Self-Care: Top-Down Mentality

Parents of newborn babies have to adapt to life with less sleep than they would like and the pressure of providing constant and repetitive care for a tiny person who can do nothing much for themselves. Let's be frank, despite its many wonders and beautiful moments, parenthood is at times overwhelming and exhausting, particularly in the first year. We may look back on life B.C. (before children) and fondly remember the luxury of a lay-in, or the stillness of a quiet afternoon pottering about doing our own thing without having to consider the needs of somebody else at every single moment. We may feel guiltily wistful remembering feelings of complete physical and mental restoration after a good holiday... That may all seem so very long ago and so currently out of reach, the notion itself of peaceful relaxation becomes almost relegated mentally to life B.C. because after all, even very lovely times with our little-people in tow do not hold the same potential for max-relax.

Rationally, we know that even a short break can boost our productivity-levels, general mood and attitude towards life's challenges, including yet another night of sub-optimal sleep. We acknowledge that after disengaging from our daily stresses, giving ourselves a break from our parenting routine, that we might operate and respond differently for a while.

Consider those parents you know who pack in vast amounts of activities, work and family time, we wonder how they do it all, and with such good humour. I can guarantee you that those people have a 'Top-Down' mentality when it comes to self care. By this I mean that they dedicate regular time for mental and physical decompression, knowing it results in them having more energy, focus and social-grace to pass on to everybody and every thing else.

The Top-Down approach is not rocket science, but it does challenge a prevailing societal notion that in order to do things well, we have to work harder or longer than others and sacrifice anything that could be interpreted as self indulgent; something particularly compounded for parents by the weight of responsibility we feel for our children. The principle needs your buy-in to the concept that self care is not self indulgence, it is a highly effective maintenance tool that benefits everybody reliant on the individual using it.

Next time you feel washed-out or overwhelmed by the more monotonous mechanics of parenting, speak to whoever can help you with childcare and then plan and schedule a few regular hours of self-care; whatever that means for you, maybe an exercise class, a massage, a long walk or some meditation. Treat self-care as a strong priority; plan the details in advance, schedule it and stick to it. It doesn't matter what 'it' is, as long as it provides you with the opportunity to 'just be'. For the time, effort and money that it costs you, there is a higher personal (and trickle-down effect) return in an hour of self-care than in an hour of almost anything else.

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