Are you feeling stressed out? Isn’t this time of year when families and friends come together to celebrate special holidays and connect supposed to be a time of joy and peace? Then why are so many people out there feeling stressed out, short-tempered and run down?

A key ingredient for success is to make an unwavering commitment to your own self-care. Practicing meaningful self-care can be a hard challenge, especially for those of us who get so much joy and passion from offering our services and wisdom in a desire to make a difference in the world somehow.

I remember learning the lesson of taking self-care seriously when I was going through my divorce years ago. I realized that ignoring my needs and pushing myself to my limits wasn’t helping me make clear decisions for my future and for being the mom I wanted to be for my three children. In my award-winning book, The 7 Pitfalls of Single Parenting: What to Avoid to Help Your Children Thrive after Divorce, I coined this phenomenon “going for the martyr medal.” You get so preoccupied and consumed with making sure everyone else is taken care of first, that your own needs fall by the wayside.

If you are trying to capture a medal for being a self-sacrificing martyr, I have some news for you. There are no medals for martyrs. The International Olympic Committee is not adding it to their event list anytime soon. Nobody, particularly your children, will come to you at some point in the future and say, “I appreciate how much you sacrificed your own health and well-being for us – and how you let us know about it all along the way!”

Your commitment to self-care is one of the most important gifts you can give yourself – and your children. Here are some strategies to get you started.

1. Give Yourself Five Minutes a Day
Self-care doesn’t have to be big, fancy, expensive or time-consuming. Carve out at least 5 minutes a day to breathe, become still, let yourself daydream or sing along to your favorite tune. Imagine that each breath you take is refueling and grounding you.

2. Find Emotional Support
It’s always great to ensure you have the support of like-minded and like-spirited friends. If you hit a bump in the road, draw upon your support network. If the challenge you face is particularly tough, like going through a divorce, a downsizing or health issue, tap into people who have specialized experience in that area. Getting strong emotional support structures in place upfront will save you time and heartache in your healing journey.

3. Delegate as Much as Possible
When you’re feeling stress, stop and assess everything you have piled on your plate. Are there any responsibilities you have now that you can delegate or defer to someone else so you can give yourself some time off? Bulk up your babysitters and repair person lists. Make progress, not perfection, your goal.

4. Appreciate Yourself
A big reason people become self-sacrificing martyrs is because they are really seeking acknowledgement and appreciation. There is a much more reliable way to get that 24/7 which is by acknowledging yourself. Celebrate each and every accomplishment, new insight and decision you make. Writing them down in a self-appreciation journal will help make your progress more tangible and clear.

5. Be a Role Model for Your Children
Parents under stress often make the mistake of trying to keep a stiff upper lip around their children. Yet parents are powerful role models for their children. Children experience stress too. Remember, they will do what you do, not what you say.

Help build some healthy habits by teaching your children how to manage their own stress. You can start by naming the feelings you’re having. Share that “Mommy is feeling overloaded right now.” Next, ask yourself what you need to do in that moment to take care of yourself. Demonstrate this with your children by saying “Daddy needs to take a five minute break to collect my thoughts.” Taking responsibility for your feelings and your self-care is a powerful legacy to leave your children.

Author's Bio: 

Success Strategist, coach and best-selling author, Carolyn B. Ellis, is the founder of Thrive After Divorce, created for divorced people who want to stop struggling and start thriving. To get free tips on every aspect of living through a divorce, from legal issues to single parenting to getting back into the dating world, visit You can join Carolyn at