by Heidi Bitsoli
Motherhood is filled with wonderful moments. From seeing that adorable first smile to sending your child off to college, you’ve got many exciting moments to look forward to during your parenting journey. But there are also times when you might find that your mental health takes a nosedive.
Our society places a great deal of responsibility on moms, and you may feel overwhelmed by all of the things that you have to do each day. In fact, approximately 63% of moms say that they feel like they’ve worked a full day before they even leave their house to go to work.
Self-care is important for preserving your sanity. Taking the time to de-stress may seem like an impossible task, but it can help you become a more effective parent.
Why Do Moms Need to Focus On Mental Health and Self-Care?
Mothers today have more on their plate than ever before, and the pressure to do it all rarely eases as your kids grow up. New moms may spend hours each day handling feedings and diaper changes, thinking it’ll get easier. But experienced mothers may also find themselves swamped as they try to take their kids to multiple extracurricular lessons and sports events.
On top of all of that, you may also be working.
Since the pandemic began, many parents are working remotely. More than half (56%) of parents who work remotely without childcare say they’ve been struggling. Emphasizing a bit of self-care can help your mental health when that huge workload begins to overwhelm.
What Can Happen If You Neglect Your Mental Health Needs?
Right now, you might be thinking that a little self-care sounds good, yet you might feel like there's no way that you can prioritize taking a mommy timeout. Although this might sound like a luxury, the truth is that taking time to care for yourself can actually help you be a better parent to your child. Overstressed parents are more likely to yell at their kids and exhibit negative emotions out of a need to feel a sense of control. Finding space to keep yourself calm can help you navigate parenthood without losing your cool.
Neglecting your need for self-care can also lead to sleep disruptions and potential substance abuse. You might also find that you fight more with your partner or other people in your life. Eventually, ignoring your mental health can cause you to want to escape from your parental obligations or neglect your duties. Fortunately, it doesn't have to get this far. If it already has, then there are many ways to improve your mental wellbeing, which include talking to a professional and choosing to focus more on self-care.
How Can Moms Practice Better Self-Care?
On a busy day, you might feel like you barely have time to shower and brush your teeth, which makes self-care seem impossible. But self-care doesn't always have to involve hours of indulgence each day. Instead, choosing to add these strategies to your weekly plans helps you to make your mental health more of a priority.
Include Self-Care In Your Daily Routine
When you are overwhelmed, adding another item to your to-do list might not sound like a great idea. However, making sure to carve out time for yourself means that it won't be pushed to the bottom of the list where you might not ever get to it. Whether you take five minutes for deep breathing or an hour for your yoga class, make sure to jot it down somewhere in there between the morning drop-off and your bedtime.
View Exercise From a New Angle
Before you had kids, your exercise goals might have been to help you win a competition or maintain a certain appearance. This might have driven you to spend hours at the gym or in training sessions. Now, you might not be able to imagine going back to your former exercise routine, but stopping your workouts lowers your endorphin levels, which can have a negative impact on your mental health. Try to view exercise as something that you do for your mental health as well as your physical wellbeing. Even taking a 30-minute walk can yield benefits for your mental health.
Ask for Alone Time
Many people don't realize when others are on the edge of burnout. If you have a co-parent available, then let them know what you need. You might ask for five minutes alone to get ready in the morning, or you could request an hour each day so that you can take a class. If you are a single parent, then you might need to reach out. Asking a grandparent to take over a few hours a week can give you time to socialize with friends or squeeze in a workout. If all else fails, try to focus on self-care after your kids go to bed or wake up before they do. Those precious moments alone help you to refresh your mind so that you make better decisions during the day.
Minimize Unhealthy Habits
Sometimes, self-care is as much about what you don’t do as it is what you choose to do for your health. If you’ve ever tried to drown your parental sorrows by drinking too much wine, then you already know all too well what the next morning feels like. From overeating a box of chocolate to skipping your daily walk, you want to avoid doing things that don’t contribute to your wellness. If you find that you struggle with quitting unhealthy habits, then look for ways to manage them such as seeking professional treatment or using strategies that you’ve learned in the past.
Join a Parenting Support Group
Many communities offer parenting groups where you can connect with other people who are going through similar experiences. One of the benefits of these groups is that you can usually bring your kids. They'll play with the other little ones while you get the chance to talk to other adults to gain new perspectives. Parenting groups have been shown to increase the members' self-efficacy, which can lower the risk for developing mood disorders such as depression. While your kid might view it as playtime, you could see those meetings as a lifeline for helping you to maintain your mental health.
The days seem to fly by once you become a parent, but that doesn't mean that you have to watch as your happiness also flies away. Taking care of yourself sends a message to your kids that mental health matters, which is a lesson that is worth passing down. Now that you understand why you need to focus on self-care, take a moment to start jotting down a plan. These first few minutes of practicing self-care can set you up for better mental health habits that last a lifetime.
Parents.com - The Burnout Epidemic is Disproportionately Affecting Women
Cnbc.com - 9.8 Million Working Mothers in the U.S. Are Dealing With Burnout
Today.com - Stop the Yelling: How to Know If You Have Mommy Burnout, and What to Do About It
Jsonline.com - Parental Burnout Is a Real Thing, But You're Not Alone
Parentsandkids.com - Refocus on Exercise: Beating Mommy Burnout and More
Sunshinebehavioralhealth.com - Addiction TreatmentNbi.nlm.nih.gov - The Value of New Parent Groups in Child and Family Health Nursing