Recently, a business trip took me to Kansas City and as our plane was nearing take off, we had that familiar pre-flight talk from our flight attendant. She reminded us that if the oxygen masks deploy, we should put our own mask on first before helping a child or someone next to us. Make sure that we have the capability to meet the needs of others by taking care of our own needs is a vital principle in life as well as with oxygen masks.But far too many fathers seem to ignore their own needs for self-care and just wear themselves out at work and at home, leaving not much energy for their own needs.
If you find yourself in the occasional, or even regular, situation of being exhausted physically and emotionally in your role as a father, consider taking some steps toward self-care. It may amaze you how just one or two of these ideas practiced on a regular basis can significantly improve the quality of your life and your contribution to your career and to your family.
Work on your personal purpose statement. Defining what is most important for us as individuals can help steer everyday decisions and choices. Your personal purpose statement is all about creating that vision for yourself and for your many roles as a husband, father and man.
Meditate. Men who practice daily or even twice daily meditation find their psyches renewed and their perspective freshened. It only takes a few minutes but can have a major impact on the quality of your day
Get physical. Exercise can be a great way to take care of yourself as a father. The endorphins that get released into our blood stream during exercise tend to clear our minds and brighten our perspective. Even just a few minutes of walking or other more active exercising can make a difference in your day. And it has the added benefit of helping your metabolism and burning off excess fat and carbs.
Write in your journal. Many dads I know are committed to keeping a journal or blogging about their life experiences. Journaling can help any dad see things the way the really are and can help him sort through the events and thoughts of a day. Writing can be therapeutic when under stress and has the added benefit of leaving a legacy to your children and others who might read your thoughts along the way.
Curl up with a good book. Stopping to read something not related to your responsibilities can be a good way to create a little self-care time. Men who are committed to lifelong learning and reading exercise their minds as they go, and a little free reading can be a short “escape” from the pressures of the world.
Spend a little time with friends. While our female counterparts in parenting seem to find ways to connect with other women, we men often find ourselves trying to slog through our days as “rugged individualists.” Connecting with a men’s support group, a men’s group at church or in the neighborhood, or just shooting hoops at a friend’s house while interacting with other men are healthy ways to invest a little in your own emotional well-being.
Practice saying “no.” When the demands of life on your time get too consuming, men can crumble under the pressure. Identify a few things in your life that you could let go, and then let them go. When someone outside your family asks something from you, be selective and then say no to the commitments that don’t meet your needs and those of your family. it is quite liberating to develop the habit of saying no to unimportant things.
Check your vital signs. Statistics suggest that men are 100% less likely to take preventive care steps than are similarly situated women. So take a minute and check your key vital signs. Stop by the drug store and check your blood pressure in one of the little machines by the pharmacy. Get some blood work done to check your cholesterol and blood sugar levels. Taking a first step toward knowing the status of your health and heart is a good self-care tip. Knowledge is power!
Give up a vice. All of us suffer from one or more habits that tend to cause us stress and contribute to a less than healthy lifestyle. Identify one thing that pulls you down from where you want to be and get a plan together to eliminate it from your life. If you are struggling with anger issues, pornography, or substance abuse, take a first step today to put that behind you and move forward meaningfully.
Take a class. Taking time to become a little better as a person or learn something new is a good way to take care of one’s self. Get a little outside of your comfort zone. See if your local community recreation center or gym has a yoga or a spinning class. Take a cooking class or an appliance repair class. Find something that makes you stretch little (physically or intellectually) and get going on a course to get you where you would like to be.
Investing appropriately in one’s self can make a big difference. Any dad can profit from making sure that he brings his best self to his many important roles as a dad, and a little self-care can go a long way toward that goal.