This article was originally written for Parental Choice
The struggle to stay on top of what we need to get done on any normal day for a working parent is real….
And then when you throw in new full-time responsibilities like stay-at-home-parent and educator, the struggle becomes overwhelming.
Like everything about this uncertain and unfamiliar time, this change of status quo brings new challenges to the way we take care of ourselves, stay healthy and fit, while keeping all the balls in the air.
We are expected to just ‘get on with it all’.
Or are we?
What we choose to do during this time can set the tone for the months that come after this lockdown is behind us.
This means that we are not really expected to pull off working 3 full time jobs. We set these expectations on ourselves.
I would suggest that the only way to solve the puzzle is to accept that we can’t do it all – nor should be even try.
If we think long-term, what matters most is the wellbeing of our families. Sure jobs and education are important too – but what do they matter if we don’t have our health?
HEALTH MATTERS MOST
Because I’m a working parent too, I know first-hand how challenging this time is – and staying fit & healthy may be the first one on your mind to be pushed back in the agenda. But let me remind you why it should be pushed to the very top of the list…
When you’re fit & healthy, you:
- Have more energy
- Focus better
- Get more done
- Sleep better
- Have more patience
- Minimise your risk of illness/disease
- Save time (long-term)
- Set a positive example to your children
- Save money (long-term)
These are just some of the benefits of keeping active, eating healthy and prioritising your wellbeing.
I’m an advocate for balance – not anything extreme or time-consuming. It’s all about breaking things down into small actionable steps that make you feel good after you’ve completed them.
This may mean making time for 2 little 10min workouts during the day and maybe a calming 6 minute meditation / yoga before bedtime. Sound like a lot? Very little?
If that’s too much for you, start with a 7min HIIT workout every day. You have 7 minutes every day if you just put that aside.
For most, it’s easiest when you start your day being active – get out of the house first thing after breakfast for that ONE outdoor session of exercise whatever that may be for you, a run, a walk or a cycle.
Then after you come back, don’t sit down, but take 7 minutes (or more) and do your exercise routine / HIIT training – and voila. You’re done for the day. Fresh air and workout done before lunch. And it may only be 10am by this time. There are plenty of apps out there that will help you with workouts, personally I love HIIT workouts mostly with bodyweight but sometimes with dumbbells for added impact. High intensity interval training is such a great way to lift you out of a slump even in the middle of a working day.
When you get active in the morning, you’re more likely to eat healthy too for the rest of the day.
Now that you’ve already done your activity for the day, you can tick that box off your mental to do list and feel great about yourself, you will also have more focus and energy to get work done as your body is filled with feel good hormones and oxygen.
Breaking down your whole day into 30 minute or 60 minute increments may help too – I know from experience, having worked from home for 6 years, it’s all about putting time aside for what needs to get done where you can grab it.
SELF-CARE IN PARENTING
We have such a huge responsibility as parents – to raise our little babies into fully independent adults – and it may sometimes seem like too much… but if we re-shift the focus to taking care of our needs and setting a good example instead, would that lighten your load?
Our children rarely listen to what we say….
Instead, they copy us. This works for the good and the bad. But especially for the bad.
Psychologically, it may feel less of a burden to think of active self-care practice as the key to lightening the load of parenting. We get to be ‘selfish’ and look after ourselves – as this will DIRECTLY LEAD TO HEALTHIER, HAPPIER CHILDREN.
I know this may sound odd – but it’s very true.
Here are some ways to keep healthy, fit and balanced while working from home, looking after children and being ourselves:
- Involve your children in meal planning / activities / workouts
- Make a plan for meals, snacks and shopping once a week
- Go to the supermarket only 1 per week
- Only go food shopping after you’ve had a proper meal (less likely to buy unhealthy foods, snacks, treats)
- Do not go food shopping without a full shopping list
- GENERAL RULE: what you have in the house, you will eat. So only buy what you really want to eat. Not what you’d like in the moment.
- If you think you’re hungry an hour after a meal / snack – first, have a big glass of water, and then re-evaluate the hunger situation. Most often, we associate the feeling of thirst with being hungry/peckish. Drink lots of water.
YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT
Eating healthy may or may not be an automatic for you in normal times – and if it isn’t, don’t try to all of a sudden eat super healthy and only make meals from scratch – you will fail. And you’ll feel very disappointed in yourself. That’s not helpful and it’s not kind on yourself.
Instead, consider changing 1-2 meals to healthier options or maybe swap an unhealthy snack out for a healthier one once a day. Long-term positive changes are made with little alterations to our routine – not with a huge realignment.
So if there’s only 1 thing you focus on changing for the better in your diet, start with your breakfast. That sets the tone for the whole day – and the expectations your body has for food coming in throughout the day.
2 SIMPLE SWAPS
1. Swap cereals for oats or other whole grains and include at least 1 portion of fruits/veg at breakfast. Drink plenty of water to kickstart your body.
2. Make sure that each meal you have throughout the day, has a source of plantbased protein and 2 colours of fruits/veg.
These small swaps will boost your long-term health, energy levels and may even help your immune system – and I think we could all use some of that right now.
Most importantly, I want to remind you (as I do myself too) that this uncertain and unfamiliar time is exactly that, uncertain and unfamiliar – we shouldn’t have the same expectations on ourselves as we do in normal, familiar times.
Let go of what you can’t change and prioritise the small changes that matter in the long-term. Health, family, work, education…. We’re all in this together, no one has it figured out!
Stay safe and take care!