By Natalie Burg
For many families, fall is peak activity time. From back-to-school prep through Halloween and the beginning of the holiday season, every day can revolve around kids' schedules.
But between soccer practices and school conferences, parents deserve to take a little time for themselves.
Here are a few ways parents can treat themselves this fall.
Buy yourself some back-to-school clothes
You may not have grown taller since last year, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't benefit from the fall tradition of buying back-to-school clothes. Provided you have the room in your budget and it doesn't become a habit, splurging on yourself a bit just feels good. A University of Michigan study even found that shopping has emotional benefits. And after all the spending you do on your kids, sometimes it's your turn.
"Parents treating themselves to their own back-to-school clothes shopping is amazing," said Lakiesha Russell, a licensed mental health therapist and wellness expert. "This teaches your children that it's OK to make themselves a priority when they are adults."
Russell adds that it’s important to differentiate between a treat and a habit. You'll feel best about treating yourself to new clothes when you're actually in need of a wardrobe boost.
And to really feel good about your new duds, consider eco-friendly retailers or upscale resale shops for an environmentally friendly treat.
Take your vacation time—and actually go somewhere
Before every available date on your family calendar books up, block out a few days for yourself and put in a time-off request at work.
"Taking time off is good for your health. In studies, taking regular vacations is proven to reduce stress," said Teri Dreher, a registered nurse and founder of NShore Patient Advocates.
Call in grandparents or other relatives, ask your sitter about weekend rates, or trade a long weekend of childcare with trusted parents of your kids' friends (they'll thank you for it when it's their turn). Your kids will survive a few days without you, and at this point in the year, it's use-it or lose-it time for vacation benefits in many workplaces.
"Roughly 50% of Americans forgo their earned vacation time," Dreher said. "Don’t be one of them. Work can get by without you for a few days. You earned it. You need it. Take that time off."
Blow some bubbles (really)
Don't have time for a full-on vacation? Take a 15-minute break with your kids' bubbles each day.
Yes, you read that correctly. Deep breathing can have positive mental health effects, but to make it a habit, it's helpful to build a mindful breathing practice around an easy activity—like blowing bubbles.
"This is such a fun way to reset the nervous system," said Lorie Solay, hypnotherapist and founder of Solay Creative. "Parents and kids start to laugh when they're blowing bubbles and laughter is also healing.
“It's a playful way to model self-care."
Schedule an appointment with your primary care provider
A routine physical may not sound like the most indulgent treat. But a one-hour well visit can help you get ahead of health issues that could slow you down for much longer.
"Often the last thing parents are thinking about is taking care of themselves," said Dr. Anureet Gill, a family medicine physician and self-care advocate with Dignity Health Medical Group. "If you’re not healthy as a parent, you can’t maintain your busy schedule."
Plus, taking the time to focus on yourself and your body can genuinely feel like a treat when you spend most of your time monitoring and managing kids' needs. When you're trying to be the best parent you can be, it helps to keep yourself as healthy as possible.
"The first thing parents should do to manage their wellness is make sure they see their primary care provider at least once a year," Gill said.
Do a fall face mask
There's nothing like an excuse for some "me time"—even if it's just 15 minutes to yourself in the bathroom. For a little fall-specific pampering, a homemade pumpkin face mask might be just the right mix of whimsy, ease and indulgence.
"Sometimes there is nothing better than whipping up your own creations with fresh ingredients from your own kitchen to use immediately at home," said Marci Howard May, spa and wellness director at Red Mountain Resort. "It is fun and surprisingly simple."
Here's a May's recipe for a pumpkin honey brightening mask: Mix together one tablespoon each of pumpkin puree, fresh or canned (with no added ingredients), raw honey and fresh lemon juice. Apply a layer to a clean face in gentle, circular motions, avoiding your eyes.
Extend the mixture down your neck if you wish. Leave it on for 5-10 minutes and rinse with warm water.
It's like a mini fall getaway for your face.
Give yourself some applause
Kids don't always think to say thank you for every meal, drop-off, clean-up or load of laundry.
"That can leave some parents feeling empty on their gratitude tank," Russell said. "It's OK to pat yourself on the back and say, 'I rocked that dinner' or 'I'm an amazing parent.'"
Giving yourself a pat on the back has real benefits, too. Self-affirmations can have positive mental health benefits. So there's no need to wait around for your kids’ gratitude.
"Clap for yourself," Russell said. "This will help to keep your confidence up during this parenting journey."
Whether you could use an immediate confidence boost, a few minutes to destress or a long weekend away, these indulgences could be just what you need for your best fall as a parent yet.
A former downtown development professional, Natalie Burg is a freelancer who writes about growth, entrepreneurialism and innovation.
This article is for educational purposes only, and is not intended to provide medical or legal advice, or to indicate the availability or suitability of any product or service for your unique circumstances.
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