My 27 best Self-care Tools, Tips and Techniques for Highly Sensitive Parents
drs. Karin Monster-Peters
Sep 02, 2017
My vision of Self-Care is a holistic one. I extend my vision to all areas of your life: your mind, your body, your spirit and your environment. It is not only about creating down-time. It is about creating a life full of love and meaning, not only for those around you, but for yourself as well.
Self-care is a priority for us HSP’s to balance our energy, our emotions and our thoughts, and to clear over-stimulation as well as clear our minds.
For Highly Sensitive Parents self-care shouldn't only be a priority but it must become a non-negotiable. In my Highly Sensitive Parents community, the main topic is usually the overwhelm and exhaustion that comes when parenting as a Highly Sensitive Person. But, don't forget, when HSP's are rested, we are so effective as parents that we CAN afford to take the time off we need to be that good. DO LESS AND ACCOMPLISH MORE.
I am going to lay out my best 26 self-care tools and tips for you now! If you haven't already, make sure to also check out my Guide for a Vibrant Life where I lay the foundation for self-care!
1. Recharge with alone time. This is not only necessary for clearing overwhelm in the mind, but also for no touch decompression time. Just think of the clingy toddlers wanting to be held all day. Although touching is important for releasing oxytocin into our system, touching for HSP's means more input in our bodies.
2. Less chaos and clutter equals less overwhelm; not just visual clutter but, any kind of sensory clutter! You must learn to make careful choices about your internal processing and the sensory input you are allowing.
- Pick one area that will have the most impact for you. Is your kitchen the heart of your home? Is your bedroom the scene of your serenity? Is your bathroom the soul of your deep cleansing? Whatever it is for you, pick the most meaningful area and create calm and order in that one key part of your busy life.
- Monitor your cell phone use: sound off, notifications off, and no phone use after 8 p.m.
- Clean fridge out regularly, garbage out on time, and diffuse essential oils. I love lavender, peppermint, and sage.
- As always, be mindful that you are not being too strict about this; for yourself as for those around you. You might find yourself cleaning and clearing clutter 24/7 when you have kids.
3. Avoid emotional over-stimulation. I have not watched the news in years. I have only read the newspaper once in the last three years. I am very happy that I made this choice. I trust that, if it is important enough, it will reach me anyway. I also do not watch violent films. If it does not have a happy ending, I am not watching it!
4. It is not only important for you to reduce stimulation to the senses, but it is also very important for you to indulge the senses. As HSP's we not only react more intensely to overwhelming stimuli, but we also react more intensely to beautiful and moving stimuli.
I am talking about intense reactions to beautiful music, a deep inhalation when diffusing essential oils or when out in nature, and really tasting your food when eating something well prepared and healthy. Sigh. Life is good.
5. Check-in with your body about 3-4 times a day (around meal time is a good place to start). Ask yourself at those moments:
· Am I tense?
· Am I holding my breath?
· Is my breathing shallow or rapid?
· Are my shoulders up around my ears?
· Am I clenching my jaw?
Take a minute or two right there and then to change your body’s physical stress so it sends a different message to your mind. Stretch out, do a few simple yoga poses, make silly faces (it relaxes the muscles in your face), jump around a bit, or take a few deep breaths.
6. Are you having a sudden stress-response? Be honest with yourself and ask:
· How much stress am I experiencing right now?
· Does the situation warrant such stress?
· Is my stress level realistic?
· Can I change this current stressful situation at all?
· Do I need to take a time-out from the situation to protect myself physically or emotionally?
· If I cannot change anything about it, does getting upset, angry, or tense benefit me?
· How will I pay for it for getting so stressed out?
· Can I just accept that the situation is stressful and move on? Just by becoming aware of the stress and asking the question your response to the situation will shift immediately!
7. Smiling and laughing are two of my favorite forms of self-care! I love humor, and I love to laugh. One of the things I love about my husband is that he can make me laugh no matter how stressed I feel.
Watch a comedy, share a joke with a friend, recall a funny memory or make one up in your mind, take a leaf out of Laughter Yoga's book, and laugh for no good reason until it snowballs and takes on a life of its own. Your brain does not know the difference between what is reality and what is not. Your body reacts physiologically in the same way to what is real and what is vividly imagined. Laughter is healthy (and the best medicine).
8. Create a space in your house that is just for you, and fill it with things that inspire you. It does not have to be big; a corner in your bedroom or living room will do just fine. I have my practice at home, so that is my sacred space.
On that same note, purposefully place beautiful and special things around you; not only at home, but also at work to keep you inspired!
· Hang a favorite piece of art
· A picture of your next dream vacation
· A special photo of you relaxing
· Your children’s drawing that show you how much they love you
· A vase of your favorite flowers on your desk
· Crystals that connect you to the energy of them!
