Originally published: December 2021
Show yourself some love: Tips to balance caring for yourself so you can care for your child
There’s no playbook for parenting in a pandemic—and yet, here we are. As parents and caregivers, we’ve done our best to support our kids and teens in these unusual times. We’ve guided them through disruptions at school and home, hosted virtual parties and drive-by celebrations, and filled in for their teachers, coaches, and friends.
It’s no wonder that many of us feel overloaded by the daily demands of caring for our families. If it seems as if all your time and energy goes into helping others at home, you’re not alone.
Your mental health matters just as much as anyone else’s. It’s important to find ways to balance caring for yourself and caring for your kids and teens. These tips can help.
Check in with yourself
Every day, take a few moments to check in with yourself. Pay attention to your body and mind. Be honest about how you’re doing.
Notice signs of stress—they can look different for everyone. Reflect on whether you’ve changed your eating or sleeping patterns, or whether you’re using substances like caffeine or alcohol more than usual. Watch for physical signs of stress like inability to focus, headaches, or feeling unwell.
Understanding what stress looks for you is the first step in handling it. Try online check in tools like the Bounce Back Adults Quiz, and reflect on what you can do to address your stress.
Make room for self-care
Make self-care a priority. Start with the basics—get enough sleep, eat well, and stay active. Be sure to do activities that make you happy and help you feel good.
Self-care strategies are unique for each person. Focus on things you enjoy and that restore you. Here are some common techniques:
- Spend time in nature. Engage your senses as you explore the outdoors—pay attention to the sights, sounds, and smells. Even just a few minutes outside can help boost your mood! Try activities like mindful walking, snowshoeing, or stargazing.
- Connect with others. Nourish your relationships with friends, family, and community. Try virtual meet ups, outdoor social clubs or groups, or video calls. Join an online community for art, music, hobbies, or common interests.
- Move your body. Disconnect from technology and do a sport or physical activity that you enjoy. Movement helps us feel less tired and keeps us motivated.
Remember that self-care isn’t self-indulgent or irresponsible. It’s part of being healthy, so try to make space for it! If you’re stretched for time, try to cut back on daily activities that aren’t productive or enjoyable. Replace them with self-care techniques, even for just a few minutes a day.
Build your network
As the saying goes, it takes a village to raise a child. This is also true of parents—our resilience is a product of the people around us, and the help we get from others.
As much as you can, build a network of support around you. Reach out to your partner, friends, family, Elders, co-workers, and neighbours. There are likely plenty of people who are happy to help, if only they knew what to do.
Be specific about the supports that you need. Whether it’s help with transportation, childcare, or day-to-day tasks like grocery shopping, you don’t need to go it alone. Speak up for your well-being.
Get help when you need it
Sometimes parenting is just too much to handle. There are programs, services, and professionals that can help you. Many are low-cost or free.
If you’re experiencing distress that’s intense, long lasting, or causing problems at home, be sure to reach out for help. Not sure where to start? Try these ideas:
- Talk to your family physician about options in your community. They may be able to help you connect with a psychologist, social worker, support group, or other helping organization.
- Find out if your workplace has an employee and family assistance program. Learn more about what’s available, like self-care workshops, virtual coaching, or counselling.
- Visit ahs.ca/helpintoughtimes for a directory of services, phone numbers, and online supports for handling financial pressures, unexpected challenges, and stressful situations.
- Call 811 to speak with a registered nurse, any time of day or night.
- If you’re thinking about suicide, or are worried about a friend or loved one, call 1-833-456-4566 to reach the Canada Suicide Prevention Service. It’s always open—24/7, 365 days a year.
These are trying times. Taking care of yourself makes you stronger, and it sets the tone for your whole family.
Show yourself some kindness! You deserve it more than you know.
For more information about mental health supports, visit: