7 ways to improve your health as a single parent

As single parents our needs are always at the end of the queue. Many times we try to run on empty without caring for ourselves. Think of your car. Your car needs to be taken care of, or it won’t go anywhere! It needs to be filled with petrol (all too frequently!), the tyres have to be pumped and it needs to be serviced. You are no different. You won’t be able to care for your children if you don’t refuel and care for yourself. Therefore we need to understand the nature of our health and learn to look after ourselves better.

dad & child at beacj Danielle McInnes health OT resize 6

The following 7 ways to improve your health may be of benefit to you. As with all things health, there is always the disclaimer –  if symptoms persist see your doctor.

Definition of health

Health is more than the absence of disease. The World Health Organization includes physical, mental and social wellbeing in their definition of health. My favourite definition is from my nursing dictionary which says health is a ‘dynamic process in which the individual is actively engaged in moving toward fulfilling his or her potential’ 1

It says health is a dynamic process; it is fluid and changing. It is not obtained once for life but you need to keep working on it. The individual is ‘actively engaged’ in pursuit of health. You need to be involved and responsible for your own health. The purpose of health is to fulfil your potential.

I am writing this post not as a health or lifestyle guru, but from the combined perspective of my working life as a nurse with a speciality in chronic condition management, and a person who lives with a chronic condition and daily practices strategies to manage my health so I can achieve my purpose in life. I am also a single parent and know the battle of self-care versus caring for the kids.

How healthy are you?

Most of us are aware of our physical health. The awareness is usually heightened only when things go wrong. Many single parents including me skimp on physical care being too busy (or too lazy!) to exercise, not eating properly, stressed out and not relaxing, and covering emotional pain with addictions (mine is chocolate).

However, there are five areas of health you need to care for yourself in and find a balance between them all: relational, physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional.

  • Physical health
  • Spiritual health – provides hope and meaning for life
  • Relational health – your connection to others
  • Emotional health – your reaction to the stresses of life
  • Mental health – encompasses your self-esteem and your thinking processes

To determine how you are doing in these areas click here to print out an assessment sheet to complete.

Another assessment tool is the Model for Healthy Living Assessment Wheel in the resources below.

7 ways to improve your health

  1. Take a step to improve your spiritual health. Deal with any negative emotions. Do something that makes your soul sing.  If you are a Christian connect with God.
  2. Take a step to improve your relational health. Know who you are and what you want from a relationship. Be reciprocal although this can be difficult as a single parent (see the Together section).  Commit to connecting with others.
  3. Take a step to improve your mental health. Improve your self-esteem. Monitor and control your thought life. Choose what influences you and choose how you react to circumstances and people.
  4. Take a step for your emotional health. Deal with emotions such as anger, depression and fear, firstly admitting you have them. Try journaling as way of releasing your feelings onto paper to help you sort through and identify them and express your hurts without lashing out at others. Talk to someone, either a friend or a professional counsellor.  Learn specific strategies.
  5. Take a step for your physical health. You are probably overloaded with information on exercise and nutrition from which you can choose a step. Or you can look for ways to bring rest and relaxation to reverse the stress response in your life and schedule them into your calendar: a massage, meditation, prayer, warm bath. Maybe a date with yourself!
  6. Take a step to ensure you care for all areas of your health and have balance between them. Don’t just focus on what is easy or what dominates your life.
  7. Take a step to balance between caring for others and caring for yourself. This is one of the most difficult things as a single parent when most of your time and energy flows towards your children. This may mean learning how to use boundaries and limits, or sharing the load with someone else, or taking time to invest in self care.

Putting legs on it

Take one step.  And don’t forget to laugh and have fun.

Download a 20 plus paged Self-care Pack by clicking on the button below



Model for Healthy Living


1. Miller, B.F. and Keane, C.B. (1987) Encyclopedia and dictionary of medicine, nursing, and allied health – fourth edition. B. Saunders Company, U.S.A, , p542

Photo credit: Danielle McInnes www.unsplash.com



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