Etc, etc. You get the hang of it. Surround yourself with beauty!
9. Also, fill your MENTAL space with positive and uplifting things. Watch movies that inspire you. Read books that move you. Surround yourself with positive people that encourage you.
10. Ground yourself daily. When you ground yourself, you bring yourself back into your body and become aware of what it is trying to tell you. How are you feeling today? What do you need? How can you serve yourself and your body? On my YouTube channel you will find a video on Grounding and Empowerment to help you on your way. Easiest way? Go out into nature! Connect to mother Earth…go barefoot when you can, dig into earth with your hands…touch the trees…! We evolved as humans WITH nature…and nature is there to support us.
11. Stop multi-tasking. Multi-tasking simply does not work. It is not only very inefficient, but it is also a way of overstimulating your mind. One thing at a time. Your brain will thank you.
12. When you go from one deep focus situation to another, take a 10-15 minute break to let your mind shift and process what you have just done. There is actually something that psychologists call ‘attention residue': when going from one activity to the other, a bit of attention is still hooked on your last task. If you do not take time to unhook it, you will not be able to focus as deeply as you need to.
13. Take control of your life so that your life does not take control of you. Live proactively and NOT re-actively! You are not a rat that cannot help but react to stimuli.
Plan the things you WANT to do just as often as the things you HAVE to do. Studies have actually shown that when you plan enjoyable things ahead of time, you magnify the pleasure. Having the ‘wants’ on the calendar also keeps you going through the ‘have to’s’.
We all know how great it feels having a relaxing evening out with a good friend on the calendar. Since you know that reward is coming, you get through your to-do-list much quicker! Also, what about the pleasure of planning a vacation? Just seeing yourself lying on the beach gets your endorphins flowing!
14. Create a support network. Even Aron said it: Highly Sensitive Parents need help! You cannot compare yourself to non-HSP's on this issue, just as you cannot on most issues. Overstimulation is real! The Highly Sensitive nervous system DOES go into overload! You are NO a failure for not feeling capable of doing it all and handling it all.
15. Let go of guilt. Guilt does not serve you in any way. This a product of frequently excessive self-criticism and perfectionism. Too much guilt will distract you from the moment and distort what is actually going on. Everyone is doing the best they can. YOU are doing the best you can. When you let go of guilt, you clear space for a more present version of yourself. Realize that you are probably doing a fine job as a sensitive and aware parent.
16. Practice self-compassion. This point is vital for successful self-care. Sensitive people are deeply compassionate -- compassion for people, animals, nature, and circumstances around us comes as naturally as breathing. When it comes to us we tend to beat up on ourselves. We say things to ourselves that we would never dream of saying to others. We put pressure on ourselves and push on through. When we do open up to receive help, it often comes with twinges of guilt, or indulgence, or not being good enough. Start with a compliments journal. Write down the nice things people say to you. Imagine you are your best friend, and jot down the nice things you could say to yourself. Whenever you want to lift your vibe, read the compliments and bask in the good feelings.
17. While you are journaling on compliments, go ahead and jot down daily at least 10 things you are grateful for. Gratitude is the easiest and fastest way to improve your life. If you practice gratitude daily you will prime your mind to notice even more things to be grateful for and to CREATE more of them in your life as well. I like Tim Sanders POET method:
P: I am grateful for these amazing People:
O: I am grateful for these Opportunities:
E: I am grateful for these Experiences:
T: I am grateful for these Things:
Here’s to becoming grateful POETs!!!
18. Create clear and helpful boundaries. Boundaries are hard when you want to be liked and when you are a pleaser. You have to start asking for you what it is that you need. Start saying no when you need to and only saying yes when you mean it. This will not only help you maintain your energy, but also keep you out of resentment.
This means blaming others less and holding yourself more accountable for asking for what you need and want. This way you take responsibility for your own well-being.
Brené Brown has a great and simple definition of boundaries: what is okay and what is not okay in the way people treat us.
Set your own boundaries, and you will inspire those around you to do the same. What a gift to give to your family!
19. Make room for mindful quality time with your children. The main reasons we think that we are not spending enough time with our children are 1) the media/society makes us believe that, when in fact, we are spending more time with our children than ever in written history, and 2) our time together is scattered. Quality versus quantity wins every time. When you know you are connecting in a meaningful way, it will also reduce your guilt about not being enough.
20. If you can, take a nap. Napping decompresses you, resets you and revitalizes you. When my children were very young, I was SO tired that if I got a chance to do groceries by myself (yay!) I took a nap in the car first! Even now, I take a nap if I can. Do not nap too long though or you will wake up with a foggy brain.
21. A week-long vacation by yourself or with your partner is not always possible. (If it is, take it!!!) Maybe a day trip or a weekend IS possible. You must take some time for yourself. When our children were babies we took a weekend trip just the two of us regularly where we just slept, read, and made love without kids around. Luxury! When they were older, we began taking two week vacations once a year for just us. Our marriage is very happy because of this! In addition to our vacations together, both my husband and myself take regular time to be alone.
