Make time for self-care in 2019

Sticking with a resolution to hit the gym will make you happier – and a better parent, James Gordon writes

For parents, the holiday season always seems to pass at an especially frenetic pace.


In addition to the usual work and family functions, there are more gifts to buy, Elves on Shelves to find increasingly creative perches for every night, and holiday concerts and parades to attend. It’s not until January that most of us get a chance to catch our breath, take stock of the previous 365 days, and set our goals for the coming year.


Yep, before you know it, it’s New Year’s resolution season, and any parent who’s ever made a resolution can probably guess what the main theme underpinning the most popular goals is.


According to a recent poll, the No. 1 New Year’s resolution is to exercise more (38 percent of respondents), followed by lose weight (33 percent) and eat healthier (32 percent).


This makes a lot of sense. When we’re always running around looking after others, we often forget (or are too tired) to take care of ourselves. As we get further and further away from what we consider our ideal selves, the more daunting the task of getting back there seems. The enthusiasm with which we greeted January 1 gives way to that demoralizing feeling that we’re falling short of our goals, so we decide to just shelve them until the next New Year. THEN it’ll be different.


The ironic thing is that while you might feel guilty taking a little time for yourself to exercise regularly – what with the million responsibilities that come with having kids – there’s a good chance it’ll actually make you a better parent.


I know it did for me. Two summers ago, I was almost two years into my run of full-time parenting, and I was exhausted. Mentally, physically, everything. I knew I needed to do something to stay ahead of the isolation and creeping depression, and one particularly challenging day finally pushed me to take action: I resolved then and there to start exercising almost every day.


Starting an exercise regime can be tough for a couple of reasons. First of all, it can sometimes seem impossible to find the time for personal activities when you’re the primary caregiver in your home. Secondly, if you don’t exercise all the time, it can be physically taxing at the beginning (especially when parents’ energy levels are already typically depleted).


There are numerous ways to tackle these problems if you’re motivated to, however. For me, it was simply a matter of asking some questions about my gym’s childcare options and actually taking advantage of them. For whatever reason, I’d never really considered it until well past the point where I needed a break, and I regret not taking advantage sooner.


My wife and I have both done the stay-at-home parent thing and we agree it’s important to prioritize exercise. Now that we both work again, we give each other time on weekends for it on top of squeezing in lunch-hour workouts when possible.


That’s not automatically the case in every relationship, because people who haven’t been stay-at-home parents can’t possibly fathom how much more demanding it can be than, say, going to work. But I do think it’s helpful to be upfront with your partner about what you need to stay happy and healthy and, yes, ask for more help when necessary. If you aren’t willing to speak up, you aren’t likely to get the support you need.


As for actually starting to exercise … look, it’s probably going to suck early on. But you’ll find very quickly that, if you start slow and battle through those first few workouts, the benefits are endless. Your strength and determination will become a source of personal pride, which in turn will improve your mood, energy levels and patience, which in turn will make you a better parent and person.


So don’t just make a resolution this year. Resolve to be one of the people who actually follows though when it comes to getting the exercise your body and mind need. Speaking from personal experience, you won’t regret it!