One thing you only find out when you become a parent is how tough it is. Disturbed sleep, tantrums, finances, lack of time to yourself and the burden of responsibility all take a toll on us.
With this in mind, today is Parent Mental Health Day, an awareness campaign aimed at frazzled parents. The focus this year is building mental health resilience.
Dads are in the highest risk group for suicide- men in their 30s-40s. Making sure your mental health is in good condition is therefore important.
What is mental health resilience?
With the right strategies, your mental health can be more resilient to the challenges that life and parental stress throw at you- resulting in the ability to cope better.
How can I create mental health resilience?
There are many ways you can help your ability to cope with stress. They include:
Make time for yourself
Carve out little bits of time for yourself each week- maybe you enjoy a quiet Sunday walk with the dog, or a solo bicycle ride. Anything goes, from tinkering in the garage to trying a new recipe for dinner. These activities bring some ‘colour’ to our week and help offset difficult times.
Stressed out parents benefit from a little time to themselves. Even if you only manage an hour a week to yourself, that hour creates a breather and the opportunity for balance and stress management.
Learn new skills
Learning new things gives us a sense of achievement which boosts our dopamine levels. It doesn’t have to be a major undertaking; 10 minutes a day learning a new language, reading an interesting book or completing a DIY task all count.
When a day has been heavy with parenting stress, finding time for little wins- perhaps spending 10 minutes learning some Spanish- improves your mental health.
Connect with others
Aim to create strong social bonds with others that you can lean on during tough times. If you’re lacking good friendships then try joining a men’s football club or a group that focuses on an interest you have. Also, make time for seeing loved ones and having days out.
Arranging to do fun things with your child can also help you de-stress, and improve your parent-child relationship. An activity where you have to work together- perhaps trying out an escape room, or even just building a den in the woods- can improve your bond.
Prioritise rest and sleep
Downtime is important. Try going to bed earlier and reading a book before sleep. Avoid screens an hour before bed as they can be stimulating for the brain when it needs to relax.
You can find downtime for your mind by trying out a meditation app, or by turning your phone off for the evening.
Spending 30 minutes a day on exercise has a multitude of benefits, one of them being vastly improved mental health. No need to join the gym- you can simply go for a brisk walk, a jog or try a fitness video on YouTube in the comfort of your living room. Exercise releases feel-good chemicals in your brain, which helps reduce parenting stress levels. It’s an important healthy habit to add to your coping strategies.
When stressed it’s easy to rely on stodgy comfort foods and sugar to cheer you up. Make sure you’re getting enough fruit and vegetables, protein and water so that your body has the vitamins it needs to keep you healthy and managing stress well.
Remember to be thankful
It might sound like psychobabble, but considering what you’re grateful for every day can improve your mood and help you focus on the positives. When going through a trying time, reflecting on the ways in which you are fortunate- having children, a nice home, a good friend etc- can help unlock a more optimistic mindset.
Talk to someone
When you’re feeling stressed keeping it all bottled up can lead to feeling like a pressure cooker with your feelings stuck inside. Try chatting to a mate over a drink about what you’re dealing with. If you prefer not to get too deep with the conversation you don’t have to. It’s amazing what a help it is just having a moan and getting things off your chest.
Support for stressed out parents
To chat to other dads, come and join our friendly forum, or try one of the many mental health resources available:
Campaign Against Living Miserably