Whether it's driving, cooking, or even judging, parents take on many daily responsibilities every day for their children. However, over the last couple of, it feels increasingly more difficult than ever to fulfill these roles. In fact, according to the American Psychological Association, 46% of parents are stressed as a result of the pandemic.
Thankfully, even in the midst of uncertainty, you can take care of your own and your family's well-being.
1. Schedule time for yourself.
Considering all our duties and priorities, this is very difficult to accomplish. Some of us may even find it impossible. However, just as on airplanes, it is critical to put on your own oxygen mask first before helping someone else.
By scheduling time for self-care, we can better care for others, and it's one of the most effective ways to do that. You should set aside some time for yourself each day to read or relax, take a daily work break, or rotate tasks with a partner to give each other a break.
Even if you’re crunched for time, there are some bite-sized activities you can do daily. For example, going for a brisk 10-minute after lunch or just sitting in your car and catching your breath before picking the kids up from school.
2. Talk about your feelings.
Stressful emotions are normal for parents. But, instead of bottling up these emotions, you must talk about them.
“Suppressing your emotions, whether it’s anger, sadness, grief, or frustration, can lead to physical stress on your body. The effect is the same, even if the core emotion differs,” says provisional clinical psychologist Victoria Tarratt. “We know that it can affect blood pressure, memory, and self-esteem.”
The longer the exposure, the greater the risk of diabetes and heart disease, adds Tarratt. Additionally, avoiding emotions can also “lead to problems with memory, aggression, anxiety, and depression”.
What’s more, by not acknowledging our emotions, we're actually strengthening them, according to a study from the University of Texas.
“For example, you might be angry at your brother and after stewing in your anger, not saying a thing, you could encourage an emotional outburst,” says Tarratt.
“So when you’re driving the car a few weeks later and someone cuts you off, you can get all-out road rage, causing an accident. That explosion and overreaction to a situation is your body’s way of releasing that pent-up emotion.”
To alleviate some of your emotional burdens contact a friend who makes you laugh or a family member who offers sound advice. And, if you're comfortable, you can seek professional assistance.
3. Keep a routine.
Maintaining a daily routine gives everyone a sense of security because they know what to expect and can feel more in control. But, don't overwhelm yourself. Start small. For example, getting up at the same time every day, eating at the same time every day, or taking a walk every day. To make the day seem more manageable, you could break it down into small tasks.
You can also take the pressure off by planning your activities. Make planning the week ahead a family affair by involving the kids. For instance, have them help you create a monthly family calendar so that everyone is on the same page.
4. Accept that you are doing a good enough job as a parent.
You may need to adjust your expectations for yourself right now, whether you are dealing with your child's screen time or how you plan meals with your family. It's all right. Use this moment to demonstrate the importance of keeping a balance instead of being too hard on yourself.
Going forward, make the effort to not set unrealistic goals for yourself and your children.
5. Prioritize bedtime.
“Parents often treat their children’s bedtime routines with great respect but then neglect their own,” says Carlene MacMillan, MD, a Harvard-trained psychiatrist and founder of Brooklyn Minds. Sleep deprivation lowers our mood and “is a recipe for increased stress for everyone in the household,” she points out.
A simple bedtime routine can be created by following these steps:
Screens should emit less blue light, since “blue light tells your brain it is time to be awake,” MacMillan says. Blue-light filters can be downloaded or configured in each device's settings. “You can also get smart bulbs for your bedroom that eliminate blue light at night and emit more of it during the morning,” or you can wear blue light-blocking glasses at night.
About 30 minutes before bedtime, stop using devices.
Try to relax in some way, such as sipping chamomile tea or listening to a 10-minute guided meditation.
6. Establish boundaries.
It's impossible for us as parents to do everything. As such, be mindful of your obligations while setting priorities. Priorities usually involve the kids and other family members first, then a choice of one or two that are important to you.
Sharing childcare obligations and making tough decisions with your partner can be useful -- if there's a partner at home. Also, make sure that you aren't overcommitting yourself. As an example, if you already RSVPd to a birthday party this Saturday, don't agree to dinner with friends. And, don't feel guilty about letting go of the things that aren't important.
In short, it’s possible to say no.
7. Take a digital break.
If you spend more time on your phone or computer, you're probably not alone. In fact, research shows that on average we spend 6 hours and 53 minutes using the internet per day. And, while all of these activities are part of our daily routine, too much time spent online can drain us.
You can refresh your mind and reconnect with yourself by turning off your devices when you are faced with a constant negative news cycle or the fear of missing out on social media.
8. Tag in a trusted helper.
You’ve most likely heard the phrase “it takes a village to raise a child.” And, it’s true. But, who exactly should be in this village? This can be a sibling, a therapist, a guidance counselor, a teacher, a member of the clergy, a family friend, or another parent.
Feel free to turn to them when you need answers, vent, or a helping hand. As an example, if you had a stressful day at work, ask them if they could play a game with your child while you take a walk to cool down.
9. Cultivate calm.
When your home is cluttered, your cortisol, known as the 'stress hormone,' is elevated. It is therefore essential that you make your living space calm, clean, and clutter-free for your mental health. Don't forget to keep your personal space clean and organized. Donate unused toys and add plants to reduce feelings of anxiety and depression.
As an added bonus, cleaning up is a wonderful habit for your children to develop.
10. Get mental health support.
To be able to reach your child, you can't be empty yourself. As such, seeking mental health support for yourself is the greatest gift you can give to your child.
As a result of telehealth services, more people have access to health care than ever before. If you need help finding someone, please don't give up. Get in touch with your primary care physician, ask a friend for a reference, call 211, or use your employer's employee assistance program.