften, and feel stress just melt away. Whether you’ve got just a couple of minutes or a half hour, lying flat on your back like this can do wonders.
Bonus tip: Lengthen your exhales
Whenever you’re feeling tense, overwhelmed, or frustrated, lengthen your exhales so they’re longer than your inhales. This triggers your vagus nerve and signals your body that everything is okay, you can relax and let go of the stress, tension, or frustration.
You don’t even need to do anything else with this. It is literally as simple as recognizing how you feel and making a conscious effort to make your exhales longer than your inhales. It doesn’t take long to feel the effects.
You can do this anytime and anywhere. Whether you’re on a first date or in a big meeting, sitting in traffic or dealing with family, no one will ever even realize what you’re doing. This might be the ideal form of self-care because it’s so simple, so fast, and so unnoticeable to others.
Give these a try and see what happens!
Wendy Miller is a freelance relationship writer & meditation teacher. After years of settling for abusive and otherwise toxic relationships, she got fed up. Using meditation and other tools, she got to work on healing herself, setting boundaries, and only engaging in relationships (romantic and otherwise) that bring her joy. She wants to help other single parents find the love they seek, including and going beyond romantic love. She lives in Florida with her two sons, where she homeschools while solo parenting, while surrounded by what feels like a zooful of animals.
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