Originally published in the Summer 2022 Issue of Kansas Child Magazine.
What’s the last thing you did simply because you enjoyed it? If it’s hard to answer this question, you’re not alone. Child care providers are in the business of caretaking. You are the healer of scraped knees, the listening ear for energetic and imaginative stories, the muse for blooming artists, and the trainer of gentle touches and kind words. Your position comes with great responsibility for little ones. But have you forgotten about the great responsibility you have for yourself?
Mental health has emerged as a top health care priority over the past two years. In general, we tend to place the needs of others ahead of our own. Anything less than that is considered selfish, especially by professional caregivers. But that attitude seems to be changing. A poll by the American Psychiatric Association showed that one-quarter of Americans made a New Year’s resolution to improve their mental health in 2022.
If you struggle to prioritize your own health or happiness, you cannot afford to ignore yourself any longer. Our physical health is linked to our thoughts, attitudes, and behaviors. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, depression increases the risk for many types of chronic illness, such as diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.
Setting an intentional goal to take a 15-minute walk outside is self-care. Consider treating yourself to a new healthy recipe or heading to bed 30 minutes earlier one night this week.
Incorporate self-care into your work routine by building mindfulness into your child care program. Breathing exercises are a great way to teach children to calm their bodies; you can set an example by joining them and getting a few moments of relaxation yourself.
Think of this new part of your daily routine as “mental hygiene.” You would not skip brushing your teeth for months at a time, would you? Give yourself permission to get a book from the library, exercise with a good friend, or call a family member to catch up. Do something for yourself each day, no matter how small, and watch it blossom.
Mental Health Resources
If you or someone you know is in a mental health crisis, please seek medical attention. Below are some national and state mental health resources: