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Christmas can be an amazing time shared with family and friends, and yet many of us enter the New Year feeling drained from the holiday period.

Often when a co-worker, friend or family member returns from a vacation or travel, we hear the joke ‘I need a holiday after my holiday’ thrown around. When we are on holiday, the temptation to make the most of every day and minute can be so prevalent that we forget to simply stop and breathe.

The Christmas holidays look different for everyone. Perhaps it involves interstate travel, overdue catchups with extended family, work Christmas parties, friend parties and Christmas shopping and cooking.

And while all or at least some of this is fun, it is also not our usual routine. Several days or weeks like this in a row can overextend our social battery and sometimes it is too late before we realise, we are not just emotionally drained – but physically as well.

Learning to practice self-care and establish a sense of boundaries with yourself and others during this time can save you from post-Christmas burnout and make the holidays an even better time.

Here are some tips for keeping yourself sane, healthy and happy during the holidays.

  1. Establish boundaries with friends and family about money

Giving gifts should be something joyful and leave you with a good feeling. The ritual of picking or making gifts and wrapping up each one with a glass of Prosecco is half the fun. However, financial stress can suck the joy out of this if you feel like you are spending money you don’t have to not disappoint others.

Consider your finances and what you are capable of spending and what you are comfortable with. Then, try expressing this to your friends or family. It can be as simple as saying that you are a bit tight this year so you will just be doing small gifts. Or if you really want to, you can set a specific price to cap gifts at for everyone.

2) Don’t commit to things you don’t want to do

Over-commitment is another huge issue that will drain the joy out of the holiday period for some. As much as the parties, shopping and events can be fun, don’t lose sight of the small moments. Remember to make time for yourself curled up watching Christmas movies at home, cooking, or simply sticking to your regular routine.

It is perfectly ok to say no to things and still make time for yourself. The fear of missing out can be huge and the pressure to show up at events we don’t care for. Either way, remind yourself that saying no is ok.

3) Delegate Tasks Evenly 

For some of us, the desire to create an unforgettable Christmas experience for the people we love, and particularly our children, can cause us to bite off more than we can chew. Before you know it, suddenly you are the shopper, the chef, the party planner, the event organiser, and the cleaner.

This can make Christmas feel less like a party and more like hard work.

4) Simplify the Lunch Menu

The same philosophy goes to the Christmas menu – don’t bite off more than you can chew and don’t be afraid to delegate. It should never be one person’s job to spend hours toiling in the kitchen for everyone.

Eating, drinking and cooking with the people we care about should be a wonderful experience. However, feeling stressed and overworked can drain the enjoyment out of this tradition.

It is also important to know that sometimes less is more. Don’t get caught up in the notion that a good Christmas meal has to be a complex or ornate one. Instead, pick a few of your favourite simple dishes that everyone will enjoy and you can be sure it will not diminish the experience.

Christmas is a time to enjoy and celebrate and the end of the season should leave you feeling content – not exhausted. Make small changes during your Christmas routine this year and in years to come to make sure you are truly enjoying – rather than simply making sure everyone around you is enjoying it.

Brooke McAlary’s Four Tools for Radical Self-Care

Brooke McAlary, author of Care: The radical art of taking time, gives us insight into how to undertake the journey of self-care in a genuine and self-aware way. Interviewed by Wellspring editor, Kate Durack, Brooke also discusses the issues with the current self-care industry, and her own mental health journey.

FIND BROOKE HERE
Website: https://www.slowyourhome.com/
Instagram: @brookemcalary (https://www.instagram.com/brookemcalary/)
Podcast: https://www.slowyourhome.com/the-slow-home-podcast

When I was pregnant with my first baby, over twelve years ago, strangers would come up to me, pat my baby bump and say, ‘Oh, is it your first? How special!’. They had a misty far-away look in their eyes. No one told me the truth. The truth was that I was about to undergo a monumental change and I wouldn’t ever be the same again.

