Being an au pair in the USA is an incredible, once-in-a-lifetime experience—but, just like any other gap year or work abroad opportunity, it comes with its fair share of stress. That’s why it’s so crucial for au pairs who are caring for children in the USA to practice self-care.
What’s self-care, you ask? Well, it can mean different things to different people. Self-care is a concept that spans your mental, physical, emotional, and even spiritual health—and when done regularly, it can improve your life and help you be a better, more clear-headed, and happier version of yourself.
At its simplest, self-care is taking care of oneself in ways that are most needed. Feeling tired and run-down? Take a nap, or a relaxing bubble bath. Anxious thoughts got you down? Try meditation, or some deep breathing. Sore back and trouble sleeping? Go for a walk!
We’ve compiled our favorite forms of self-care, and how they can be helpful for au pairs living across the USA. Whether you’re busy taking care of your host kids, feeling a little sad because you miss home, or even just in need of a new way to stay healthy, these tips can come in handy.
Breathing. It’s one of our most basic human functions—it’s how we stay alive! Yet people forget how important it is to our mental and physical health to stop every now and then and simply breathe. When you’re feeling overwhelmed or anxious, pause what you’re doing and take a couple of deep breaths. We promise, it will make things better.
For a deep breathing exercise, try this: Slowly inhale through your nose for a full count of 4. Fill your lungs. Now hold the air in your lungs for another 4 counts. After holding for 4, exhale the air through your mouth for another count of 4. Then hold still for a full count of 4 without inhaling or exhaling. Repeat this pattern a few times, and feel free to make audible exhale noises—it’ll feel good! This exercise should clear your mind, slow your heart rate and help you reset so you can return to what you were doing feeling refreshed.
You’ve probably heard this time and again—but there’s a reason why exercise is such a tried and true form of physical and mental therapy. Working out releases endorphins, keeps your body happy, and keeps your mental state focused. It even helps you sleep better!
Whatever form of exercise you prefer will do the trick. Like going for long runs outside? Go for it! Big fan of lifting weights? Hit the gym or—if you want to work out at home—grab household objects that you can train with. Looking for something a little more soothing? Try taking a yoga class! If you’re trying to save money or are looking for a way to practice from the comfort of your living room, there are some great online classes you can take. Namaste!
Another way to maintain proper physical and mental health is to pay close attention to the foods you eat. Consuming too many processed foods or sugars can give you headaches, make you feel lethargic, and demotivate you to exercise or practice other forms of self-care.
Be sure to eat lots of vegetables, good sources of protein, fruits, and healthy carbohydrates. Try to eat a balanced diet, full of whole foods; and consume processed foods, desserts and other “treats” in moderation. Don’t deprive yourself of delicious experiences! But give your body fuel for your days and take good care of it—it’s the only one you’ve got!
If you feel like your mind is constantly running away with itself, and like you’re consumed by thoughts sometimes, don’t worry—it happens to almost everyone at some point in our lives. In our modern society, as we are immersed in a culture of TV, smart phones, internet, social media and more, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and overstimulated by people and things.
A great way to center yourself? Meditation. It’s the practice of clearing your mind, breathing deeply, and being mindful—focusing on one particular thought, activity, or object. People find meditation to be a great way to stay present, live in the moment, and not be overrun by anxious thought patterns. For some great guided meditations, we recommend Headspace!
Writing can help organize and process your thoughts, feelings, and emotions in a healthy and constructive way. One really popular way to do that is through journaling! Many people find that keeping a daily diary helps them manage their lives—not only in a logistical sense, but in an emotional and even spiritual one as well!
There are journals out there that prompt you to write as little as one line a day; others are filled with hundreds of pages that you’re free to fill with your inner thoughts and doodles. Whatever form of journaling you go for, remember that consistency is key. When you keep a diary for an extended period of time consistently, you’ll start to see it as a therapeutic activity—and when you go back to read your entries, you’ll notice important patterns and milestones emerging! It’s a great way to promote personal growth.
If you want to get your thoughts, feelings, and emotions out—but aren’t into journaling—then we recommend talking frequently with your loved ones. Whether they’re friends you’ve made here in the USA, your natural family and friends back home, your host family, or even your LCC, hopping on the phone or on a video chat can be a real mood-lifter.
Most importantly, maintaining relationships is an important form of self-care because feeling close to our loved ones brings us joy, peace, and contentment. Humans are at their best when they feel like they’re part of a community—after all, it’s how we’re biologically wired! So the next time you need to de-stress, call up your mom or your bestie. Hop on a video chat and just talk about your days. The feeling of connection will do wonders.
There is a certain kind of beauty in treating oneself to a special thing or experience. It’s, dare we say, an art form. Think of it this way: Treating yourself is loving yourself so much that you are willing to invest in your short-term and long-term happiness. You are delighted and eager to add a dose of something special to your life. Life is short—we should enjoy it!
There are countless ways to treat yourself based on your budget and your tastes, but it can be anything from a new outfit, to take-out from your favorite restaurant. A hot cup of tea, to a face mask. Baking cookies, to marathoning your favorite TV show. If you can find joy in it, then allow yourself to bask in it. If it’ll make you smile, then it’s 100% worth it.
There’s an old saying: It’s impossible to be sad when you’re grateful. You know what? It’s true. Practicing gratitude is a fool-proof way to focus on what’s really important in life. It brings you back down to earth, and forces you to recognize all the things you’re blessed to have. Family. Friends. A warm home. Food on the table. Your health. Your happiness.
A great way to practice gratitude is by keeping a gratitude journal. Start a note in your phone, or grab a diary and write in there. Every day, write down 1, 2, or even 3 things you’re grateful for in your life. And don’t stop there. Encourage those around you to practice gratitude, too. If more people embraced an “attitude of gratitude,” the world would undoubtedly be filled with happier, more content folks. Identifying and celebrating the things we do have keeps us from thinking about anything we don’t have.
Here, we’ll go first: Here at Cultural Care Au Pair, we’re grateful for you! And for coffee. Lots and lots of coffee.
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