My writer buddy Doug recently tweeted, “Meatballs for breakfast is self-care.”
Meatballs for breakfast is self-care.— Badonkadoug (@scotchfulyyours) July 21, 2021
Then he followed it up with god’s honest truth:
Self-care is different for everyone! 🙂— Badonkadoug (@scotchfulyyours) July 21, 2021
While that’s undeniable, there are some tried and tested ways you can practice self-care starting right now. And it’s important that you do because, like when we’re on a plane and told by the flight attendant during the safety demo to secure our own oxygen mask before helping others, the same is true of self-care.
We need to be right and ready, mentally, emotionally, and physically, to be the best dads and people we can be for our kids so that we are around for a very long time. Many of these 11 self-care ideas, which definitely don’t involve meatballs for breakfast or even brunch, are ones I am using myself as I go headlong into the second half of my 40s and find myself struggling with a previously unknown set of mental health hurdles.
11 Ways Dads Can Practice Self Care
Get your haircut regularly. Try getting a manicure. I wouldn’t say I was against the idea of lotion but I foolishly thought skincare was not something guys needed to concern themselves with. But then two years ago I fell in love with a woman who prioritizes her skin. She taught me that washing my face and moisturizing is not only good for my body, but it can boost self-confidence in a way I never before knew.
Not gonna lie, I’ve tried to mediate and I fail every time to find the key that will unlock that promised level of serenity. My mind is hyperactive and my body is restless, and yet I continue to give it a go because I do understand that meditating for even just 5 or 10 minutes at a time can reduce stress and bring quiet peace to a loud world.
Oof, another discipline I personally do not possess but many dads I’ve met swear by yoga poses to increase flexibility as they age and to achieve a kind of slowness in the midst of their busy lives.
Having a healthy relationship with food (and beverages) may be the ultimate self-care practice we dads need! Maybe we shouldn’t belly up to a plate of Buffalo wings right before bed, maybe we should have a protein-rich breakfast, maybe we need to think more about what’s going into our bodies and the impact those foods and drinks are having on our physical body and mental well-being.
No one is asking you to run a marathon or even a 5K but having a regular plan of physical activity can help you achieve any number of goals, from meditating (many runners or regular exercisers will say that they enter a ‘zone’ while working out) to staying fit and going the distance for your children and family.
From energized conversations with a partner or friend(s) to brain games like crossword puzzles and sudoku to riveting podcasts, stimulating your brain and staying mentally fresh as you age is a great way to easily and affordably practice self-care.
Indulge Your Passions
Whether you find zen at a soccer match (hello!), live concert (hello again!), or in the garage fixing up an old car, lean into that passion! Practicing self-care can mean finding joy whenever it lurks. Full disclosure: you may get snide remarks calling you selfish but in moderation and along with fulfilling all of your dad responsibilities, taking time out of your hectic schedule to focus on the things that bring you joy isn’t selfish at all; it’s essential for a full, happy and healthy life.
Unless you count those years my kids and I were mildly obsessed with Skylanders, I’m no gamer. Yet I understand the potential benefit playing video games can have when it comes to self-care. Whether you get vital brain stimulation from your favorite game(s), find some zen where your worries and stresses are reduced, or connect with a community of like-minded people, if gaming brings you joy, get your game on, dad!
Find (and Stay Connected to) Your Community
The pandemic pulled back the curtain on the shortcoming of a digital community. We need physical connection, touch, hugs, and high fives! Whether it’s through one of the over 40 City Dads Groups dotting the country or simply hanging out with a few like-minded pals, it can be crucial to your mental and emotional health to have a community with whom to talk, laugh, and do stuff.
Everyone, yeah even you, can benefit from having a professional therapist in your corner, to talk about the good, bad, confusing, worrying, and fearful stuff that’s rattling around your noggin every day. You are not alone in your struggles or your successes. Therapy, while sadly cost-prohibitive still for so many, is a brilliant self-care technique that you (and I) should be using on regularly if we can access it.
I am a mess if I don’t sleep well or if I wake up too early. For one thing, my ‘food clock’ starts too soon which will ultimately end up in consuming too many calories during the day which then feeds my already poor self-image…and it’s a negative mental spiral from there. Sleep may be the number one thing to focus on as you begin to practice self-care. Determine how much you need to feel good and ready to start each day, and then figure out what you need to alter in your life to achieve that amount and quality of sleep.