This transition happens to all mothers — biological, surrogate or adoptive — in a developmental stage is akin to adolescence known as ‘Matrescence’. This process affects biological, social and psychological development and can last for years, or even decades.

The term ‘Matrescence’ was first coined by anthropologist Dana Raphael, PhD, in 1973, but I didn’t hear about it until I chose to specialise in motherhood.

 

This is a problem because most mothers feel overwhelmed by the magnitude of parenting and uncomfortable with the changes it brings to almost every aspect of life. Not only does the female body undergo physical and hormonal changes which can feel like puberty all over again, but becoming a mother impacts relationships with partners and friends and maintaining a social life or even running errands suddenly becomes a lot more challenging.

 

 

Matrescence should not be confused with postnatal depression, but it is a significant emotional shift which many mothers are simply unprepared for. I’m sure all mums remember the endless first weeks of motherhood where you feel completely in love with your newborn and simultaneously completely awed that the world still continues although you’ve just experienced this monumental event.

I vividly remember feeling a huge sense of achievement at getting out the door when my youngest was just six- weeks old.

Timing feeds, nappy changes and making myself look vaguely presentable to be on time for a baby massage session required some next-level planning. The thought of going out for drinks with friends or for a meal with my husband just seemed completely at odds with my new life and how I felt about myself.  I just couldn’t rationalise the pre-baby me with this new post-baby me. Me as a mum. Over the years, the pre-baby me just seemed to dissolve as I assumed the identity of ‘mum’.  Now, I feel like the ‘real’ me is buried.

Mum of three, Sarah, says, ‘I just completely lost my sense of identity when I had children. I never really got any time to myself to just be ‘me’ anyway, so I didn’t really notice it until my kids started school’. Nicola chose to have children later in life and found the balance between her work-life and home-life almost impossible to reconcile,

 

‘I was either house-wife and mum, or corporate executive and those two parts of me felt completely disconnected. I do love both of those roles but I’m more than just that. The ‘real’ me just got lost in the noise’.

The truth is, we all evolve as time goes on. Being a mum will always be part of your identity, but it doesn’t have to be all of it.  Here’s what to do when you feel lost in motherhood:

1. Schedule time for yourself

And I do mean literally schedule in that time. Put it in your calendar like it’s an appointment or a class for your child. The amount of time and what you choose to do is up to you, but I suggest an hour every week where you can completely disconnect from motherhood. Go out of the house. Read a book, enjoy a coffee, go for a run — just do something entirely for yourself. You’ll feel better afterwards, I promise.

2. Set morning and evening routines

You probably have some sort of morning or bedtime routine for your children, but do you have one for yourself?

Small daily rituals can help you feel more in control of your life and help ease the pressure of a busy schedule. It might seem counterintuitive to ask you to introduce more into a packed lifestyle but a little bit of self-care can go a long way.Ideally, get up before the children are awake. Drink water, enjoy a cup of tea, read or meditate and you will find yourself more capable of tackling the morning rush.
In the evening, do something similar to wind down. Meditation and journaling are proven to be good for mental health and they are great tools to connect back in to ‘you’. Bonus points if you can look over your schedule for the following day and prepare.

3. Date night

Becoming parents inevitably changes the relationship you have with your partner. As children grow it’s easy to get stuck in a rut of being teammates rather than romantic partners. Get in touch with why you fell in love and plan a date for the two of you. The rule is, you are not allowed to talk about the kids! It’s harder than you think. Make an effort, get dressed up (if you like) and date each other again. You don’t even have to go out.

4. Do something you loved before becoming a mum

It’s easy to let hobbies go when you have a small person who’s depending on you. Life gets full and busy quickly and we often forget that we get to choose how we spend our free time. One quick way to remind yourself of who you are is to enjoy an activity or experience you loved before you were a mum. Maybe you adored dancing or painting or going to the movies. Find ways to introduce these into your life. It can be as simple as dancing around the lounge room!

5. Chat to your friends about your hopes and dreams

How often do you talk to your friends about your personal goals? Do you even know what they are?

