Take a Moment for Yourself to be Your Best Self

w: Johnathon E. Briggs

Take a Moment for Yourself to be Your Best Self

— September 3, 2023 —

The house had been quiet for half an hour, the air so still I could hear the high-pitched motor of the condensate pump in the downstairs utility closet humming through the air vents upstairs. The only hint of life came from the occasional swoosh of traffic out on the street. A sense of calm settled over me.

I was experiencing something unusual for a parent: a moment to myself.

For the first time in what felt like months, nothing and no one demanded my time and attention. There was no calamity to contend with, no housework to be done, no emails or texts in need of reply, no bills immediately due, no homework to be done, no dinner to be cooked, no child to be shuttled to and fro, no appointments to schedule, no phone calls to return, and no honey-dos to, well, do.

The world of endless demands had come to a temporary halt. I was damn near giddy.

My wife had left for work that Monday morning, taking our daughter with her to drop off at school. I stayed home, grateful for the privilege to telecommute, and another full half hour before I had to plug back into The Matrix.

Like the character Neo from the movie franchise, I began to see my thoughts as binary code forms of zeros and ones rather than their surface-level appearance. A moment of clarity seized me.

I’d been saying yes when I should have said no.

I didn’t just need a vacation. I needed a sabbatical.

It wasn’t just being tired from adulting; I was burned out as a caregiver.

You make sacrifices over the years to shoulder the load, to carry on, to do all that needs to be done, only to realize you’ve neglected to prioritize the most important component in the equation: you.

Relieve the everyday stress, every day

It’s a byproduct of multiple stressors. Raising a special needs child with little family support. Supporting a spouse through long stretches of unemployment. Having a fulfilling yet demanding career. Joining the ranks of the “sandwich generation,” those 30- and 40-somethings who are raising children while caring for aging parents. You make sacrifices over the years to shoulder the load, to carry on, to do all that needs to be done, only to realize you’ve neglected to prioritize the most important component in the equation: you.

It reminds me of the ubiquitous Internet quote from author Alexander Den Heijer: “You often feel tired, not because you’ve done too much, but because you’ve done too little of what sparks a light in you.”

Why do some of us in our roles as fathers, husbands, parents and caregivers find it so difficult to practice self-care? I don’t just mean the glitter-speak notions of yoga, spa days, and walks in the park (I’m game for those, by the way). I mean the practice of taking time to simply exist with no expectation of doing something or getting something done. What has happened to the habit of pausing the busyness of our lives long enough to examine how we ended up with so much to do in the first place?

This is especially true for men. Research released in 2021 showed:

  • 23% of men spend less than 30 minutes a day on activities that relax, de-stress and recharge themselves.
  • 44% of men report “they could do a better job of taking care of themselves.”
  • 83% of men agree that they do not worry about self-care since they don’t think it’s important.

Researchers and experts say men think of self-care practices as either feminine or unnecessarily self-indulgent. This prevents men from reaching an optimal level of healthiness, mental and physical, to help them meet the demands parenthood, work and life bring.

The moment I realized

So, like death and taxes, the exhaustion of life comes for us all — man or woman, parent or childless. But this unexpected hour of stillness helped me tune in to what sustains me.

Researchers and experts say men think of self-care practices as either feminine or unnecessarily self-indulgent.

There I sat at my home office desk, looking at the photos lining it. These snapshots are of the people, past and present, family and friends, who anchor my life.

There’s my cheerful daughter posing pretty in pink in a second-grade portrait. There’s my lovely wife flashing a smile as we walk through a nature park in Jamaica. Just over from her, I see my uncle Johnny, the pigeon fancier, in a loft tending to his birds. Next, I see my mother embracing 7-year-old me from behind as we stand in front of a grocery store display. Over there is my fraternity brother at his MBA graduation with his beaming parents. And there’s my grandmother in her younger years, footloose and fancy-free, strutting her stuff at a club. Reflecting on these memories tapped into the abundance of love in my life.

Filled with a deep sense of gratitude, I opened my work laptop and logged in.

I again felt ready to re-enter The Matrix.


Tips for better self-care

Since this article was first published, I’ve been asked about the self-care habits that help me regain my center when life gets hectic. Here are five things (and related items on Amazon) that work for me:


1. Make time every day to do something for you.
For me this looks like lacing up my New Balance sneakers and taking a 40-minute walk/hike along the trails of the forest preserve near our home. Some days it’s an hour-long bike ride or 30-minutes lifting weights at home.

2. Get adequate sleep. Invest in a comfortable mattress, blackout curtains, or a white noise machine for better sleep. I aim for seven hours each night. A white noise machine is the best investment I’ve ever made.

3. Practice mindfulness. If you’re new to this, consider using a guided daily gratitude journal. I set aside five to 10 minutes daily to journal my thoughts. It helps me put things in perspective. If you’re a dad, I highly recommend the Fatherhood Legacy Journal from Rebel & Create. Learn more about how to use the journal and get 20% off your purchase by using promo code: “Journal20”.

