Resources / Parenting

Caring for Your Kids Starts with You: Self-Care Tips for Parents and Caregivers

Father holding baby in nursery
Brightline Logo Mark Orange
Brightline team

Feb 28, 2024

If you’re a caregiver, you need to be a care receiver, too. 

Devoting your days (and nights) to caring for infants, toddlers, teens, or adults who need it can be both rewarding and exhausting. The hours spent making sure that person (or people) are fed, hydrated, safe, and healthy are worth it. That said, sometimes that effort leaves you too tired to take care of yourself. 

You might find it easy to prioritize others, but it can be just as important to move your own needs up that list at times. After all, if you’re worn down, unhealthy, hungry, or too tired, you won’t have the energy to do anything for anyone. And when others keep pulling from your empty well, feelings of resentment might start to build. 

As a caregiver, delivering consistent and compassionate care for others requires keeping your own emotional and physical buckets full. When you’re getting what you need, you have more of yourself to share.

Self-care isn’t selfish

You might be thinking that putting self-care on the calendar is just one more task you can’t make time for. But self-care doesn’t have to take hours (or be expensive) in order for you to feel restored by it. Also, caring for yourself can look like not doing everything alone. Whether help is offered or you have to ask for it, letting someone else handle a task might make them feel useful while bringing your own stress level down a bit.

Think about the small, simple things you do for the people you love and how special it can make them feel. Then, think about little things that can make you feel happy, energetic, or loved, and do those things. And consider this: self-care is actually good for everyone.

Here are some easy ideas to try:

  • Meditate, stretch, dance, or do a deep-breathing exercise for five minutes

  • Spend a few minutes every day in nature 

  • Sit down to eat your meal — taste and enjoy your food (yes, even if it’s a peanut butter and jelly sandwich)

  • Drink lots of water throughout the day

  • Read a few pages of a book or listen to a podcast 

  • Pick a flower or some greenery and keep it in a vase by your bed

  • Ask for help, find help around you, or take someone up on their offer to help

Make a date — with yourself

When you’re exhausted or feel you need a pick-me-up, you might look for something that will give you a quick boost, like a big iced coffee or a baked good from a favorite café.

While those things are delicious in the moment and can deliver a couple of hours of feeling awake and alert, we’ve got an additional idea that can keep you feeling more supported in the long term.

Try this — let go of any expectations you have for yourself. Instead, get still for a moment and think about what would help you feel cared for. Is it time alone to think? Dinner with a friend? An early bedtime? Someone to help with laundry? Or maybe it is that iced coffee after all!

Whatever it is, take a minute to put it on the calendar — and then, make it a non-negotiable.

You wouldn’t push off a doctor’s appointment for your infant, right? You’d never miss your 3rd grader’s holiday lunch or your teen’s basketball game, either. Now it’s time for you to make what you need a priority as well. And remember, if it’s not something you can do alone, don’t be afraid to ask for the help you need. 

Because again, the better you feel, the better job you can do as a caregiver. Here are a few ways you can make a date with yourself:

  • Want to drink your coffee alone (while it’s still hot) before anyone else wakes up? Set your alarm now. 

  • Send a text to your mother-in-law, partner, or friend and ask if they’ll pick a few things up at the store for you. 

  • Take yourself on a walk outside or drop by the neighborhood gym for a stretching session. 

  • Focus on how you’re talking to yourself about yourself. Practice showing yourself the same compassion you would your dearest friend.

  • A few times a day, pause and take a few deep breaths. Roll your shoulders back and stand tall with your feet rooted in the ground. Find the balance you need.

  • Log on to Brightline’s website and read an article, chat with a coach, or get connected to resources in your community.

  • Connect with someone who makes you feel good about yourself (bonus points if they also make you laugh!).

It’s all self-care, and it’s all yours for the taking. So make yourself a priority today. You — and the ones you care for — will be better off because of it.

Still struggling to put caring for yourself at the top of your to-do list? Sign up today and learn more ways to schedule self-care and the reasons why it matters. Brightline coaches and therapists are always here to help.