This is the final installment in an ongoing series of self-care blog-posts. I’m not a professional healthcare worker. I’m simply someone that practices self-care in his daily life and for whom self-care is an important element. If you need professional help, please get the help you need. Below are some ways of getting help. I’ve gotten help before, and it made a difference.
Over the last three posts, I have suggested a family dance party as family exercise, a blanket fort as a prompt to discuss changes in our public / private space, and a variety of age-appropriate activities aimed at increasing your family’s emotional vocabulary. My process for creating these posts is to take a proven self-care technique and combine it with activities that children and youth enjoy. In this last post, I want to explain how you can use this formula to create your own family self-care plan.
Before we go there, please take a moment to check-in with yourself. How are you doing today? If we want to take care of ourselves, let's start by looking at ourselves. If you would like some help doing a self-check-in you can find information from our previous blog posts and video.
The idea for this blog post is to help you make your own self-care plan for your family. If you are new to the concept of self-care, the idea of striking out on your own may seem daunting. However, you have a distinct advantage in crafting your family’s self-care plan. You know your family. You know their likes, dislikes, habits, and pet peeves. To make your family's self-care plan, you want to build upon your knowledge of your family and the positive activities that they are already doing.
Begin by making a list of your family’s favorite healthy activities.
If they are willing and able, include your family in this project. Focusing on positives in our life is, itself, a self-care technique. So, making these lists is already practicing self-care. What kind of activities should you consider healthy?
- Does the activity promote self-reflection? Clearly, introspective activities, like keeping a journal, promote self-reflection. However, don’t overlook simple activities. Does your child like to tell you about their day? That counts as an activity promoting self-reflection.
- Is the activity a form of exercise? Include the obvious activities, like bike riding and dancing. But also include activities that are sneaky exercise, like washing the car or playing tag.
- Does the activity promote good nutrition? Focus on the positives in your family’s food choices. What healthy foods do they like?
- Do they find the activity relaxing? Sometimes relaxing activities involve simply being in a favorite place. Is there a place in the house that they find particularly comfortable, like a favorite chair or a spot on the couch? We often find activities relaxing that require no focus or intense focus. Chilling in a comfortable chair with nothing on our minds can be relaxing, but so can being engrossed in a good book. Think about activities on both ends of this spectrum.
- Does the activity promote a positive self-image? What positive character traits would your family members attribute to themselves and does the activity make them feel good about their character? For example, does it make them feel generous, or imaginative, or responsible?
- Does the activity promote a sense of gratitude? Again, there are obvious examples, like a child making gifts for others. These are great, and we want to include them. But try to include the subtle gestures of appreciation as well. Does your child / teen consider the tastes of others when listening to music? That care for others is an expression of gratitude.
Once you have a list of healthy activities, consider ways of making those activities part of a self-care routine.
- Are there things on the list that you could schedule as a recurring family activity? For example, if everyone in the family likes games, then could you make a Family Game Night once a week? If everyone likes riding bikes, could you plan several summertime rides?
- Are there ways of challenging individuals to repeat healthy activities? For instance, could you challenge a child that likes to make gifts to make a gift for every family member each month?
- Are there ways to rearrange your home to encourage self-directed self-care? If several people like to seek out quiet spaces to relax, could you designate a quiet room? Or work to provide everyone a designated favorite spot?
- Could you provide materials that promote self-care? Sometimes, promoting self-care is as easy as providing a sketch pad and pencils.
Consider ways of connecting the listed activities to self-care.
- Help your family make the connection between the actions and their emotions. Talk about how these activities make us feel. "How does drawing pictures make you feel?"
- Help your family recognize these activities as coping mechanisms. Ask which of their activities would help them deal with specific negative emotions. “Hey, when I’m feeling gloomy, I like to go for a run. When you are feeling gloomy, what things do you think would make you feel better?” (I suggest that you have this conversation ahead of time and not when the child/teen is feeling gloomy.)
- Expand upon the activities by adding self-care elements. Consider finding an appropriate relaxation clip on the internet and introducing your family to them. So, if your teen tells you that they just want to relax and do nothing, you can suggest that they put on the relaxation clip.
- Simply adding intentionality to an activity is an significant step. That is, getting the family member to the do the activity for the purpose of self-care is huge progress. "I'm going to ride my bike, because I want to clear my head."
This may seem complicated. I broke this down in detail, but the concepts are simple:
- Take the healthy things your family likes doing.
- Talk about how those things make them feel.
- Encourage them to continue.
Let me end with a few suggestions for your family self-care plan.
- Keep things simple.
This doesn’t have to be grandiose. Simple things, like showing excitement and gratitude when your child gives you a gift, can make for a successful self-care plan. Plus, life gets busy and chaotic. You want a self-care plan that works with your busy lifestyle.
- Be flexible.
If your "weekly family night" skips some weeks here or there, don’t sweat it. The goal is not rigid conformity to a schedule. The goal is healthy life habits.
- Keep things fun.
Stay focused on things that your family enjoys doing. Let enjoyment motivate the self-care.
You can do this!
If you are struggling, please get help. Below is a list of groups that can offer that help.
- For thoughts of suicide: National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a United States-based suicide prevention network of 161 crisis centers that provides a 24/7, toll-free hotline available to anyone in suicidal crisis or emotional distress.
- For mental health issues: National Alliance of Mental Illness NAMI Philadelphia, an affiliate of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, provides information and support to people with mental illness, their families, caregivers, and friends. All services are free.
- For drug and substance abuse: National Drug Information Treatment and Referral Hotline has 24/7 information, support, treatment options, and referrals to local rehab centers for any drug or alcohol problem.
Phone: 800-662-HELP (4357)