22. If you are in a relationship, make time to make love. Sex reduces stress, improves your mood, improves the intimacy in your relationship, improves the quality of your sleep, and it reduces pain in your body. The main reason clients tell me that they do not have enough sex is because they are tired. My best tip to solve that problem...? Aim for the mornings when you are not overstimulated! They are an excellent time for long leisurely lovemaking when your body is totally relaxed and rested.
23. Keep meals simple. The key to being able to cook a healthy meal for your family and for yourself is not you being a gourmet cook. It is having an array of about 10 dishes that are simple and healthy and do not take hours to prepare; just healthy standard ingredients that can be combined into family friendly meals.
24. Choose your battles! In parenting, I think this is the best advice I can give you. It is so important to make our expectations of our children age appropriate AND to choose the things that really matter to you to focus on. Question the givens and look out for the shoulds of ‘proper parenting’. It is easy to fall into thinking that in order to be a good parent you must adopt the mainstream approach. Many families are leading over-scheduled lives! Be BRAVE enough to go for what works for you!
For example: A family meal is not a relaxed activity at our home. Because of this my two youngest have their own table and do not eat at the same time we do. It is not important to me. What IS important to me, is that they eat on time, so they eat earlier than we do. This is a ‘prevent meltdown from being so hungry’ tactic. It also prevents them from filling up on snacks. What is also important for us is to have a quiet meal. So, if they have already eaten, I can focus on my husband and my teen as well as have a peaceful meal.
I truly believe that we most go into ‘survival mode’ when we have young children. When we are in survival mode we do not have the privilege to get into ‘should’ but we must go into ‘what do I have to do to survive this period of my life without totally losing it’.
25. Meditate. I am not talking about an hour meditation. Meditate for one minute a day. Then, stretch it to two. Then, see if you can do three. You can also take a mindful walk, or a few mindful breaths. One mini-meditation break at a time.
Last, but certainly not least:
26. Follow your intuition. Everyone has an opinion. As sensitive parents our most powerful weapon to cut through the volumes of information, and advice and reduce overwhelming feelings in these choices, is our intuition. When we are at peace with ourselves and with our lives, it much easier to access our intuition, the voice of our soul, the voice of who we truly are. And how do you know when your intuition is speaking? I love this explanation by Mary Ellen:
“Has it ever felt that there were two opposing forces inside of you, each pulling in opposite directions?
One, simply loves life and people, and is endlessly curious about exploring and experiencing the world. This “energy force” is ALIVE and free, creative, expressive, abundant and playful. This part of ourselves guides us calmly and adeptly through new and challenging experiences. It’s guidance doesn’t come from the “head’s thinking”, IT is much more powerful, wise, clear and knowing than the mind. Intuition, heart, inspiration, love, joy and peace are associated with this energy. When we access IT, we feel warmth, serenity, centered and connected to the world. Life flows. We’re fulfilled, fully self-expressed, and every moment IS a “magic moment”. When we live from this space, we KNOW — “all is well” and life is a joy.
I call this energy force “spirit” or soul. And, it’s always there for us to access.
The other “energy force” is more practical, cautious, judgmental, and protective. This force wants to look good for others, or at the very least, avoid looking bad. “It” likes to control, although pretends that it’s not. “It” views the world as a potentially harmful place, fears being hurt and exposed, thus remains separate, isolated and closed from others. It blames, criticizes, compares, and makes excuses. “Should” is one of its favorite words. This energy looks for answers from its mind…although often confuses “reality” from something “made-up”. Living isolated within the confines the body, “it” mostly just wants to be “safe” and “independent”.
I call this energy force “ego”. And, it too, is always there for us to access.”
Which one will you choose to listen to?
This too shall pass. I promise you they grow up. I promise you that one day they will be creating their own lives and you will reclaim your time and space. Untill then...go for 1-26!
These are MY best tips for you. If you have more tips or insights to add to this list, just make sure to comment or message me and I will add them! I would love to inspire as many Highly Sensitive Parents to make themselves a priority in their lives. Because honestly...are you being the best version of you if you don't? The parent you want to be? Can you actually afford not to?
I hope you answered in favor of you!
Contact me if you want to know how I can help you access the best version of you! <3
drs. Karin Monster-Peters
Karin Monster-Peters is an energy management and life purpose coach with a passion to transform lives. Karin's background is in psychology, life coaching and parent coaching and energy healing She has specialized in giftedness, child development, parenting and highly sensitive people. Driven by past experiences she specializes in supporting highly sensitive parents around the world in creating time, emotional space and clarity in who they are so they can start parenting with purpose and flow and create the lives of their dreams.