When you’re a childcare provider, you spend most of your time tending to the needs of others. It’s easy to let your own well-being take a backseat. Over time, this will likely take a toll on your physical and mental health. Contrary to popular belief, self-care isn’t selfish. In fact, putting your needs first will help you be more effective in your role as a childcare provider. Remember – you are just as important as the families you serve! Get your new year off to a healthy start with these five self-care strategies.

1. Explore Your Spiritual Side

Many people find it extremely beneficial to spend time in meditation or prayer. You can set aside a small block of time for these practices each day, or incorporate them throughout your daily routine as time allows. Your best time for quiet reflection may be in the morning over a cup of coffee, in the late evening just before bedtime, or at various points during the day when you have a few minutes to spare.

Journaling is another activity you may find therapeutic. Writing down your thoughts and feelings can be the key to understanding what’s causing you to feel stressed, and give you clarity as you seek solutions. Many caregivers find it helpful to keep a gratitude journal, as it helps them find a silver lining even in difficult situations.

2. Get Moving

With so much going on, it may be the last thing you feel like doing, but exercise is an excellent-stress-reliever and improves your health overall. The good news is, including physical activity in your routine doesn’t require spending hours at the gym. Find activities you enjoy, such as cycling or hiking. If you’re not sure where to start, begin with a walking routine. Try to aim for 20-30 minutes three times a week. You’ll reap even more benefits when you engage in physical activity outside in nature.

Exercise can be more fun when you team up with a friend. A workout buddy can keep you accountable, too. And when you’re thinking about exercise partners, don’t forget about the furry, four-legged variety. Pets make excellent companions when it comes to walking or jogging.

Additionally, look for ways to incorporate movement into your day, such as taking the stairs rather than the elevator, or walking to a nearby destination instead of driving.

3. Make Some Adjustments

Another way to practice self-care is to make some adjustments that lower your stress levels or add a little variety to your routine. Rearrange toys and designated activity areas, organize your workspace, or remove clutter from your inbox.

If self-care is falling by the wayside because there never seem to be enough hours in the day, consider taking a day or two off or working shorter hours.

4. Set Realistic Goals

Part of self-care is focusing on what’s most important to you. If you want to get in shape, learn a new skill, or grow your business, set goals to help you achieve your dreams. Achieving even one of those goals can leave you feeling like you’ve bitten off more than you can chew, so it’s important to break each one down into manageable steps, and work on one at a time. Taking on too much at once is a recipe for burnout.

5. Ask for Help

There’s no shame in seeking support to help you reduce stress and maintain a positive attitude.  Share your concerns with trusted friends and family, or talk to a therapist.

When your to-do list is more than you can handle, enlist help from those around you. When you need to step away to regroup and recharge, ask a neighbor or family member to keep an eye on your own children while you run errands, take a fitness class, or enjoy some alone time without interruption.

Like-minded people in the community can be a great source of support, too. Look for other childcare providers in your area who can offer advice, or just a listening ear, when you’re having difficulties with a child or conflicts with staff.

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