It’s normal to focus on your children and their desires, but if we forget to think about what we want out of life it’s easy to wake up one day and realise that you don’t have a purpose without your children. That’s way too much pressure to put on them and not fair to the woman you are.

Make it a priority to talk to your friends about this. What do they want out of life? How can you support each other?

The trick is to integrate these activities with your identity as a mother. We aren’t trying to belittle or ignore your role since we all know that being a mum is as amazing as it is difficult. Instead, the aim is to reconnect to yourself and to discover who you are now — and remember that will change over time.

Change is normal during this time of transition, but you get to choose how you respond and what you choose to prioritise. When you choose to prioritise yourself, you’re choosing to prioritise your child’s mum. She’s worth it.

Lockdown sucks.

My heart goes out to anyone who is on the frontline, is struggling for work, is struggling with work and learning from home or who is separated from family. These times are challenging for everyone. I appreciate that I cannot possibly know or completely understand your personal circumstances, but I do appreciate that it can be tough. Really tough. You are being asked to do the impossible.

At my house, my husband is working long hours from home, often starting at 8am and not finishing until after 6pm. Our three children are learning from home and I’m trying to supervise, whilst doing my own work and keeping the house in some semblance of order. My younger two, who are still at primary school, obviously need the most input from me, whilst my eldest is reasonably self-sufficient but gets distracted; I have to check in a lot to make sure she’s on task and that she is remembering to take breaks from her screen. I seem to get one child started on an activity before another child finishes or has a problem with the laptop, or zoom, or spelling, or just loses focus, or is bored or hungry or just wants to see what everyone else is up to. In short, it’s not easy. We’d never ask a teacher to teach three classes at once, would we? And I know a lot of you are in a similar position.

It is true that there’s so much beyond your control and so much uncertainty, however, there is also a lot you can control. A very wise person (my grandma) once told me,

‘You can’t control everything all the time,

but you can always control your response.

There is your power.’

So, with that in mind, let’s look at 10 ways to love lockdown—or at least hate it less. After all, numerous mums lamented their lack of time and overall busy schedules before lockdown and I know many of them would have been delighted to press ‘pause’ on life. Now we are in a somewhat ‘paused’ state, it’s far from perfect, but there are some things we can do to make this time a positive one.

1. Schedule downtime

Plan a walk with a friend, a nap, a meditation session, a bath…whatever makes you feel better. Make an effort to prioritise it. It’s important to care for yourself as you care for your children.

2. Zoom party

Craving a catch up with the girls? We may not be able to meet in person at present, but what’s stopping you from inviting your friends to a virtual cocktail hour this Saturday night?

3. Differentiate the weekends

It can get a bit like Groundhog Day in lockdown. So, make an effort to make your weekends different. Go out as a family and do a long bush walk or bike ride. Have some fun with a family games afternoon, baking session, or even hide and seek (kick it up a notch by playing in the dark with torches). Order takeaway, dessert delivery or a box of Lego — everyone deserves to relax and have fun.

4. Get outside

I promise you’ll feel better. Fresh air is good for your mood and your soul, especially if it’s nice and sunny. Let the kids run and burn some energy. Move your body and breathe in the day. Bonus points if you can sit outside to meditate.

5. Enjoy a good book (or movie)

We all need a little escapism sometimes and whilst we can’t travel at the moment, the whole world awaits inside books. Or if you need something uplifting, consider a book more geared towards personal growth or positivity: Untamed by Glennon Doyle and Phosphorescence by Julia Baird are both great options for this.

6. Change your clothes

I don’t just mean change into clean clothes, I mean change out of your active wear, joggers or loungewear. Wear something that makes you feel great. Even choose to get dressed up for an at home date night. Or if you’re working from home, consider differentiating the day with your outfit by changing into loungewear when you’ve finished work for the day (and not before!).

