By Julia Merrill
Self-Care and Family
When you imagine self-care, you probably picture solo activities such as taking a long bubble bath or going for a run. And if you’re a parent, your next thought is probably how to go about accomplishing these feats, as you don’t have time for anything. But the truth is, self-care doesn’t have to be solitary! Here are five ways your family can practice self-care together.
Set Bedtimes for Everyone
As a parent, you know how important sleep is to your child’s health, cognition, and behavior. However, if you’re staying up late to enjoy the precious quiet hours after the kids are asleep, you could be damaging your own health. Poor sleep is associated with an increased risk of anxiety and depression, among other health issues. Set bedtimes for every member of the family (yourself included) to ensure you all get the recommended amount of sleep each night.
Eat Dinner Together
Family dinners don’t just promote healthier food choices — eating dinner as a family is also linked to better mental health. As Fatherly explains, kids who routinely eat family meals are less likely to develop depression or start using drugs. Shared meals are also a wonderful way to strengthen your family bond and foster honest communication between parents and kids. Create a meal plan every week and clear off the table so there’s space to eat together.
Pick Up a Family Sport
You know you could stand to exercise more, and with a trend toward less recess and physical education in schools, your kids could probably use more physical activity. Instead of working out separately, why not practice a sport as a family? A basketball hoop is easy to erect in the driveway or backyard, as long as you do your research and buy a hoop that’s as sturdy and easy to assemble as it is affordable. And when you play together, you’ll be rewarded with improved physical health, reduced stress, and more positive moods. Not into basketball? Badminton, volleyball, and capture the flag are all great sports for the backyard.
Set Screen-Free Times
Digital devices like tablets, smartphones, and computers have made it easier than ever to entertain yourself, learn new things, and connect with others. But in excess, screen time is associated with sleep disturbances, behavior problems, poor self-confidence, and diminished attention spans — not to mention the physical health effects of spending so much time sedentary. Set a regular time where everyone in the family puts away their devices and engages in a non-digital activity. The hour or two before bed is ideal for your screen-free time, as using light-emitting devices before bed affects your ability to fall asleep.
There are plenty of activities that don’t require the use of electronics. Look for something that sparks joy for the whole family, such as playing a board game or working on coloring books together. For music enthusiasts, you can all learn to play an instrument, such as the clarinet, guitar, or saxophone. Look for a buying guide to help you pick the right model of instrument for each family member.
According to the Gottman Institute, altruism is a great way to boost your well-being. It also promotes a stronger sense of gratitude, an emotion that’s linked to better mental health because it shifts your mind away from negative thinking and toward positive emotions. For an activity that benefits your family and the community, volunteer at an organization whose mission you believe in. Create the Good explains how to get started with volunteering as a family, including what you can do if your kids are too young for typical volunteer roles.
It’s hard to squeeze in self-care when you’re busy working, running a home, and caring for kids. By engaging in self-care as a family, you can add more self-care to your life even if your schedule means you don’t get a lot of alone time. Not only will family self-care improve your whole family’s mental wellness, but self-care also teaches your kids healthy habits and helps you grow closer as a family. What’s not to love about that?
Image via Unsplash
Julia Merrill is a retired board-certified nurse practitioner. Her experiences have prompted her to find means to bridge the gap between those who receive care and those who provide it through her new blog befirendyourdoc.org.