Being a parent is both a pleasure and if we’re honest, exhausting at times. There’s the unspeakable joy in watching your heart beat outside your chest as your children grow and develop their unique personalities. On the other hand, there’s also the pressure to create a happy and happy home. If you’re working outside the home, there’s the added pressure of work, looking after your aging parent, and a host of tasks and responsibilities on your to-do list. You’re always putting the needs of others before your own. But this can be detrimental to your mental health and overall well-being. Here are a few things you can do to prioritise your mental health as a parent.
Understanding mental health
According to the World Health Organization, mental health is “a state of mental well-being that enables people to cope with the stresses of life, realize their abilities, learn well and work well, and contribute to their community”. Mental health is a basic human right and it underpins an individual’s well-being, and ability to make decisions and build strong and healthy relationships. Each person experiences mental health differently and in varying degrees with different outcomes.
Moms, dads, and carers shoulder a lot of responsibility. A lack of support or inability to manage the stresses of being a parent can make an individual experience mental health issues and a lower sense of well-being.
Factors affecting parental mental health
There is not one cause attributed to causing mental health issues. Each person responds to situations and circumstances differently but there are some overarching issues that affect parental mental health. These and many other factors contribute to poor mental health in parents.
- The residual effects of the covid-19 lockdown
- Ill health of family members (aging parents, siblings, children)
- Work pressure
- Financial instability or loss of income
- Being unable to work
- Relational challenges
- Putting others first at the expense of their own needs and well-being
Impact on parents’ mental health
Parenting requires a lot of time and sacrifice. It comes with its fair of challenges that have an impact not on their mental well-being, but that of their children and families. In certain cases, parents who struggle with their mental health can experience difficulties in looking after the physical and emotional well-being of their child/ren. In extreme cases, this can be a prolonged period.
An interesting concept about how to balance work and family life. We are all juggling balls in the air. Some of these balls are plastic (and will bounce back when dropped). Other balls are made of glass (and will break if dropped). What you need to do is decide which of the balls you’re juggling are plastic and which are made of glass. If you drop a plastic ball (cleaning the house), it’s okay. You can tackle the pile of dishes in the sink tomorrow. If you drop self-care (making time for your mental health), the consequences can be detrimental. Decide what’s most important and take care of that first.
Tips to improve your mental health
An often not spoken fact about mental health is the importance of putting a spotlight on it – talking about it and your personal challenges. And seeking help. Here are a few other helpful steps you can take to improve your mental health.
As a parent, we want to be strong for our children. We tend to hide negative emotions and put on a perfect exterior. We do this with the hope that we’re protecting our child/ren, but instead, it often ends up with children not being about to communicate freely when they experience negative emotions or sentiments.
What you should do instead is be honest and open about your feelings so that you can explain to your children it’s normal to have such emotions and why they may be feeling low.
Added to that, you should also talk to your partner, friends, family member, or therapist. Talk therapy releases bottled emotions, provides you with a safe space to share your feelings, and gives you tools to help you work through your emotions.
- Create a support network
A lot of times, we as parents live under the impression that we can do it alone. We are superheroes who want to do it all. The truth is, no man is an island, and we were not designed to do this life thing alone. We need support. It’s important to have a strong and reliable support network that you can call on. These are the people who can give you the practical and emotional support you need when the load gets too heavy, and you feel overwhelmed.
- Get physical
Getting physical doesn’t mean you should spend hours in the gym. This can be as simple as making time every day to take a 30-minute walk outside (take the kids along if you can). Go outside. Take in nature. Breathe in the fresh air. And for that set time, you are away from the noise of things that need to get done and you can clear your head. Other activities to consider are swimming, jogging, taking a yoga or pilates class, or even dancing. Whatever you choose to do, get your body moving and your happy hormones running through your bloodstream.
- Pursue your passions
As parents, we often feel guilty about making time to do things that make us happy. When we have children, we put our dreams and passions to the side and focus all our attention on the kids and family. No matter how old you get, or how busy life is, we must be intentional about pursuing our passions and doing things that make us feel alive and bring us joy. Pursuing your passions, albeit not always to the same degree as before you had children, is an outlet. These help you not lose sight of yourself and your dreams (these may have just changed). Spending time on your passion will not only make you feel good about yourself, but it will be an example to your children that self-care is an important part of parenthood, and of course. Finally, the joy this brings you will improve your mental health.
This list is by no means exhaustive. It’s important to remember as a parent that no two homes are alike. We are all different. With different needs, challenges, skills, commitments, and family structures. What works for one person’s family won’t necessarily work for yours. Therefore, it’s important to look at your setup and make changes that will suit you and your family. It’s also important to remember that no matter what it looks like on the outside, no family is perfect.
- Get organised.
- Learn a new skill or take up a new hobby.
- Learn to say “no”. (It’s a full sentence).
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, measure your mental health and well-being today on our free mental health check-up assessment to live a happier, healthier, and more productive life tomorrow!
As it’s often said, “you can’t pour from an empty cup”. It’s just as important for you as a parent to invest in your mental health.