7. Flexible work

Many employers understand the struggle of managing children at home and trying to work. If it’s getting too much for you, speak to your employer about adjusting your hours. Maybe you could work earlier in the day and then take a break to help with schooling before finishing later on. Or is there an option to reduce your hours temporarily? Or even take a day’s leave here and there.

8. Tag team with a partner

If you live with someone make sure you are sharing the workload. It’s easy to fall into habits and usually that means the mum doing the majority of the childcare and housework. Split it between you wherever you can.

9. Get up early 

It can be tempting to sleep in when you don’t need to rush out the door. But resist the temptation, get up and enjoy some time to yourself before you start the day. This is a time you can control. I love to meditate, journal and squeeze in a quick yoga session before my children are up, but you do what feels good to you. Maybe that’s a walk or run, or a coffee and a book.

10. Let go

Screen-time guilt and impossible schooling expectations aren’t helping you. These are unprecedented times and we need to be realistic about what’s achievable. If not, who suffers? You! And quite probably your children. Just try your best to let it go. This situation is temporary.

Overall, just try to be kind to yourself. You are being asked to do the impossible.

If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that nothing can be taken for granted.

Notice what you’re grateful for. Notice what you can control. It’s perfectly fine to be ok one day and then not the next. Just take it easy.  And remember, ‘You can’t control everything all the time, but you can always control your response. There is your power.’

Codependency can cause you to lose touch with yourself, your life and your entire identity.

Of course it isn’t bad to care about your partner. If you love someone, it’s natural to feel the need to look after them. However, there is a difference between caring for your partner and being codependent. Codependency can cause you to lose touch with yourself, your life and your entire identity

It’s true; relationships are about compromise. We give and we take. We care and are cared for in return. But how much is too much?

A couple with anchor tattoos

What is codependency?

In simple terms, codependency involves caring for another to the point where it becomes unhealthy. In a codependent relationship, an individual sacrifices their own needs in order to meet the needs of their partner. One party takes on the role of the ‘giver’ and the other, the ‘taker’. The ‘giver’ often loses their own identity while trying to heal or ‘fix’ their partner’s illness, addiction or dysfunctional personality. Eventually, the two begin to rely on one another for relief of insecurity and loneliness, rather than love.

What causes codependency?

More often than not, codependency stems from childhood. It appears in those who grew up in unstable households, where they were exposed to abuse, emotional neglect, family issues, and lack of communication. A dysfunctional upbringing can cause people to develop an insecure attachment style, which can lead to further difficulty in relationships. A person with an insecure attachment style is more likely to become jealous, clingy and constantly seek reassurance from a partner.

Individuals with low self-esteem, fear of abandonment, or trust issues, may enter a codependent relationship in order to feel wanted or needed. If an individual feels they are being relied upon, they are less likely to worry about being abandoned.

But I care about my partner. Why is that bad?

Of course, it isn’t bad to care about your partner. If you love someone, it’s natural for you to feel the need to protect and look after them. However, there’s a difference between caring for your partner and being codependent. Codependency can cause you to lose touch with yourself, your life and your entire identity. A Codependent’s life revolves around their partner’s needs and emotions, leaving them with little time for themselves. This leads to isolation and loss of connection to friends and family. If your partner struggles with addiction or mental illness, your codependency may be enabling them and preventing them from seeking help. This may have negative, and potentially deadly consequences.

Codependency warning signs

  • You justify your partner’s bad behaviour.
  • You want to ‘fix’ them.
  • You can’t enjoy yourself when they’re not around.
  • You feel like your world would crumble without them.
  • You can’t perform daily tasks, like driving or going to work, without constantly thinking about them.
  • You have no boundaries.
  • You constantly seek their approval.
  • Your self-worth depends on them needing you.

Healing a codependent relationship

If you’ve lived in a codependent relationship for a long time, it can become difficult to notice or accept it, let alone change it. Though it is possible to overcome codependency on your own, many couples require professional treatment or counselling. If both parties are willing to make a change, they can work towards a healthier relationship.

