The demands of day-to-day life can create stress, which in turn can lead to mental health difficulties and result in parents and carers feeling as though they are unable to cope. With the return to school looming large and the cost of living crisis hitting a lot of families hard, it is important, that we can manage how we respond to events in life.
For many parents and carers, the idea of self-care and of taking some well-deserved ‘you’ time can seem like an alien concept. Parents and carers often worry that if they take some time out for themselves they are being selfish. To the contrary, it is important that parents and carers continue to explore and engage their own passions and interests where possible. This can help to ensure your identity as an individual remains intact – and happy parents often make for happier kids.
Taking time out for yourself by choosing to, for example, go for a walk, take a bath, catch up with a friend, or pursue your interests, sends a very positive message to your child/ren about the importance of taking care of yourself. Role modelling positive self-care also demonstrates to your child a powerful strategy for managing any stress they might experience. How we react to stress will influence how our children react to stress.
We can all feel pressure at different times in our lives. Having responsibility for a child or children can present extra challenges to a parent or carer’s mental health. These challenges may include worry, fear, a lack of knowledge, a feeling of being overwhelmed, loneliness and more.
Each stage of parenting brings with it its own set of demands. When children are infants, parents and carers experience sleepless nights due to teething or any other number of issues. When children grow into teenagers and gain a degree of independence, parents and carers may experience sleepless nights until their children return from discos and late-night socialising.
Social media and how we interact with it can have a big influence on how we view ourselves. While many parents and carers find parenting blogs and social media influencers (who share their experience of parenting) beneficial, some may find themselves negatively comparing themselves and their parenting abilities. Remember that challenges associated with life and parenting can be under-represented by influencers who wish to present content which is purely positive.
It is important to know that support is available to any parent, carer or individual who may find life, or parenting, overwhelming and may experience stress, or mental health difficulties. Further support and information is available at www.yourmentalhealth.ie. If you are concerned about your mental health, contact your GP for an individual consultation.
Top Tips for Minding Your Mental Health
Get enough sleep: When we are not fully rested, it is more difficult for us to manage our emotions. Our response to daily challenges and things that would not normally annoy or irritate us could mean we find it more difficult to cope.
Eat healthily: At times of stress, we might lose our appetite while others reach for the sugary snacks. This is because stress affects our hormones and this in turn influences what we choose to eat. Try to make healthy choices and eat regularly.
Relax regularly: you may be a parent, but you are still you. Your role as a parent is just one aspect of your life. Rest and relaxation is good for the soul as well as the body. For some people, relaxing might involve taking some time out to read a book, take a bath or practice some yoga or meditation exercises
Exercise: this releases endorphins, which make us feel in better form. People who exercise regularly can experience benefits including a boost in their mood. Taking exercise can be as simple as going for a 30-minute walk.
Join a social club: Feeling connected with other people can help us to feel a sense of solidarity. Joining a club may not be for everyone. If it’s not for you, why not explore other ways to help you feel socially connected – such as meeting a friend for coffee?
Keep in touch with friends and family: there is truth in the proverb that ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’. Having a friend or family member who will listen to you and support you can help you to realise that you are not alone.
This article was contributed by a member of Parenting Limerick.