We look at the benefits of developing a self-care routine

Once you become a foster parent, your focus in life shifts – your main goal is protecting, comforting, and parenting your foster child. As such, your mind can start to become one-track as you try to meet your foster child’s various needs.

This tunnel vision can lead to feelings of stress and exhaustion – and you may think that’s how parents are supposed to feel. And it is – to a certain degree! However, too much stress and exhaustion can have a negative impact on family life. To combat this, it’s vital you develop a strong self-care routine. It’s not about putting yourself first for the sake of yourself – it’s for the sake of everyone around you, too, especially your foster child.

At Orchard Fostering, we’re aware of the importance of self-care for foster parents – and we’re here to help. Take a look at our self-care suggestions below, and before you know it you’ll be a Zen master!

  1. Practice meditation in your down time

When most people think of meditation, they imagine a wise monk sitting on a misty mountaintop or resting by a babbling brook, letting nature guide them into a higher level of being. The reality is, anyone can meditate – and you can do it anywhere.

It can seem a little intimidating at first – the idea of shutting out your thoughts for any period of time seems alien to most. The skill, however, is easily acquired. There are dozens of apps, websites, and YouTube series available to help with meditation. These are designed to make meditation easily available to everyone.

Once you’ve downloaded your app, or booted up your YouTube video, take a few minutes every day to check in with yourself. It’s incredible what five minutes of meditation can do for your mental wellbeing.

If you’re feeling extra-meditative, you can introduce your foster child to meditation. It’s a skill that will stick with them for life and is a great opportunity for you to bond.

  1. Keep a journal of your thoughts and feelings

Stephen King, author of countless bestsellers, once said that “writing is not life, but I think sometimes it can be a way back to life.” If you’re feeling stressed or exhausted, writing your thoughts and feelings down can help. All you need is a pen and a notebook, and you’re on the way to decompressing.

Keeping a journal can help relax your mind – in particular if you’re having a stressful time. Our tip? Write down three things that made you happy during your day – whether it’s your foster child making you a cup of tea, taking your dog for a walk, or the sun coming out at lunchtime. It’s good to recognise moments of happiness in your life – and writing them down allows you to return to that happy feeling, and realise your day wasn’t totally stressful.

You can also write down a list of your worries – provided you’re willing to write down one concrete action you can take to address those worries, too. Writing gives you the time to process your problem and breaks you out of your regular thinking pattern – exactly what you need when you’re trying to de-stress.

  1. Get some valuable alone time

If you find yourself overwhelmed, try make a daily habit of taking time out to be on your own.  This alone time allows you to reduce stress and centre yourself before continuing on with the rest of your day.

If you can, try and get a solid block of time to yourself – take a bath, do an extended meditation, or read a chapter of your book. While this may seem selfish, it’s really not – you need to exist as yourself, not just as your foster child’s caregiver and foster parent.

If it’s difficult to carve out more than a couple of minutes at a time, try and work your alone time into these briefer moments. Go out to the garden and get some air, have a cup of tea or coffee in the kitchen, or just have a sit down on the edge of your bed. Even these brief moments can offer some much-needed stress relief – sometimes, five minutes it all you have, and all you need.

  1. Maintain your social connections

Keeping in touch with your social sphere is an integral part of a good self-care routine. Without realising, you can find yourself creating distance between your friends when you foster a child – you’re too busy, and so they fall by the wayside. This is understandable, but it pays to maintain these relationships. Meaningful social connection is vital for your mental health – having grown-up friends and grown-up conversations is important for your mental well-being.

If you’re struggling to meet people in person, why not give them a call, or send them a text message? There are also tonnes of hang-out apps available that make chatting in large groups easier to manage – and you don’t even have to leave the house!

If you’re struggling with you mental health, you should reach out to the Samaritans on 116 123, 24/7/365.