Welcoming the year ahead: Limiting distraction and welcoming in self-care

By Leah Persky, PhD & Certified Family Life Educator • Family Life Education Manager

This past year has been such a roller coaster ride; the distractions and uncertainty about the future remain, but so many good things are around us when we stop and look for them. Many of these happen almost unnoticed around us on a daily basis.    

As the Family Life Educator at JFCS, I encounter so many people and family members who are engaged in care work on a regular basis. I am honored to get to talk to parents, grandparents, teachers and community members about their work caring for others – the challenges and the beauty in the act of caring. Much of this work is unseen and often underappreciated, yet is crucial to the well-being of our families and community. The importance of this work cannot be ignored – its necessity and the love behind it should be celebrated.

In that spirit, I want to recognize all of the people out there who are caring for those around you; children, spouses, family members, neighbors, teachers, and friends. There is so much power in the many unseen deeds, done with love and kindness and without an expectation of anything in return. To stop and reflect on that gives me hope and gratitude.

I want to offer a piece of advice to all you caring for others; this is advice that we hear so often and it often falls by the way-side – the need for self-care. This coming year I ask that you dedicate time to yourself each day for self-care. It doesn’t have to take a lot of time (15 minutes will do), it does not have to cost anything, and you need to enjoy it (I mean really enjoy it).

What if each of us focused our energies on our own self-care and tried to limit the distractions we experience? What if we used our time more wisely? I don’t really want to know how long I have looked at my phone over the past week; I have little to show for it. Did you know that on an average day, an adult sees between 6,000-10,000 advertisements? This estimate is from 2017! How does this impact us and distract us? What does this do to our energy and focus?

While each of us experiences distractions differently, we know that many of us have been focused on staying up-to-date on the news since the pandemic started. How many hours a day do you spend on a screen, not for school or work? Or maybe you have another habit that is not serving you well? How do you feel when you put the phone down or become more mindful of how you spend your time?

These questions only serve as a starting point to think about how you can better take care of yourself in the coming year. There are so many among us who spend countless hours caring for others. These acts of love are often fulfilling, but can also be draining – especially if there is no break or little appreciation or recognition of the work. My goal in the coming year is to take better care of myself. To better spend my time on things that will fill me up, and be more mindful of distractions. I also hope to better recognize those in my life who care for me. I want them to feel appreciated!  This time of year is an excellent place to take stock for yourself and to re-dedicate yourself to caring – for you.

Lastly, people often look at self- care as fluff, or something only people with a lot of extra time and/or money can do. We need to reframe our view on self-care. It can be as simple as a 15-minute walk, a quiet cup of tea, listening to music you love, or connecting with a friend. What are the things that fill you up? Do more of those and realize that without caring for yourself, your ability to really care for others in your life will be diminished. You cannot give what you don’t have. In the coming year, I encourage you to fill yourself up first – it is not selfish, it is a requirement.

So go ahead and carve out your self-care time, put it in your calendar and name the activity, this will help to get you started. If you would like to talk more about creating a self-care plan for yourself, please reach out to me. As the parent coach at JFCS, I can help parents and caregivers create a realistic self-care plan and help to manage the competing demands of caregiving, career, and self-care. You can fill out this form and I will be in touch with you shortly.