Looking After Your Mental Health As A Parent

AD There are many wonderful things about being parent, but there is no doubt that it will test you like you have never been tested before. The little things that you might have done before children to look after your mental health often stop being a priority and it can make you experience a whole range of new feelings. 

Many women experience post-natal depression after a birth of a child, but did you know it isn't uncommon in new fathers either? Post-natal depression can affect you even if you have no history of mental health problems. It is also possible to experience post-natal depression or anxiety after the birth of subsequent children even if you didn’t have it with your first child. The symptoms can last for months or years after the birth and it often goes undiagnosed because the symptoms, which include: persistent low mood, low self esteem, lack of energy or lack of interest in normal activities, are dismissed as normal instead of a sign to ask for help. 

Looking after your mental health as a parent illustrated with a photograph of a family on a beach with the tide out, the family are silhouetted against the sun
Ways to Start Caring For Your Mental Health As A Parent

Being a parent, particularly of young children makes it harder to look after yourself and your needs which can increase the likelihood that you will experience problems with your mental health. You might find you get overwhelmed, it becomes harder to exercise and eat well, you might find it harder to get out and talk to friends when you need too, you might be exhausted or feel unsupported and on top of all of that you might be dealing with additional stresses caused by finances, health problems or relationship issues. It is important to get mental health care when you need it, but there are things you can do to reduce the likelihood that you will be affected.

It isn't just those newborn days when parents can struggle with their mental health either. Each age brings special moments you will treasure and new challenges. As children become more independent you begin to have more time to focus on other priorities, but if you haven't been taking time to care for your mental health and recharge having more time to yourself may suddenly highlight how much you need to make changes.

Activities To Try To Help Look After Your Mental Health As A Parent

Connect With Other Parents

Being at home on your own with a baby, day in day out, is tough. Yes this is a wonderful magical time and before you know it milestone after milestone has passed, but for many the transition to being a parent is hard and the lack of social contact (of the adult variety) is missed.

There are lots of groups for new parents to go to with their babies. These may be run at children’s centres, church halls or council venues and they range from free to £££. Look for a local parents Facebook group and ask which groups are nearby.

It's almost harder when you have more children because although a baby will initially go to groups and be happy to be cuddled, if you are going with a baby and a toddler there is a good chance you will spend more time running around than chatting. It’s still good to get out though. 

You might find it easier to connect with other parents online via forums or various apps which aim at connecting parents. Online communities can be helpful for working parents to support each other as well because there is less opportunities to go to playgroups and drop ins which are often on weekdays.

Spend Time With Your Partner

If you are in a relationship with someone it is really important to make time for each other. If your child doesn’t sleep well or is really fussy this can be hard to do, but aim to spend at least 5 minutes a day connecting with each other, having a conversation about how you are doing and what you are feeling. Make sure that for this short period you are properly focused on each other so put phones down, ignore the house work and connect. 

If you are single then aim to call someone each day and find time to share your day and ask them how they are doing. 

Nourish Your Body

It can be easier to grab biscuits or junk food than to find time to eat properly, but a balanced diet makes our bodies feel better. If you know you wont find time to prep vegetables or cook from scratch during the day then consider buying precut veg or healthy ready meals. If this is too expensive then try batch cooking and freeze meals at the weekend or ask if friends can make a few meals to take the pressure off.

It's not just the food that is important when looking after your body. There are days that even having a shower and washing your hair feels impossible. If you used to be someone who had regular manicures and professional hair colour and now you don't have time to pluck your eyebrows and you can't fit back into your pre-pregnancy clothes this will have a big impact on how you feel about yourself. If things feel like they have got out of control start by promising yourself you will wear clean clothes every day, brush your hair and clean your teeth and face. If you can't get out to a hairdressers then ask for recommendations of people who will come to you. It can be much easier to manage your children in their home environment. 

Be realistic about clothes, if you aren't going to be wearing your old clothes for a while (either because the style doesn't suit you or because of their size) then choose a few new outfits that make you feel good about yourself. Maternity clothes may be designed for comfort and flexible sizing, but they also tend to accentuate your bump and you probably wont want the focus on your postpartum tum.

Get Out

Exercise is just as important as eating well. Taking the time to go swimming, do yoga or some form of cardio will hugely benefit your mental health, but this can be really hard to fit in and it may just feel like one more pressure on your time. So just go for a walk. Put the baby in a carrier, or in the pushchair and go outside. Feel the sun on your face, the wind in your air and walk. The worse you are feeling the more it can help you by getting a change of perspective. Even if it is freezing cold or pouring with rain, you’ll find you feel better when you get home.

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