You know it’s vital to take care of your mental health. But as a parent, you are also limited in time and energy—resources that have shrunk since the pandemic began.
And yet, with a little intention, you can tend to your mental health—even with a demanding career, little or no childcare, and 1,000 other tasks you need to complete. Here are the best (and most viable) mental health actions, according to psychotherapists.
Caring for your basic needs:
These include regularly eating ‘nutrient-rich foods’, and moving your body. To make this happen, take a snack and a bottle of water with you wherever you go and eat when you feed your children. You can also take part in fun physical activities with your family, playing an active game, such as taking nature walks, and doing a yoga video.
Prioritize sleep time
Parents generally treat their ‘children’s bedtime routines’ with great respect, but then they neglect their own. Lack of sleep lowers our mood and is a recipe for increased stress for everyone in the household.
- Adjust the blue light emitted from all the screens, as “blue light tells your brain that it’s time to wake up.” You can do this in each device settings or download the blue-light filter app. “You may also get smart bulbs for your bedroom that eliminate blue light at night and emit more light in the morning,” or wear blue-light lenses in the evenings.
- Stop using the devices for about 30 minutes before bedtime.
- Engage in a relaxing activities – such as drinking chamomile tea and listening to a 10-minute guided meditation.
Be gentle on your own:
‘Self-compassion’ can be a boon to your mental health, especially when you’re struggling and stressed out. On difficult days, acknowledge that you have a hard time and lower your expectations—give yourself a shame-free license to skip chores, eat another frozen meal, and increase the screen time for your children.
Remember that you do the best you can. Allow yourself to feel your feelings—and cry when you need to.
If you feel selfish about your mental health, remember that you are a human being who deserves to feel and be well—just like anyone else. So just as you fill your gas tank, check your oil and add air to your tires for a long car journey, “you need to make sure you’re fueled mentally and physically.”
Focus on the activities that will fill you. Do this when you’re alone and with your children.
This could mean working on your novel and reading your favorite books to your child. It could mean teaching them to bake brownies while singing Disney songs—as you did with your mom. It could mean painting or learning a new language together, because that’s what you’re interested in too.