With dinner boiling over on the stove, and laundry piled high on a kitchen chair, my then 3-year-old Daniel came into the kitchen belting out a tune. “Daniel, stop! Be quiet!” I yelled. He looked up at me, sad and surprised.
Then it dawned on me: he’s singing! I was so stressed that my preschooler’s happy song actually annoyed me. Things had to change.
That incident happened a dozen years ago, but I remember how exhausted I was feeling. My need for self-care, rest and fun had been on the back burner for too long. When I finally did ask for help, I was abrupt and angry.
If you recognize any of these symptoms in yourself – forgetfulness, sleep disturbances, lack of joy in everyday activities, and physical or emotional exhaustion – the tips below may help you to get your life back on a more healthful track.
Start Your Day on a High Note
How you start your day is how your day tends to unfold. What can you take care of ahead of time so you’re less rushed? Can you get up 15 minutes earlier to plan your day, to write in your journal or have a cup of coffee in peace? Can you and your spouse alternate days getting the kids ready for school?
Play Well with Others
Research shows that relationships are the most important factor in a happy life. Create or join a play-group so you can socialize and bond with other parents while your kids play together. Find a food allergy support group or a book club. Any type of socializing, especially on a regular basis, can improve your quality of life.
Leave the House Every Day
Take a walk around the neighborhood for an easy effort at self-care. Bring your little one in a stroller (which burns more calories too) or on a tricycle. Plus, the vitamin D from the sun can help your mood and your immune system.
How many times have you agreed to do something only to find yourself angry, tired or resentful when the time came to deliver? Train yourself to say, “Let me think about it” in response to new requests. Having some margin or wiggle room in life comes in handy when emergencies or even fun activities cross our paths.
Don’t Be a Martyr Mom
As a recovering (and occasionally relapsing) martyr, I believed that I had to be 100 percent responsible for food allergy management and just about everything else in our home. Get your spouse or partner on board or find a relative, friend or sitter who can pinch-hit. Understand that they will not do everything the way you do. Find trusted care so that you can leave the house for a few hours (or maybe even a full weekend).
Studies show our error rate is higher when we multitask, and things can actually take longer. Plus, we feel more stressed when we’re doing two (or more) things at once. There is nothing wrong with listening to music while you cook or fold laundry. But when you’re spending time with friends or family members, focus on the relationship.
Do Not Neglect Self-Care
We spend our time shopping the latest styles for our kids. Their medical appointments are up to date. Meanwhile, our doctor no longer recognizes us, and our wardrobe consists of what we can grab off the rack at Target on our way to buy school supplies. Do you have a nice pair of jeans and a top that fits? Bonus points if purchased in the last 12 months. I know, we’re all going to lose 10 pounds very soon. But in the meantime, find something that fits well now. And wear it to your annual checkup.
Move Your Body
Even a small amount of exercise is helpful self-care, and you don’t need a fancy gym membership. Walk after dinner or in the mornings. Get a DVD for yoga, cardio or weights. Start small, but do start.
Get Your Beauty Sleep
Create a bedtime routine. Set the alarm on your phone as a reminder to wrap up your work and chores so that you are in bed with at least 30 minutes before going to sleep. Keep your phone, laptop and clutter out of your bedroom. Let dad get up with the kids on the weekends.
Slipping into burnout can be subtle. Don’t wait until you are depressed or depleted to begin to choose a different path. A good mom is not a perfect mom, but she’s a happy one because she has put herself on the list.
Allergic Living columnist Gina Clowes is a certified master life coach, who specializes in the needs of parents of children with food allergies. She is the founder of AllergyMoms.com, an online support group serving thousands of families and professional members worldwide.