3 Expert Tips for Practicing Self-Care IRL

Self-Care IRL

It seems like most self-care advice focuses on relieving tension (take a bath! get a massage! meditate!) or removing sources of stress (turn off your phone! ditch toxic people! take a vacation!). I’m not one to pass up a massage. And who doesn’t love a road trip? But adding another item to the to-do list when you’ve got a full plate can feel like a burden (even if it involves bubbles). That’s why I asked Dr. Ken Ginsburg, pediatrician and Founding Director of the Center for Parent and Teen Communication, for some practical ways to practice self-care IRL. 

When you care for yourself, it makes your children feel more secure. They care about your well-being.

Dr. Ginsburg, author of Congrats-You’re Having a Teen!: Strengthen Your Family and Raise a Good Person, reassured me that self-care isn’t selfish. Indeed, as you tend to your needs, you model how to prioritize well-being for your children. Moreover, children care about their parents’ mental health even if they don’t always show it. “When you care for yourself, it makes your children feel more secure. They care about your well-being. This is true even if they’re pushing you away or saying they don’t want you around,” Dr. Ginsburg assures. 

Read on for three expert tips for integrating self-care into your everyday life. 

3 Self-Care Strategies to Model for Teens

  1. Have Self-Compassion. We all make mistakes. To err is human and all that. What we don’t always do is forgive ourselves. Self-compassionate people are happier, more resilient, and experience better mental health. There are many ways to show yourself kindness. The bottom line is to treat yourself like you would a good friend. Give yourself a hug. Take deep, calming breaths. Or, remember the good things about yourself instead of focusing on the bad. These practices model important habits for teens. “One day, your child will need you. They’ll be more likely to approach you if they believe you’ll be nonjudgmental. When you show compassion for yourself, they will feel more secure asking you for help. This is because they will know you will still love them despite their limitations or mistakes,” Dr. Ginsburg explains. 
  2. Embrace Forgiveness. Relationships are complicated. Taking out strong emotions on those you’re closest to is normal. Commit to repairing riffs and letting go of grudges. Choosing to forgive can lead to stronger relationships, less stress, and improved mental health. Put yourself in the other person’s shoes. Think back to a time when others have shown you forgiveness. Or, talk to a trusted person who can offer an impartial perspective. Not sure what to say to get the ball rolling? Dr. Ginsburg suggests: “I got you. I know who you are and all that is good and right about you. Even when you mess up or are struggling, I will always choose to forgive you.” 
  3. Be Kind. Being of service to others has a range of health benefits. Find everyday moments to lend a hand. Even small acts of kindness can make a big impact. Hold the door open for the person behind you. Wheel in your neighbor’s trash can. Send a text to a friend to check in. You’ll experience firsthand that it’s truly better to give than receive. According to Dr. Ginsburg, giving back teaches us all an invaluable lesson. “When you know you matter, you can get past almost anything. At a time in the future when you need to draw strength from another human being, you will be able to do so without shame. Because just as you helped out someone else, right now, someone else needs to be of service to you,” he shares.

Self-Care Improves Parenting

Practicing these self-care strategies will help you be a better parent in the long run. Not only will you feel better, but your children will have a roadmap for how to care for themselves as adults. “When you practice self-care in real life, you role model for your children how to navigate life’s inevitable curveballs. When you care for yourself, your children learn to care for themselves,” offers Dr. Ginsburg. 

About Elyse Salek

Elyse Salek, M.S.Ed. is an Administrative Director of Research at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. Her degrees are in Psychology and Human Development from Middlebury College and the University of Pennsylvania School of Education. She is the proud mother of two children.

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