3 Techniques for Identifying and Communicating Self-Care Needs
When you’re on an airplane going over the rules before a flight, one thing the flight attendant will talk about is the use of oxygen masks. They will tell you to put on your own mask before helping others.
This example is a principle that can be used in many areas of life. There is a saying that suggests you “can’t pour from an empty cup.” Simply put, you have to take care of yourself to care for others — or even make it through your daily routine.
And yet, so many people ignore their self-care needs. Or, they know what they are but aren’t sure how to communicate them. That can be especially true after having a child and putting all of your focus on their care. However, you need to take care of yourself first to care for your children properly.
With that in mind, let’s touch on three techniques you can use to understand your own needs and communicate those needs to those who mean the most to you, including your partner.
1. Know What You Need
Self-care is essential for everyone. However, not everyone has the same needs. You can tell if you’re in dire need of self-care if you’re feeling overwhelmed, stressed, or burnt out.
Your needs could be something as simple as a few minutes of meditation each day. Perhaps you might benefit from doing something you enjoy every day, like cooking, exercising, or journaling.
For some, self-care is a long, hot bath. For others, it’s getting away for a weekend to go on a camping and hiking trip. You might need some time away from your new baby or a few extra hours of sleep.
What you need on any given day can also change. This is why it is so important to have ongoing conversations with your partner and any other support people. If you don't have open (and frequent) communication, they will simply assume your needs from yesterday remain today. But for a new mom, they may change daily or hourly. This is why communication is so important!
Think about the things that make you feel whole, fulfilled, and happy. How can you integrate them into your everyday life?
2. Speak at the Right Time
There are specific times of day when it’s better to communicate your self-care needs because other people are more likely to listen to them fully.
For example, your partner probably isn’t going to be able to practice active listening while they’re rushing out the door for work.
You also may not want to strike up a serious conversation while taking care of your baby. Instead, set aside time for the two of you to have a quiet conversation. It’s essential to make sure you have their full attention. Don’t do it when you’re watching TV or you’re both looking at your phones.
When you know your partner is listening, they’re more likely to understand your needs.
3. Remember You Want the Same Things
One of the biggest mistakes people make in communicating their self-care needs is feeling like they have to defend themselves. You and your partner are on the same team. What’s more, you and all of your loved ones are on the same team.
Don’t be afraid to express what you genuinely need. Everyone who cares about you wants you to be healthy and happy. You don’t need to make excuses about why you need time for yourself, or why you need to take care of yourself.
When you can get over that defensive hurdle, it will be easier to open up about your self-care needs. You might be surprised at how positively your partner and others respond.
If you’re having trouble communicating your self-care needs, you’re not alone. It’s easy to
feel like all of your attention needs to be on your child. Nevertheless, you can’t pour from an empty cup.
Feel free to contact me for more tips on identifying and communicating what you need. The more confident you are about communicating, the easier it will be for you to find time for the things that fill your cup finally. I offer a complimentary phone consultation to all potential clients. To schedule yours in a matter of seconds, please check here.
To learn more about how counseling can help with your parenting journey, please click here.
BRINGING BABY HOME: A NEW PARENT WORKSHOP IS GOING VIRTUAL!!!! A workshop for couples who are thinking about or planning to have a baby, who are expecting a baby or who have children already. Based on years of research and experience and developed by the Gottman Institute, this 12 hour workshop is designed to repair communication skills and jump start your relationship with your partner. For more information, please click here.
Jennifer Perera is a mom, spouse and Licensed Clinical Social Worker who has over a decade’s worth of experience in mental health. She has a private practice in New Jersey, with locations in Cranford and Princeton. Her passion is helping new moms and dads find their joy again in parenthood through individual, group and couples counseling. Jennifer specializes in working with parents during the prenatal and postpartum periods and those coping with a pregnancy loss or infertility. Her other passion is travelling to different parts of the world and her goal is to vacation in a different locale every time. She also has a great fondness for cats!