Parenting is already a demanding job in itself. But being a parent at a time of pandemic is even more difficult.
There is added pressure from the need to ensure your children and family’s safety while managing the household. Then there is the stress from the disorienting work-from-home set-up and the new teacher role, especially for those whose kids are doing online classes.
It also does not help that the usual physical and emotional support sources, like relatives and close friends, are restricted, if not totally inaccessible, right now.
These are the reasons why many parents and guardians are experiencing extremely high-level stress and anxiety. It also does not help that parents are naturally self-sacrificing. They would almost always put first their family’s needs before even attempting to notice their own needs.
And it can be dangerous. Paying more attention to your own emotional and mental health is important now more than ever. It goes beyond convincing yourself that you can do all your duties and chores but taking specific steps to improve your mental well-being.
Here are tips on how you can better take care of your mental well-being.
Reclaim Your Me-Time
Every day seems so busy that we are barely able to finish our to-dos. Despite being at home, we’re still always in a rush.
What’s worse is this pandemic took away our usual me-time, like our commute from work, lunch break walks, side-trip to a store on the way home, among others. These times seem inconsequential, but they help a lot with recharging and decompression. So carve out time for yourself, however short that may be.
You can exercise, do meditation, or anything that you used to do as your alone time.
This activity is easier said than done, especially for those who have toddlers at home. But these breaks need not be overly prepared for. The important part is to be deliberate that this allotted time is only for you.
It can be as simple as taking longer baths but being mindful that the extra time is for you. Or staying in bed a couple of minutes more in the morning and telling yourself, “This additional rest and the quiet moment is mine.”
If you can’t do things alone, do something enjoyable with your family. Watch a movie with them, but choose the film that you’ve wanted to watch. Or do art sessions with your kids, but also be intentional about your artwork. Try drawing how you feel or what you look forward to doing again after everything is over.
Connect With Others But Set Boundaries
Social distancing does not mean we have to disconnect from our social circles. Regularly get in touch with relatives and friends. Check-in on them and take advantage of the myriad of social networking and video conferencing apps.
If you tend to isolate when anxious or depressed, schedule these calls or catch-up sessions to reduce this tendency.
However, set boundaries. Although social media is a powerful tool to connect, it can also cause additional anxiety. So feel free to mute keywords or disconnect from people or pages that exacerbate your feelings.
Also, don’t be afraid to stay away from friends who are prone to worst-case scenarios. Because we know how it feels to be overly worried and stressed, we feel extra pressured to be there and provide support to others who feel the same. This is not always good. Other’s stress can rub off on you, especially now that everyone has heightened emotions.
Were you able to cook a family dinner after straight days of microwave meals? Tell yourself, “Good job!” And do your happy dance. Did you successfully explain a school lesson to your child? Clap for yourself. Or even draw a star on your hand. Did you finish all your work tasks on time so you won’t have to work after dinner? After closing your work apps, hug your partner and say, “I did it!”
It is essential to relish and celebrate any form of success, especially during this very bleak time. There are various ways to do this. You can whisper affirmations to yourself or make simple gestures like patting your back or smiling in front of the mirror. Do what makes you genuinely feel positive, uplifted, and happy.
However simple the form may be, these celebrations give a rush of happy chemicals to our system. More than making us feel good at that moment, it wires that satisfying behavior to our brain. It makes us want to do these things more to bring us the same or higher joy level.
So it also motivates us to cook more often, be prepared and patient in teaching the kids, or try to finish our office tasks on time so we won’t need to work at night.
Parents feel a pang of inherent guilt when they do something for themselves. It must be an immanent part of parenthood. But you might not be aware that you are already disregarding your mental health. You are so focused on addressing the seemingly endless list of everyone’s concerns that tend to neglect your own needs.
However, in this unprecedented time, it’s good to be reminded of this age-old saying that goes, “You cannot pour from an empty cup.”
It would be best if you took care of yourself first to take care of your family better. Make time for yourself, connect with others but maintain boundaries, and celebrate all forms of accomplishments, even the smallest ones.