4. Nurture connections. Buy board games, puzzles, or outdoor games for quality time with friends and family. Scrabble and Jenga are favorites in our house.

5. Find the words to describe your emotions. Invest in books on effective communication and relationship-building. My mother was a librarian, so I’m always game for a good book. Atlas of the Heart by Brené Brown is highly recommended.

Father on,

A version of this article first appeared on the City Dads Group blog.


— Banner image by Jad Limcaco on Unsplash

— Feature image by Marquise Kamanke on Unsplash

1137 words

9.4.23

Johnathon E. BriggsHusband • Father • Storyteller • #BlackDadMagic • ΑΦΑ

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About

Few may know this, but twice as many dads of newborns today are now in the 40-plus age group, compared to the 1970s. Six weeks before my 40th birthday, I became a first-time father, hence the title of this blog.

This life-changing moment made me think about my own dad, who became a father at 43. As my parenthood journey unfolded, I noticed that most of my friends had become parents earlier in life yet, here I was, changing diapers and battling sleep deprivation at (nearly) 40. I told my wife, “Parenting is definitely a young man’s game.” But is it really?

Where most of my friends were preparing for their children’s middle and high school graduations, I was mastering the art of the swaddle, perfecting the one-hand baby wipe, and learning to decipher my daughter’s gurgles and whimpers. It occurred to me that I had so much more to offer my daughter at the sure-footed age of 40 than I did at, say, 28, when I was still coming into my own.

Fatherhood@Forty: Memoirs of a Gen X Suburban Dad™ is a creative outlet to share my experiences and connect with other (relatively) late-in-life dads.

Here are a few factoids about me, Johnathon Briggs, the editor behind this blog:

  • I’m a former journalist (Los Angeles Times, The Baltimore Sun, Chicago Tribune).
  • I love exploring Chicago and the Midwest with my family.
  • I remain on a constant quest to stay fit.
  • I support charities that fight HIV, uplift families affected by incarceration, and ensure African American boys graduate from college.
  • I’m a comic book geek (mostly Marvel, but a bit of DC and Image Comics).
  • I’m a child of the ‘80s, so please expect occasional references to the Golden Age of Hip-Hop.

As a reporter for daily newspapers, I had the opportunity to interview fascinating people and to test out great products and brands for my readers. I hope to do the same for you as I blog about the moments that make up this adventure called fatherhood.

Feel free to tweet (@fatherhoodforty) or email ([email protected]) me if you’d like to collaborate or have ideas for a blog post.

Father on,

P.S. Check out The Art of Conversation podcast interview I did with Art Eddy from Life of Dad.

 


Disclaimer: Fatherhood@Forty may contain affiliate marketing links, which may result in commission on sales of products or services I write about. My editorial content is not influenced by advertisers or affiliate partnerships. This disclosure is provided in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR § 255.5: Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

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About

Few may know this, but twice as many dads of newborns today are now in the 40-plus age group, compared to the 1970s. Six weeks before my 40th birthday, I became a first-time father, hence the title of this blog.

This life-changing moment made me think about my own dad, who became a father at 43. As my parenthood journey unfolded, I noticed that most of my friends had become parents earlier in life yet, here I was, changing diapers and battling sleep deprivation at (nearly) 40. I told my wife, “Parenting is definitely a young man’s game.” But is it really?

Where most of my friends were preparing for their children’s middle and high school graduations, I was mastering the art of the swaddle, perfecting the one-hand baby wipe, and learning to decipher my daughter’s gurgles and whimpers. It occurred to me that I had so much more to offer my daughter at the sure-footed age of 40 than I did at, say, 28, when I was still coming into my own.

Fatherhood@Forty: Memoirs of a Gen X Suburban Dad™ is a creative outlet to share my experiences and connect with other (relatively) late-in-life dads.

Here are a few factoids about me, Johnathon Briggs, the editor behind this blog:

  • I’m a former journalist (Los Angeles Times, The Baltimore Sun, Chicago Tribune).
  • I love exploring Chicago and the Midwest with my family.
  • I remain on a constant quest to stay fit.
  • I support charities that fight HIV, uplift families affected by incarceration, and ensure African American boys graduate from college.
  • I’m a comic book geek (mostly Marvel, but a bit of DC and Image Comics).
  • I’m a child of the ‘80s, so please expect occasional references to the Golden Age of Hip-Hop.

As a reporter for daily newspapers, I had the opportunity to interview fascinating people and to test out great products and brands for my readers. I hope to do the same for you as I blog about the moments that make up this adventure called fatherhood.

Feel free to tweet (@fatherhoodforty) or email ([email protected]) me if you’d like to collaborate or have ideas for a blog post.

Father on,

P.S. Check out The Art of Conversation podcast interview I did with Art Eddy from Life of Dad.

 


Disclaimer: Fatherhood@Forty may contain affiliate marketing links, which may result in commission on sales of products or services I write about. My editorial content is not influenced by advertisers or affiliate partnerships. This disclosure is provided in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR § 255.5: Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.
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