Table of Contents
- What is self care?
- Why dads need it
- Is it selfish?
- How it helps
- Dad’s Final Thoughts
Self care isn’t just for Dads, it’s for everyone.
Whether you’re a Dad, Mom, Grandparent, with kids, without kids — prioritizing your mental health is as important as your physical health. And let’s be honest, there’s too much overlap and reliance on both mental and physical health to segment them out anymore. People need to prioritize BOTH.
With that said, my mission is focused on high-achieving Dads. And these types of dudes, absolutely without question, need to prioritize self care. If not, we’ll just grind all day every day until we burn out, snap, or slip into the abyss of the unknown.
What is Self Care
Let’s first define “self care”, as it has become quite the trendy term and grown quickly in interest since 2014.
Per The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), self-care means “taking the time to do things that help you live well and improve both your physical health and mental health.”
I love the “live well” part of that description because ultimately that’s what we’re all trying to do here.
Verywell Health takes a slightly different approach and suggests the main goal of self-care is to prevent or control disease. Well, yeah, that makes sense as diseases drastically reduce quality of life and many times, unfortunately, take your life.
Why Dads need Self Care
This may seem like a dumb question, but let’s address why dads need self care.
I think dads, especially those high achievers, put a lot of pressure on themselves to do everything well. That includes their profession, business(es), at home with their spouse and kids, hobbies, and other social commitments (friends, volunteering, etc.).
We want the strength of Mufasa, the kind heart of Ted Lasso, and the protective instincts of Brian Mills from Taken.
In a world where responsibilities and expectations often seem never-ending, it’s easy for dads to neglect their own well-being while focusing on everything else.
Is Dad’s self care, selfish?
Put your oxygen mask on first, then help your kids?
Let’s debunk the idea that self care is selfish.
Self-care is not a form of selfish indulgence. Self care benefits you and everyone in your life (especially your wife & kids!) As long as your self care is not taking a constant “me, me, me” approach and has good intentions in caring for yourself to help you be your best, you have complete justification.
Is golfing every Saturday from 8 am to 5 pm while your wife is at home with the kids, self-care? Umm, probably not. Is a carefully planned few hours of self-care activities, every weekend, more appropriate? Probably. There’s no perfect science here, but be reasonable and communicate — especially with your wife!
How Self Care helps Dads
I believe there are 4 core areas where Dads benefit the most from self care.
- Emotional Resilience. Dads need to manage stress, anxiety, and emotional fatigue. Busting your top and yelling at your kids may have detrimental long-term effects.
- Modeling Behavior. What Dad doesn’t want to be a role model to his own kids? When your kids watch you remedy stress with positive responses (ice baths, long walks, breathing), you are modeling healthy habits.
- Healthy Relationships. When dad is mentally and emotionally balanced, they communicate better and support their loved ones better.
- Physical well-being. Kids require stamina and strength. And as they grow, the demand only increases — those who practice rough and tumble play with their kids get it. Be active with your kids and STAY active as they age.
Now that we know what self-care is for dads, why it isn’t selfish, and how it’s beneficial, let me share some ideas on how dads can practice self care.
14 Ideas for Self Care for Dads
You’ll find many sources suggest that basic psychological needs such as “drinking more water” or “getting more sleep” is a form of self-care.
I’m not denying restorative sleep and hydration help with mental health. In fact, both of those things made my healthy dad goals and should be daily habits. However, they are not necessarily tactics to nurture you back to a normal state if you are feeling stressed, need a break, or are at your breaking point.
My goal here is to provide you with self care ideas that may not be top-of-mind, stretch you a little, and provide fresh ideas if you need new tactics.
With that said, here are 14 ways dads can practice self care.
- Get outside & walk
- Smoke Cigar
- Listen to Bob Segar
- Nose Breathing
- Eat clean for 24 hours
- 16/8 Intermittent Fast
- Get a Haircut
- Beer with Friend
- Visit Sports Recovery Room
- Cold Therapy
- Find a way to Laugh
- Watch a 80s Action Movie
1. Get outside and walk
At least a mile. Not around the block. Not to the park around the corner. You need to get outside, move your damn body for longer than a few minutes, and walk off the tension. Oh, and don’t bring your phone.
2. Smoke a cigar
I know this self-care tactic isn’t for all, but when I need Dad time this does the trick. Here’s a beginner’s guide to cigars, I’m a big fan of Rocky Patel. Pair it with your fave cocktail, sunset, and Bob Segar — it may be just what you need to reset.
3. Listen to Bob Segar
Nostalgia has power, man. Science proves it.
There’s something about listening to Segar’s Like a Rock. It brings me back to good memories of the past (mainly High School days), which in a way helps settle my nerves about the present. Funny how that works.
I was 18, didn’t have a care
Working for peanuts, not a dime to spare
But I was lean and solid everywhere
Like a rock
Segar has a few songs on my “Cigars & Bourbon” Spotify playlist, shared below!
