Tips for Taking Care of Yourself
How are you doing? What is life looking like for you right now?
As a parent, raising a profoundly gifted or twice-exceptional child, during a pandemic, you’ve probably been feeling overwhelmed for quite a while now. You’re also probably sick of people telling you how important self-care is. You are a smart, capable person. You know you need to take care of yourself. There just isn’t always time.
Does that sound about right?
We get it. And, moments of stress and overwhelm are when the importance of good self-care really kicks into overdrive. So, we’re going to take a minute to talk about good, purposeful self-care, in the hopes that our tips and strategies will help you to find ways to care for yourself. You’re an important part of our community, and we want you to be ok.
Knowing Your Limits
Each of us has different capacities for stress. What is an overwhelming situation for one person may be a typical afternoon for someone else. Similarly, your capacity for stress on a day where you are rested and nourished is probably higher than it is on a day where you haven’t gotten a good night’s sleep in three days and it’s 5pm and all you’ve had today is three cups of a coffee and a string cheese.
To figure out what kinds of good, purposeful self-care will restore you, you need to know what depletes you and where your limits are. The Spoon Theory can be a useful framework here. In the Spoon Theory, you are asked to imagine that each day you wake up with a certain number of spoons. For the sake of this example, let’s say you start with 12. Each spoon equals 1 unit of energy. As you go throughout your day-to-day activities, you spend spoons. Each of us has different strengths, so the same activity can cost different people a different number of spoons. For instance, if you’re a morning person, maybe your whole morning routine costs you 1 spoon. For others, simply getting out of bed may be 1 spoon. Then add a second spoon for getting cleaned up and dressed. Add on getting the kids fed and out the door, and you’ve already spent 3 spoons before you’ve really even started the day. Once you’ve spent all your spoons, you don’t have the capacity to navigate tasks as easily. Your frustration tolerance is low, and the quality of whatever you’re doing suffers. You might try to will your way through by borrowing spoons from the next day, but then that deficit rolls over and continues to follow you throughout the week. Sometimes certain activities can even take more spoons than you thought they would. If work usually takes 3 spoons, a bad day might wipe out 6 spoons.
The Davidson community is made up of strong, resilient parents, and still, we all run out of spoons sometimes. That’s ok. That’s normal. That is a side effect of living. Right now, those spoons may be running out faster than normal as we spend energy on things that we didn’t used to–like maybe homeschooling for the first time while attempting to work full-time from home, juggling finances in a time of uncertainty, addressing important and complicated questions from your children that might not have answers, and attempting to provide some sense of balance and peace to your home ecosystem. Talk about a lot of spoon spending!
Replenishing Your Spoons
So, how do you replenish your spoon supply to get more spoons? Self-care.
You might be hearing a lot about self-care right now. And you might also be sarcastically chuckling to yourself. Who has time (and space) for that?!? We hear you. It’s hard to carve out anything for yourself. (One of our favorite articles, “Dear Tired Mama of Gifted Kids” by Colleen Kessler, is taking on special significance right now.) Luckily, Family Consultants–by the nature of our jobs–have sort of become self-care ninjas. And, we want to share a bit of what we’ve learned about this essential parenting tool.
Self-care isn’t really about the type of activity. It’s about approaching activities with a certain intention.
Self-care is about saying to yourself, “I’m doing this to take a moment to myself. I’m doing this for me.” Example: Having a morning cup of coffee may be a basic step in your morning routine. Not much thought or intention often goes into that–which is absolutely fine. But, if you know that it’s going to be a 15 spoon day and you only have 12, you might approach that cup differently. Maybe you take that first cup in your favorite chair on your deck. Or, maybe you just close your eyes, and take a moment to breathe in the rich aroma of the coffee.
This is how self-care differs from distraction and procrastination. When we’re tired and out of spoons, it’s easy to binge on social media or TV, but that doesn’t always make you feel better. In fact, afterwards, you can feel guilty or beat yourself up for wasting time. However, if you check-in with yourself and know you need a break to recharge, you could intentionally take some time to read some positive news, rewatch a 22-minute episode of your favorite show, or find a few funny things on Facebook. Having set the intention ahead of time of using this moment to reset and then doing something that allows you to have an energy shift is self-care.
Self-care is different for everyone.
In the way stated above, it’s not the activity itself that determines whether something is self-care. Still, the activity you choose is important because it needs to be restorative for you in some way. The activity should replenish your body, mind, and/or soul. It goes a bit beyond daily maintenance.
What one person finds invigorating isn’t necessarily what someone else finds rejuvenating. Example: Cooking dinner. This is a stressful chore for some. For others–when they have the opportunity–this can be a rewarding activity that can check all self-care boxes: Cooking ends with a meal, so it nurtures the body. Cooking something new or improvising or taking on a challenging technique can be mentally stimulating. Cooking something nostalgic or cooking with someone else can replenish the soul as you connect to old memories or make new ones.
Self-care isn’t selfish–and it doesn’t need to take an hour (or a half-hour or 15 minutes).
You can’t pour water from an empty bucket. Your family needs water to survive, and filling your bucket allows you to give your family what they need—especially right now when they may be extra thirsty.
But where do you find the time or the space?
It’s wonderful when we are able to have an hour to ourselves, but that’s not always possible. So, we have to get creative:
- Maybe take the kids on a walk or a bike ride and plug into your favorite book or podcast while you go with them.
- Take a lunch break outside on your patio, deck, or front porch.
- Build in family screen time, reading time, or puzzle time, and be together while all doing your own thing.
Self-care can happen during your day amid the chaos; you just need to seize those moments for yourself when you can. The more you do that, the easier it becomes. Building in self-care habits does take some time and effort, but you are worth it.
Can you take a minute right now? We hope so. Taking care of yourself is needed and necessary for survival. Take a deep breath. Tuning into your own needs will help you to better tune into the needs of your family.
You’re great because you’re doing the best that you can. You’re doing enough. You’re getting yourself and your family through this day and the next day. Thank yourself for that. Show yourself some grace in the process because it’s not perfect. There is no road map.
We’re here to support you and cheer you on along the way.
See also Parenting Self-Care 101