As codependency is complicated, it’s important to find a therapist with experience in dealing with them. A professional can help you to:

  • Identify codependent behaviour and take steps to address it.
  • Work through unsolved childhood trauma.
  • Work on increasing self-esteem and self-worth.
  • Help with anxiety and fear of abandonment.
  • Challenge negative thought patterns.
  • Help you develop an identity beyond your relationship with your partner.

Remember, in a healthy relationship, it’s important to:

  • Take breaks

In a healthy relationship, people are able to function away from their partner. Spend time with your friends and family, go to the beach, out to dinner, to a movie or a solo outing… maybe that shopping spree you’ve been dreaming of!

  • Set yourself boundaries
    • If your partner is constantly texting you, decide that you’ll no longer answer while at work or after a certain time.
    • Don’t cancel plans to spend time with them. If you planned a day out with friends, don’t cancel it just to be with them.
    • Don’t be afraid to say no if you don’t feel like spending time with them. If you’re sick, busy, or tired after a long day at work, tell them.
    • Organise a ‘date night’ with them, or plan time you always spend together. That way, you have time to yourself, while still having a scheduled time to spend time with them.

When you have become used to giving and giving, spending time on yourself can feel selfish and wrong. However, self-care is vital in relieving stress and anxiety, strengthening coping skills, and increasing resilience. Whether it’s putting on a face mask, taking a warm bath, or going on a peaceful walk in the woods, self-care can help revitalise your mind and body, leading to a calmer and healthier you.

  • Embrace positive communication.

Be open with your partner and express your feelings. If they do something to upset you, tell them. If they aren’t respecting your boundaries, talk to them. The more open you are with them, the easier it will be for them to open up in return.

  • Trust that your emotions are valid.

In a codependent relationship, it’s common to ignore or hide your emotions in fear of causing an argument. However, in a healthy relationship, both parties should feel comfortable sharing how they feel, without fearing the outcome. Regardless of whether you deem an emotion as ‘good’ or ‘bad’, you are entitled to feel it.

Professional treatment

If you and your partner both decide to make a change, a therapist who specialises in relationships may be able to help you. A professional can assist you in establishing healthy boundaries, work on self-esteem and self-worth issues, and help you to recognise unhealthy thought patterns. Since codependency often stems from childhood, a therapist may also work through any traumas or unresolved feelings that may be related to your need for codependency. Overall, the goal of treatment is to allow an individual to regain their sense of emotions and identify which, in turn, leads to a healthier relationship.

Remember: it’s not your job to ‘fix’ your partner.

We all want to support the ones we love. But remember, you are not your partner’s therapist. It is important to love them without hurting yourself in the process.

Can we simply obtain Self Love from a beauty makeover, buying a new outfit or reading an inspirational self help book? Is Self Love is not simply just “loving yourself more” or a state of “feeling good”?

Some may say that without loving yourself, you will never be able to genuinely love others.

Popular singer, Lizzo, who regularly refers to her own process of loving herself, recently told fans to “give your growth time – it took me 10 years and I’m still not 100 per cent there.”

Whilst Queer Eye’s, Jonathan Van Ness, said on Channel 10’s The Project “Everyone is always on a journey to Self Love and self-acceptance” and it’s a continued relationship we have with ourselves. Here are some simple ways we can incorporate more self love into our daily routine.

Face masks

We should all take the time to do a face mask at least one a week, because we’re worth it. There are all sorts of face masks on the market from cucumber to charcoal, clay and mud varieties, to the sheet and creme options, but what are the actual benefits? Tyler Hollmig, MD, Director of Aesthetic and Laser Dermatology at Stanford Health Care suggests face masks are good are moisturising the skin saying “even if you were to just put a mask on top of the skin with nothing in it, it would naturally moisturise the skin”.

A rule of thumb from Shilpi Khetarpal, MD, a dermatologist at Cleveland Clinic, “Just because a product is expensive, doesn’t mean it’s better.” Some do-it-yourself at-home masks can deliver great results too, she says. Ingredients like milk and yogurt for example, contain lactic acid, which exfoliates the skin and can make it appear brighter. Aloe vera contains antioxidants that can brighten skin, too. And coffee, because of the caffeine, can minimise the appearance of pores by drying out the skin.

