Parent to Parent: Tips on Parent Self-Care

UC Davis student relaxing in a hammock

By Mari Corbin, Aggie Parent and Family Council Member

As each year comes to an end and the start of a new one is on the horizon, many of us begin thinking about the next year and that dreaded “R” word rears its pesky head: resolutions. I don’t know what it is about resolutions that makes them so hard for most of us to stick to them (myself included). This year, I want to get away from resolutions and take a different approach.  Since I’ve heard a lot about mindful living, I decided to check it out.

According to mindful.org, mindfulness is “….. the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.” I think of this as quieting my mind and being fully present to enjoy the moment. This concept sounds simple, but achieving it can be challenging given our fast-paced world that demands we juggle multiple things simultaneously and remain on task 24/7. When our minds are racing to keep up with the demands placed upon us, quieting our minds to enjoy life’s simple pleasures is easier said than done.

So, how do we become more mindful? Start by engaging in small actions throughout the day:

  • Breathe - Close your eyes and spend a couple of minutes breathing in and out deeply. Stretch out each breath as long as you can, focusing on the movement of your belly and chest as you inhale and exhale deeply. As you do that, you’ll feel your body relax.
  • Walk - Take a walk, even if you only have 5 minutes. If you can be outside, focus on the feeling of the sun and the fresh air on your skin. Enjoy the sound of singing birds and rustling leaves on trees. Take in the vivid orange, red and yellow tree leaves.
  • Unplug - Mindfully disconnect by setting limits on your use of media. For example, when at dinner with family or friends, put the cell phones away and focus on quality time with each other, truly focusing on the conversation.
  • “Me” time - Regularly carve out a few minutes to take care of yourself. For example, get up 10 minutes earlier to quietly sip a hot cup of coffee in your favorite chair. 
  • Ask for help - Parents try to do too much ourselves. You’d be surprised by how much our loved ones are willing to do for themselves to get quality time with us and help us be well. For more on this, refer to a great book called Present Over Perfect: Leaving Behind Frantic for a Simpler, More Soulful Way of Living by Shauna Niequist.

In addition to being relaxing, research indicates practicing mindfulness can result in decreased stress, greater ability to cope with and recover from illness, decreased depressive symptoms, and overall better physical and mental health (for more details refer to https://positivepsychologyprogram.com/benefits-of-mindfulness/#benefits-mindfulness and https://www.helpguide.org/harvard/benefits-of-mindfulness.htm). 

So, this year, instead of setting big, lofty resolutions like losing weight or learning to speak a new language, I’m going to give this mindfulness a shot. I will focus on becoming more mindful and enjoying life more. 

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