As a parent, it is easy to neglect your own mental health. You give your child almost 100% of your undivided attention and effort, which can take a toll, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Working from home with no childcare or schooling services available makes it near impossible to have the alone time you desperately need.
Somehow, parents manage to do the impossible, even if that means sacrificing their mental health for the sake of their child(ren). Yes, you may have to do 1,000 tasks in addition to caring for the little ones, but your mental health doesn’t have to suffer. Below, you will find easy and beneficial strategies that help boost mental health.
Bedtime Is Important:
When it comes to a child’s bedtime, the parent puts forth great effort. Perhaps reading is involved and bedtime is at a reasonable hour to ensure the child is well rested for the following day. Parents don’t treat their own bedtime with that same respect. According to Carlene MacMillan, MD, a Harvard-trained psychiatrist, lack of sleep is directly related to increased stress levels and mood swings. Create a bedtime routine by:
- Adjusting blue light settings on all screens. You can also download an app that filters blue light, or invest in blue light-blocking glasses. Blue light awakens the brain, so try to avoid it before bed.
- Try to avoid screens one to two hours before bed to help wind down and promote restful sleep.
- Engage in a relaxing activity once your child is asleep. Drink chamomile tea, engage in deep breathing exercises, listen to guided meditation, or take a soothing bath.
Take Mental Health Breaks:
Spending so much time at home and with your kids can drain you, both physically and mentally. One of the best ways to do take mental breaks is to use screen time accordingly. It may sound bad, but it can be beneficial to tell your kids that they have 30 minutes left for screen time, be that with tablets or television. It isn’t worth it to expend the energy, lose control, and enter a yelling bout. Use those 30 minutes to call a friend, journal feelings, listen to a podcast, or workout.
Engage In Fulfilling Activities:
It is quite common for parents to simply go through the motions. Routines are important for children, but you have to be able to engage with them and make things fun for you as well. Read some age-appropriate books with your kids, bake and sing songs together, or set up a painting station with a couple canvases for a paint night; perhaps you even indulge in a glass of wine while painting. Another great way to have fun is by learning a language with your child. Your child will find interest in things that you are excited about.
Set Boundaries Around Stressors:
The combination of working from home, being a parent, and playing the role of teacher is exhausting. The last thing you want to do is expose yourself to more things that chip away at your mental and emotional health. It’s tempting to follow along with the onslaught of coronavirus news, but try to limit news checking to 15 minutes per day. Don’t check the news late at night, either! Additionally, put your phone away when you are with kids, swap out the afternoon coffee with more water, and get to bed by 10 p.m. to get a solid amount of sleep.
Care For Your Diet:
There is a strong link between poor mental health and unhealthy diet. Eating nutrient-dense foods not only helps the body function better, but it also contributes to reduced stress levels and fewer mood swings. Try your best to avoid late night snacking with unhealthy treats like ice cream, cookies, or chips. Always carry a water bottle with you to keep hydration levels up. Finally, get creative with your meals. Involve your kids in your new cooking endeavors and they’ll learn the importance of healthy eating right along with you.