Lighting a scented candle can boost energy, relieve stress and even enhance mental clarity.

Take a Nice Bath

Signs that we can be depressed are that we stop showering regularly. Draw yourself a nice hot bath and pour in some Epsom salts, you might like to also add some sort of bubble bath soap or a bath bomb and light some candles. You can also add some drops of your favourite essential oils. Essential oils can improve our physical and emotional wellbeing, for example relief from anxiety and depression, improved quality of life, particularly for people with chronic health conditions and improved sleep.

10 popular essential oils:

Peppermint: boost energy and aid digestion

Lavender: relieve stress and reduce pain

Sandalwood: calm nerves and help with focus

Bergamot: reduce stress and improve skin conditions like eczema

Rose: improve mood and reduce anxiety

Chamomile: improve mood and relaxation

Ylang-Ylang: treat headaches, nausea, and skin conditions

Tea Tree: fight infections and boost immunity

Jasmine: help with depression, childbirth, and libido

Lemon: aid digestion, mood, headaches, and more

Eating Well
There is a strong link between what we eat and how we feel. Eating well can help improve sleep, energy levels, concentration and you are also less likely to crave sugar, salt or fat. New research suggests if you eat Colourful fruits and vegetables, Wholegrains, Fermented foods and Fish whilst cutting back on Sugar, Alcohol and Saturated fat, you will feel good. – Headspace

Drinking Two Litres of Water Every Day
Minor dehydration can have effects on our mental and physical performance. The body is made up of between 50 per cent and 80 per cent water and relies on water to function properly. We need water to absorb nutrients, for digestion, to lubricate our joints to help us move, get rid of waste products and to regulate our body temperature. Drink around two litres of water everyday.

Meditate
Mindfulness meditation often takes just a few minutes and there are a wide range of apps available. Meditation is one way to help manage anxiety and depression. Sadhbh Joyce, Senior Psychologist and PhD Candidate at the Black Dog Institute, says “When freed from the task of processing so much external stimuli, the brain has the opportunity to focus its resources differently. For this reason, meditation can often lead to us to experience greater creativity. Meditation allows us to take advantage of our brains’ neuroplasticity and effectively rewire it to enhance things such as concentration, focus and memory.”

Light a Scented Candle
Lighting a scented candle can boost energy, relieve stress and even enhance mental clarity. The smell of the scented candle is said to stimulate the part of your brain which is connected to memory and mood.

Lavender: relaxes instantly both mind and body

Clary sage: lifts mood

Cinnamon: makes you feel refreshed
Pine: relaxes

Orange: reduces stress

Lemon: improves mood

Apple: controls anxiety

Peppermint: wakes up your mind and enhances focus

Frankincense: helps battle anxiety and gives a great stress relief

Sandalwood: relaxes and calms body and mind

Vanilla: increases happiness levels, uplifts your mood and stimulates feelings of relaxation and joy
Rose: makes you more likely to have happy dreams

Get a Massage
Getting a massage is one of life’s many pleasures and has so many physical and emotional benefits. Studies of the benefits of massage show that it is an effective treatment for reducing stress, pain and muscle tension. Studies have also found massage may be helpful for anxiety, headaches and insomnia related to stress. Take time out for yourself a book a massage.

Eat a Cinnamon Scroll
Danes are the happiest people on earth, and experts think a philosophy called Hygge that encourages the savouring of everyday pleasures could be the secret. One thing Danes like to do is eat baked goods, especially cinnamon scrolls. There’s something special about the smell of the cinnamon, the warmth of the dough and its delicious sticky goodness.

Call a Loved One
When were feeling depressed we tend to withdraw from close family and friends and we don’t want to go out anymore. Usually we’re left feeling overwhelmed, guilty, frustrated and unhappy and what we really need is to reach out to someone. If you’re feeling down or distressed, call a friend or family member or alternatively you can see a psychologist or call lifeline on 13 11 14.

