Whether you are welcoming a newborn into the world, or are the parent(s) of a young child(ren), it is safe to say you are or have been dealing with quite a few changes and adjustments in your day-to-day life; such as changes in your sleep patterns, emotions and stress level, and overall changes in your daily schedule – thinking to yourself, “There just isn’t enough time!” With all of these changes happening at once, most people end up taking care of everyone and everything around them, except for themselves. This is not something that purposefully happens, but it is an unintended consequence that can have a negative effect on a person’s mental health, parenting, self-confidence, and so much more.
As a mom of young children and a professional that provides mental health services to families of children birth-5 years old, I understand how hard it can be, but also how important it is, to implement a daily self-care routine. With this in mind, I have listed below some simple, yet life changing, self-care strategies for you to choose from that can help you become the best parent you can be, and the BEST VERISON OF YOU!
• Take things one-step at a time. Do not overwhelm yourself with a busy schedule, or to-do list (the time will come where you can add more, but at first, KEEP IT SIMPLE).
o Say “no” to anything that is not urgent. It is OKAY to say “no”.
o Limit visitors or guests if you are tired.
• Drink plenty of water and eat regularly to keep your energy up.
• Stay active; go on short walks to boost your energy. Get some sunlight.
• ASK and ACCEPT help from others; you were not meant to do this alone! Reach out to family members, friends, a babysitter, respite care (if you qualify), etc. even if it is just for 30 minutes to an hour, take time for yourself.
• Stay connected to friends and family, or join a parenting support group. Engage with other supportive adults.
• Talk about your feelings to someone who will listen without judgment.
o Or journal your thoughts and feelings; get those feelings out in the healthiest way you can.
• If overwhelmed and unable to think clearly during times of distress, go into another room and take a deep breath, or 5, or 10. If your baby or child is crying or having a tantrum, and safety is not an issue, it is OKAY to take a step back and gather yourself.
o If you are overwhelmed, upset, and/or reactive – the more likely your child will become just as or even more overwhelmed, upset, and/or reactive.
o Allow yourself time to breathe.
• Be kind to yourself! You are not perfect, none of us are. You are doing the best you can with what you have.
Now, that hard truth: you will make mistakes, you will become frustrated, and you will be stressed, but with the right tools, strategies, and supports in place, YOU WILL be able to manage how you cope through stressful situations. Overtime, you will become more confident in your parenting and in yourself. Enjoy the journey of parenting and remember that you are not alone!
Written by Janelle Jeffrey, LMSW, Mental Health Specialist