The role of a parent is a hectic one at the best of times, juggling, at times, a professional career and motherhood. But this pandemic, has only further exacerbated an already hectic lifestyle. The various roles you have as a parent, wife, employee, daughter-in-law, friend and sibling have been dumped in a great big mixing bowl, being baked in the same location; your home.

If you feel like you are drowning, struggling to keep afloat, then you are not alone. Take a deep breath, and remind yourself, that you are just one individual, juggling numerous roles. You are bound to feel overwhelmed, stressed and worried.

To help keep sane, you take each day as it comes, hoping that the few hours’ sleep you cram in will be enough to rejuvenate you. However, the days blur into each other, and this crammed-fill mass becomes weeks. Take a moment to think the last time you did something for yourself, a time where you felt still, calm and serene. If it’s difficult for you to think of such a moment, then you’re facing a worrying reality.

It is common to neglect self-care, especially when you have little ones in need of your constant attention, or having to rise to the demands of teenagers and the various challenges they present. The reality, however to ensure you can better care for them, you need to take care of yourself first.  To avoid burnout and stress from taking over, you need to prioritise yourself, and take some time out for your own wellbeing. Self-care is important at the best of times, more so in this pandemic, where stress levels, uncertainty, and anxiety are brimming.

The following 7 tips can get you started on your self-care journey during the pandemic.

  1. Carve out some ‘me time.’

Yes, it’s called ‘me time,’ meaning no little ones, no spouses, no duties, and no concerns. Take a little time out daily, to decompress, unwind and switch off. You can do that by taking an extra-long shower or bath, enjoying a special cuppa once the kids have gone to bed, or reading a few pages of your chosen book.  By doing this, you are giving yourself an allocated time to focus on yourself, something you haven’t done for the whole day. Although it sounds simple enough, most parents do not do this. Once they settle down to unwind, another chore or task will pop in their head, and up they get. However, by actively incorporating this into your day, you will begin to appreciate and look forward to it. In fact, you’ll soon notice how these little breaks throughout the day, or week, will lift your mood, and effectively help you be more present with others throughout the day.

2 . Volunteer your time                                                                                    

Doing voluntary work for a few hours a week can be satisfying. There are many ways to volunteer. You could try something that will help your CV when you come to look for work, or choose something that has always interested you, or is just for fun. When you don’t feel at your best, voluntary work may sound like the last thing you would want to do, but once you get started it can be a real boost to your self-confidence and give you a great sense of fulfilment. Making a regular commitment to volunteer gives you a focus away from your role as a parent and the chance to meet new people and find satisfaction in helping others. 

3. Do things you enjoy

Due to the lockdown, our movements are restricted. We are spending more time at home, unable to go out and socialise at weekends. This leaves us with plenty more time to try new hobbies or keep up with our old ones.  Plenty of parents have hobbies which they have neglected, or even abandoned entirely, over the years.  Now is the perfect time to reignite that passion, or get started with something new.

Set aside a time each weekend or whenever you have free time, to do it; be it learning a new language, or getting those paints out.  Often, as parents, we spend time doing activities with our children, but trying to do things which are of interest to you, can reinvigorate you, and make you feel productive.

4. Go easy on yourself

We are our own worst critic, but this habit of self-deprecation can be harmful for yourself, and equally for those around you.  Cut yourself some slack; you are doing your best, and in fact, you are probably doing a a great job. Well done, you! for waking up every morning to another day, filled with tasks and tantrums. You continue to strive and step up to whatever is thrown at you. You may find it difficult accepting the amount of screen time your child has, or the treats they are indulging in. Their routine may a little out of whack, but that is ok. The world we are in has changed dramatically, surely your allowed a little leeway now?

In reality, by stressing over these little moments, you can actually create more tension and worry in your household. Your child will pick up on your stress levels, further causing them to become upset, and distressed also. Let some things slide, and choose to focus on the little wins to see you through the day.

5. Make the healthier choice

When you are stressed, you are more likely to indulge in that extra bar of chocolate. Although, treating yourself is not a crime, it should be occasionally and not a regular occurrence. You can easily fall into the trap of skipping meals and then reaching out for a kick fix to keep you going. However, this will later result in a harder crash.

To fuel yourself for the hectic day ahead, try to wake a little earlier to prepare a nutritious, and yummy breakfast. If you find it difficult to prepare meals throughout the day, then meal prepping a few meals on the weekend can help lighten your burden during the working week.  You do not have to follow a strict diet plan, but trying to always make the healthier, smarter choice, will have a dramatic impact on your energy levels and health.

To transform your mood and wellbeing, if you can, go out for a quick walk to get your day started, or gear yourself up with a quick workout. Exercise might be the last thing you feel like doing, but ultimately it will help you feel more energised and productive throughout your day.

 6. Connect with others

As we are not able to visit extended family and friends due to restrictions, you may feel isolated and disconnected. However, it is important to keep connected with others. You can do this by arranging a video call or phone call at a convenient time.  Most likely you are not alone in finding things difficult and your friends will share many of your stressed. By talking them through together, and offloading to someone, the weight of your worries with be lifted.

You can even arrange to do things together virtually, such as cook together, arrange a games night or have a film watch party. Taking the time out to do these things together helps you feel connected, at a time where we are unable to visit each other physically. You may have attended a book club, halaqah group or coffee morning pre-lockdown, but there’s no reason why you can’t continue those activities online with your friends.

7. Reach out to Him

Prayer helps uplift and reinvigorate us. It is a time, when we can converse privately and directly with our Lord, with no distractions.  We are in uncertain times; we search for answers, and hope for an outcome to bring us peace and stability.

Supplicate to Him, and make it a habit to do your morning and evening Adhkaar, along with giving in Sadaqah and optional Sunnah fasts.  Take time out, in the morning after fajr, or perhaps when the children have gone to bed, to read a daily portion of Qur’an and reflect over its meaning. Use this time to pour out your heart to Him and ask for the strength to deal with your daily tests. In remembering Him, we can find solace and internal peace. As we are drawing closer to Ramadhan, instill good habits to help prepare for this special time. Building in 2 rak’ah salatul-duha daily or any extra Sunnah prayer is a great way to start. By focusing on preparing for the next life, you will find an internal shift, helping you find comfort in that change of perspective and new focus.

We prepared these tips to inspire you to kick start your care journey.  We hope they benefit you and encourage you to take some time out to care and prioritise yourself. Investing in yourself will help you feel much happier and lighter.

“Self-care is not selfish. You cannot serve from an empty vessel.” Eleanor Brownn