Listen to Music
Make an empowering playlist on Spotify, with music that really uplifts you, something upbeat for example a track by Lizzo. Although one song that might calm a person down may irritate another. So you may choose something sombre for example have you ever felt better after crying to a breakup song? Or maybe a happy song brings you a sad memory? Go with what makes you feel most comfortable.

Parenting is hard. Parenting kids without a partner to help can be grueling. From finding the right support to setting realistic limits, you can feel more in control and less overwhelmed. Here’s how.

        Tap emotional support. A positive support network is instrumental for stress management. If you don’t have access to close family or friends, seek support from single parent or mothers’ groups.

“We have discussion groups that discuss topics pertinent to single parents,” says Janet Gallinati, president of Parents without Partners, an international non-profit organization, with chapters across North America. “Sometimes all you need to do is talk about it, but there may be someone in the group who has gone through something similar.”

   

        Manage your finances. Many hardworking single parents struggle to make ends meet. If you qualify, numerous non-profit and government organizations are available to provide assistance. Also, eliminate unnecessary bills or contact the company to see if refinancing is an option.

“One of the worst things to do is to let the kids think that the only thing that has changed is that mommy or daddy has left,” Gallinati says. “Explain that this is now a one-income family and cuts need to be made.”

        Set limits. Say no to requests that will cause undue strain on your wallet or your time. Also, resist the urge to say yes to every activity your child wants to participate in. Make reasonable choices according to what works with your hours and available support.

         Seek flexibility. If possible, negotiate work hours or find a job that better accommodates you and your children’s needs.

“Finding flexible work is realistic if you are clear about what you need, how you can be successful and matching that with the business need,” says Laura Wildman, a staffing consultant with Mom Corps, which helps match professionals who are raising young families with companies that offer flexible work conditions.

As president of Mothers & More, a national organization that provides community, support and programming for mothers, single mom Jill Gaikowski, says she works in the evenings and on the weekends when she doesn’t have her child.

“I’m happy to make the trade-off because before becoming a single parent, I was a stay-at-home mom. I am lucky to have this option,” Gaikowski says.

         Resolve guilt. Are you haunted by feelings of guilt, inadequacy and resentment in the midst of juggling parenthood and a career? Realize that you are doing your best and focus on remaining optimistic.

“You will get that important email that comes while you are at your kids’ game and you will get that call from school when you are working, but your mindset and flexibility can make it all work,” Wildman says.

         Ask for help. Without adequate emotional and practical support, caregiving can deplete your energy making you more susceptible to illness and depression. Utilize available resources and take advantage of any help that is offered by family and friends, says life coach Kristin Dunn, owner of From the Ground Up Life Coaching.

Also, find a reliable sitter, trade babysitting with a friend or check out area drop-in day cares.

         Commit to self-care. Engage in activities that nurture and energize you like meditation, reading or exercise, even if that means waking up a few minutes earlier than usual. Use your lunch hour to connect with a friend.

“Don’t underestimate the power of human touch,” Dunn says. “Schedule a massage or a pedicure. Human contact is really helpful in releasing bottled up energy and emotion that may not otherwise have an outlet for release.”

         Plan ahead. Include personal time on the calendar. “Do something for yourself once a week. You will see how it makes you better in all other areas of your life,” Gaikowski says.

         Integrate fun. Spend time with your kids cooking meals together, playing board games, bike-riding or watching a movie. Also plan playdates or outings with other families to build a sense of community.

         Involve your kids. Assign age-appropriate responsibilities which helps children grow more self-confident and independent.

“If you over-function by doing things for your children they could be doing for themselves, you’re teaching them to have unrealistic expectations for themselves and others,” Dunn says.

Although single parenting isn’t easy, remember that when you manage your stress and focus on creating a stable, loving home for your kids, you’ll not only survive, you and your family will thrive.