4. Breath in/out of your nose for 1 minute
If your self care is limited to a few minutes, which sometimes that’s all you have some days, focusing on re-setting your breath may be the most time-efficient self-care tactic you can practice. Do it at a stop light, while on the john, or wherever — this is simple.
Nose breathing promotes a “rest-and-digest” state, which can help us move through stressful situations with calm and resilience.
5. Stretch for 5-10 minutes
Stretching is for more than just injury prevention. It’s also for your brain, it’ll help you feel relaxed because it increases your body’s levels of serotonin.
I’ll admit that stretching has always been a reactive thing for me rather than a proactive one. When a muscle feels sore, tight, or “just ain’t right” — I stretch. Outside of that, it’s limited but I know I need to change that to help with my own self care.
6. Eat clean for 24 hours
Feeling lethargic? Frustrated? “Off”? Reset your gut and eat clean for at least 24 hours. This means:
- whole foods (avoid anything processed)
- at least 100g of quality protein
- no sugar
- no alcohol
- water and salt
Do it and see what happens to your mood, energy, and focus. The Brain-Gut connection is real.
7. 16/8 Intermittent Fast
Not only will eating clean help your brain-gut connection, but fasting for 16 hours may be the self-care your body needs. This isn’t difficult guys. Simply stop eating at 8 pm, then wait till Noon the next day to eat again. Drink water in the evening, and black coffee in the morning.
Try this 16/8 intermittent fast so you can reach autophagy (pronounced “ah-TAH-fah-gee”) — your body’s cellular recycling system.
8. Get a haircut
Every man likes the feel of a fresh haircut. Whenever I get a haircut, I like to stack another self-care tactic before or after, such as a chiropractor appointment. In under 60 minutes, I can get a haircut and adjusted. And I feel GREAT afterwards.
9. Have a beer with a friend
Shooting the breeze with a buddy at the local pub or hot spot gets you out of the house, with no agenda, and will help take the edge off. Bonus if that friend also has kids!
10. Visit a Sports Recovery Room
I’m lucky enough to have one of these awesome facilities right down the street from me. They offer infrared saunas, cryotherapy, massages, and NormaTec compression. Your body and mind can benefit greatly from even a half hour session. Compression therapy on your legs, especially if sore, is AMAZING.
11. Cold Therapy
This piggybacks off of the above since most sports recovery rooms offer cryo and/or a cold plunge.
Cold therapy, in particular ice plunges for 10 minutes at home, is one of my go-to self-care tactics when I’m extremely stressed. The brain releases norepinephrine during cold stress — which produces a feeling of calm, happiness, and well-being. When I feel overly stressed, this is #1 on my list of self-care activities. I’m a new Dad as I emerge from the cold water.
Journaling is self care tactic recommended often, and to be honest, it annoys me. I think the focus should be less about journaling, and more about simply WRITING. You can’t deny the process of getting what’s in your head out. Writing will help you make sense of your thoughts. When you’re stressed, you’re not thinking straight.
Here are various ways you can use writing to aid in Dad’s self-care:
- produce digital content (for a website, personal project, etc.)
- write an email you’ll never send (this is a crazy awesome hack to de-stress!)
- create a meme, share it on social or text it to a buddy for laughs
- write a letter to your kids
Something magical happens when you start writing/typing out words.
13. Find a way to Laugh
The question is, which type of laugher are you? 🙂
If you need a good laugh to help with your self care, don’t spend the energy trying to find something new, go to an old faithful. For example, old Chris Farley skits from SNL will 100% of the time get me laughing — this Best of Chris Farley on Amazon is a must-have.
- Pick up a good dad joke book — memorize a few.
- Browse a meme website — if you dig basketball check out Old Man Dunk Contest for hilarious basketball memes.
14. Watch a 80s Action Movie
Get to the chopper!
Sometimes, you just need a mind-numbing-blow-stuff-up-cheesy-one-liner action movie. I’ve been there, we’ve all been there. Pluck anything from this listing of best action movies of the 1980s, but I’d recommend:
Dad’s Final Thoughts
Self care for Dads is really about knowing what works for YOU. But to know what works best, you need to make time for self-care and trial and error tactics.
When I get overly stressed, and things feel out of control, I know cold therapy is a tactic that’ll start to move me back to normalcy. It’s a complete reset. If I compound it with a cigar and some writing — I’ll be renewed and refreshed to tackle dad-hood and its big responsibilities.
Take that self care Dad, don’t feel guilty about it, and be the best possible Dad you can be!
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Can you win at Dadhood AND everywhere else in life? I'm just crazy enough to believe we can. With the right knowledge, hacks, habits, and motivation — we can crush it ALL!
Eric Sharp is the founder of Healthy Dad Hacks. He married the love of his life (Sarah) and proud Dad of a blended family (Hazel & Roman). When not thinking about being a better Dad, he enjoys; CrossFit, entrepreneurship, eating carnivore, learning and writing about his findings, staying loyal to his Chicago Bears, music, and fancy sneakers.
[Picture: Turkey Trot 2021]