Mental Health Wellness
Self-Care for Fathers
Research Associate Professor at The University of Denver, Dad and Advocate for Dads
George Davis V
Dad and Co-Chair of Fathers Building Futures at Clayton Early Learning
Dads don’t have warning lights like your dashboard.
Any of these warning lights on for you?
- I know my eating, sleep, energy and/or focus is off
- I’m avoiding family and friends, even if not sure why
- I never take breaks, there seems no way to justify the time
- Work, family time, and other social connections are noticeably less enjoyable
- I haven’t seen a doctor in a long time, I’m ignoring the health problems I have
- My attention span is shot, I seem only focused on escaping the stress
- I know how much my drinking/smoking is catching up with me
- I feel guilty all the time that I’m not doing enough in any area of my life
- I’m way more easily frustrated, gruff with my family than I want to be
- I wake up dreading the day rather than having things to look forward to
- I just feel drained, I don’t have much left in the tank to deal with life
If you had glaring light on the dash of your truck, you wouldn’t just ignore it until you were stranded. You’re not surprised when your team’s coach sees his team is winded and calls a time-out.
Why is calling a dad-time out or focusing on self-care so foreign for dads?
George Davis V of Fathers Building Futures at Clayton Early Learning describes dads running thin in another way:
“I am in my work-boots all day. If it were up to me, I’d wear them through the soles to be sure to provide for my kids. Most dads would. But my wife reminded me, ‘you’re wearing those boots for us’. If you don’t take care of your boots (yourself), you can’t take care of us!”
Reasons dads avoid self-care include – stigma, avoidance, and barriers, oh my!
- Self-care is just for the ladies, going to the spa with cucumbers on your eyes and all that
- It’s just a bunch of “woo-woo”
- It’s too expensive
- I don’t have time
- It’s for guys who don’t have to work
It is hard for many dads to be open to focusing on themselves.
George summed it up as –
“Lots of dads are going through lots of things. They really need help too. Small changes can help. For example, it only takes a moment to be mindful, to notice and soak in how much your children grow because of and learn from you. Reflecting on that is powerful! It puts a smile on my face and warm feeling in my heart. Nothing refills me like that.”
To really be there for your partner and your kids, learn to tune-in to you – mind, body and soul.
- Regularly finding a way to call a time-out for yourself
- Regularly re-fueling yourself
- Letting go of things that reduce your wellness
Self-care is not:
- Being selfish or self-indulgent (unless that’s all you focus on)
- Just something you’ll do later
Just like you wouldn’t take your car to a mechanic who only works on electric buses, you are the only expert on your self-care needs. Pick a few items from the menu below to focus on each month and see how you become a better dad for it.
Areas on a Dad Self-Care Menu
- Relationships –
- These are the make it or break it part of a guy’s life.
- Invest in those connections that bring you value.
- Trim-out those relationships that bring pain or take-away more than they provide in return.
- Resets & Reboots –
- Your computer needs it, so do you! Schedule 30-minutes each week to declutter, organize, clean and re-balance to prioritize what is truly important to you. Please recycle the rest.
- Sleep & Rest –
- Rest can be momentary – when you arrive, turn off your car and just breathe for 30-seconds.
- Routines – Adequate sleep restores your body, mind and soul. Are you unplugging in time to get your full charge? Try an earlier bedtime for 7 days – how would that feel?
- Tune-In to your Body –
- Address your pain – Something been hurting for a long time? Get it checked-out! What if some simple physical therapy exercises could make it go away? At least, get it addressed before it gets worse.
- S-T-R-E-T-C-H. Takes just seconds. No equipment or membership needed.
- Increase your heart rate for 30-minutes, 3-4 times a week. Walk the track at school a few minutes before you pick the kids up; go up the stairs three times more than you need to; walk the dog up some hills – it all works!
- Mini-workouts – There are lots of free exercise routines that you can do in-place, at work, or while you wait for the other guy to finish his part so you can work on yours.
- Monster-Dad time. George get’s his exercise and practices mindfulness at the park!
“Chasing the kids around the playground while growling and grunting makes me breathe really hard and I just forget about everything else that was on my mind!”
- Feed Your Mind –
- Practice simply clearing your thoughts. Mindfulness is not achieving Zen, it’s the practice of trying to create a clear mind – you can’t fail! If mindful practice in-place doesn’t work, try nature or walking meditations.
- Shift your stimulation – You might feel refreshed by simply changing things up! For a week, eat a plant-based diet, like the pro-athletes do. Walk or drive a different way to work each day.
- Keep Growing –
- Find a way each month to grow as: an individual, a man, a son, a partner, and a dad.
- Invest a little time in your interests and hobbies – you like it and you’re good at it, keep it going!
- Cleanse to Feed Your Emotions and Your Heart –
- Letting go – Is it time to stop carrying all that negative baggage around with you? Release the event/guilt/shame/negative event with a saying or ritual. If it’s trauma and it just won’t let you go – a professional can help you integrate and release those experiences, even the hard ones.
- Letting in – Breathe in the positivity. Allow yourself to let your guard down and be loved by family and trusted friends. Allow your allies to help you achieve your goals.
- Spiritual/Soul –
- Inner connection. Simply reflecting on your experiences with spirituality or the universal energy of life can bring you new energy and ideas.
- Shared connections. Find a spiritual community that fits you and emphasizes mutual support.