I am not the first—nor will I be the last—to suggest that a healthy self-care regimen is necessary for maintaining a healthy self and a healthy family. You’ve heard it before, and you’ll hear it again: you can’t take care of others if you don’t take care of yourself first. It’s one of those common-sense things we know but don’t always follow, like basic finance. But why?
Parenting in this country carries with it the enormous weight of unrealistic expectations and self-imposed guilt. Pamela Druckerman tells us in Bringing Up Bebe that American parenting, motherhood in particular, is plagued by the belief that the more one suffers, the better parent they’ll be. So we push ourselves, deny ourselves, doubt ourselves, and criticize ourselves.
On top of that, whether we go to work or manage the home, we’re also really damn busy. Most days it’s a miracle if we get everyone fed, dressed, clean, where they need to be, then home and into bed at a reasonable hour. When are we supposed to find time to hit the gym, make homemade whole-food meals, sleep 8–10 hours, and do it all again the next day?
We get into trouble and talk ourselves out of self-care when we try to do it all. We can’t commit to all, so instead we do nothing. But it doesn’t have to be that way; there are lots of small steps we can take each and every day. And a lot of them take only a few minutes, cost nothing, and can be done without any extra things. A minimalist dream!
I used to think a self-care regimen wouldn’t fit into my minimalist life. That I was too busy decluttering, planning and savoring authentic experiences. That even if I had the time, I couldn’t invest in it anyway. But minimalism reminds us of our priorities. It reminds us what matters. You get to be one of those things.
I’m here to tell you that you have the time. You have the right to take the time. You work hard, and you deserve to be taken care of. It’ll make you a better parent. It’ll make you a better human being.
You don’t have to go to a spa, or go shopping. You don’t have to indulge in anything over the top. You don’t have to do it all. Try one thing, or try 10. It doesn’t matter, as long as you try something.
Here’s a list of 30 minimalist self care ideas for busy parents, whether you have a few minutes or a few hours. Most cost little to nothing and don’t require anything special or extra. What could be better?
A few minutes
- Sip a warm drink
- Close your eyes and breathe
- Take a walk around the block
- Light a candle
- Watch a TED talk
- Drink a glass of water
- Turn on your favorite song and dance
- Walk into a room and close the door behind you
- Stretch your neck, arms, and legs
- Make yourself a snack (and don’t share it with anybody!)
- Practice meditation
- Make a gratitude list
- Forgive somebody
- Organize a space
- Take a nap
- Find a fitness class (minimalist bonus points if you can take it for free!)
- Go for a drive or a bus/subway ride
- Read a book
- Delete unused phone apps
- Purge your social media feeds
- Watch your favorite show or movie
- Enjoy a long shower or bath
- Write in a journal
- Ride a bike
A few hours
- Turn off your phone
- See a movie
- Go window shopping
- Find a museum
- Visit the library
- Take a hike
Starting a self-care routine can feel daunting when you think of it as all or nothing. But there are lots of little ways to do it every day. Ways that, for the most part, will only add to your health, wealth, and wellbeing.
Note: I have the privilege of living with a co-parent who can care for our child and free me up to take care of myself; I know this isn’t always the case. If you don’t have access to help, I suggest taking full advantage of naptime, even if all you do is catch your breath before you move on on the next thing.