As school is finally back in session for NYC public schools this week, and classes have already resumed (in person or remotely) elsewhere across the nation, and we all head into MONTH SEVEN of this pandemic, how are you doing? In addition to taking care of your family, are you taking care of yourself? Two guests from Season One of the Ground Control Parenting with Carol Sutton Lewis podcast discuss the importance of parents practicing self-care to combat the stress of these days in their episodes.
Dr. Victor Carrion (Episode 10: Coping with Back-to-School 2020), professor and vice chair of psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University and the director of the Stanford Early Life Stress and Pediatric Anxiety Program, strongly encourages parents to practice self-care, and to model it for our children. His prescription for self-care:
Sleeping Well: Sleep improves your immune system, among other things. And it isn’t just the quantity, it’s the quality. Sleep that comes after three glasses of wine won’t be as good for you as the deep restful sleep that is unaided by alcohol. (Sad but true.)
Eating Well, Exercising Daily: No surprises here, but it bears repeating: a balanced diet and regular, daily exercise will help you feel better. Not just physical exercise, but mental as well, through mindfulness. He recommends checking out PureEdgeInc.org, which offers “brain breaks” that the family can do together. As Dr. Carrion explained during the podcast:
We’ve done research with yoga and mindfulness and we see that it prevents the ill effects of stress and trauma. It improves emotional regulation, it improves executive function, which means our judgment and the attention that we pay to things, and it helps us make better decisions.
These days we need all the improved executive functioning we can get!
Practicing Positive Thinking: We must actively recruit positive thoughts to replace the negative thoughts that our brains instinctively produce. And the more we focus on calling up positive thoughts, the more easily they will surface. You’ve got to hear his explanation of the science of this: it’s fascinating!
While she was CEO of the Harlem Children’s Zone, Anne Williams-Isom (Episode 3: It Takes a Village, Here’s How to Build One) was very focused on making sure her staff practiced self care, not only for their own sake, but to keep them strong and ready to help others. She notes: “Parents have a tendency to burn themselves out… [Y]ou give, give, give, you’re just kind of putting your head down and in the end, you’re sort of on automatic pilot.”
She goes on to ask:
How do you take care of yourself when self-care especially, I would say for a lot of women, a lot of black women, is something that is taboo? Our mothers didn’t do it. What does that mean? And self-care doesn’t just mean you’re getting a manicure and getting your hair done. It means can you be quiet to hear your thoughts? Is your heart racing all the time? Do you know what’s going on in your other relationships, your partner relationships and with your family?
Noting that the Black community is “a population where mental health issues are very stigmatized and this idea of self-care seems weak amongst a bunch of people who consider themselves joyful warriors”, she encourages listeners to focus on taking care of themselves mentally as well as physically.
If you haven’t heard Dr. Carrion’s or Anne Williams-Isom’s episode, now would be a good time to take a listen in advance of our launch of Season Two (coming soon). Their episodes are filled with good advice and interesting stories. Listen when you are practicing self-care and are taking some down time. Let us know: How do you practice self-care?