By: Sahel Gingerich, Empty Nest Intern
When children grow up and leave the house, parents find themselves in a new phase of life while still desiring to care for their children as before. This new season may give a sense of freedom to parents but can also feel ambiguous. As parents of adult children, we have spent most of our lives taking care of our children and providing for their needs while we may have neglected our own. It's important to remember that our families need a happy and rested parent to spend time with.
As our children grow and become more independent, we experience a mix of emotions that can lead us to do more than necessary to go above and beyond in the ways that we show our love and care. In this season, we can benefit from learning that self-care is not selfish but rather a way to care for our loved ones by giving them our best selves.
Routines Are Helpful
Creating a routine of self-care is one way to be intentional about paying attention to our own needs. Set a reminder to check in with yourself on what you need and respond to those needs before overwhelm hits. Establish a routine centered around healthy habits and be clear and intentional about your needs. An example of an intentional routine can be naming three things you are thankful for every night before falling asleep.
Self-care needs time and creating an environment of rest and calmness. We need to learn how to set boundaries that protect our well-being and the well-being of our family members. Being mindful of the time and energy that we have throughout the day is one way to prioritize self-care. Saying no when we have to make time for ourselves and decline invitations creates room for self-care and teaches us to prioritize our needs.
Seeing the Whole Person
True well-being happens when our mind and body feel in balance and taken care of. While taking time to rest, meditate, and take care of our mental health is important, our bodies need attention to feel healthy as well. Feeding our bodies with good nutrition and doing healthy exercise as well as enough sleep creates a healthy environment for our bodies to feel rested and taken care of. A walk, joining a yoga class, or parking away from the store entrance are intentional ways we can create some extra movements into our daily routine.
Our mind and our body both need our attention and care. Mindfulness practices can reduce the level of stress, and these tools are easily accessible through apps right on your phone. One that I would personally recommend is called Mindfulness Coach. Meditation helps bring our minds to the present to focus on the here and now instead of dwelling on all the worries and concerns we may carry from our family relationships and responsibilities.
Plan But Leave Room for Change
When planning for time together with our families, we need to set our own expectations to allow for the fact that everything may not always go as planned. While planning helps reduce stress, remaining open to alternatives and flexible to pivot as needed will make those experiences better for all. Changes in plans can be disappointing, but that doesn't have to escalate to overwhelm.
As you embark on the journey of self-care, it's important to recognize that the benefits extend beyond personal well-being. Prioritizing self-care not only enhances your individual life but also positively influences the quality of your family experiences. By nurturing your own well-being, you contribute to the creation of an environment where joy and fulfillment flourish.
If you find yourself in need of professional help, don't hesitate to reach out to us and schedule a session. Our dedicated team at Empty Nest Counseling is here to help you navigate life's challenges and transitions with care and compassion. Whether you're experiencing difficulties related to the milestones of becoming an Empty Nester or new grandparent or finding balance in how you relate to your adult children, our therapists are ready to support you. We offer both in-person and virtual therapy. Schedule a therapy session with us today and take the first step towards a healthier you. Remember, you don't have to face it alone – we're here for you.