Putting your emotional health first is usually a challenge, especially if you are a parent. Since parents run on a scarcity of sleep, time and energy, personal emotional health often isn’t a priority. Our compromised ability to maintain our emotional health has understandably decreased since the beginning of this pandemic. Yet, it remains true that our mental health and emotional health is a big component to the overall wellbeing of ourselves and our children. Although our days may be filled with working busy jobs, completing never-ending to-do lists, tending to the kids, and balancing a thousand other responsibilities, there are simple ways in which we can boost our emotional health.
Emotional health can be defined as one factor of our overall mental health. It is essentially the way we deal with the positive and negative feelings we have, as well as our ability to recognize them. People who have good emotional health are able to deal with their negative emotions and know when to ask for help. This differs from having a mental illness, which could stem from a root cause like a past trauma or a psychological behavioral issue. A person with a mental illness can still be emotionally healthy if he or she is able to cope with negative emotions.
We’ve identified 7 simple yet effective strategies to give your emotional health that much-needed boost as a parent.
7 Strategies Parents Can Use To Improve Their Emotional Health:
- Pay attention to your essential needs
Your essential needs are things like eating three meals per day, consuming foods that are nutritious and high in fiber, and keeping your body active. To ensure that you are eating enough and well, it’s a good idea to bring a snack and water bottle with you when you venture out. You can also eat while you prepare food for your kids. To remain active, you can take part in various physical activities together with your family. Nature walks or hikes, playing outdoor games, or taking up an outdoor yoga class are all great options.
- Go to bed on time
It is common for parents to enforce good bedtime habits on their kids, but they often don’t tend to their own routines. Limited sleep can alter our moods and present added stress to the household. Therefore, we should always get into the routine of following a good sleeping schedule, while practicing proper sleep hygiene. Creating a bedtime routine can significantly help to enhance our mood and our body’s overall function. Below are some tips for creating a healthy bedtime routine:
- Reduce the blue light on your devices – Since blue light sends signals to your brain alerting you to remain awake, it’s very hard for the body to prepare for sleep while looking at your device. You can change this by clicking on your device’s settings or by downloading a blue light filter app. Reducing blue light exposure can not only better prepare you for sleep, but also improve sleep quality.
- Avoid phone and technology usage at least 30 minutes before bedtime.
- Participate in relaxing activities – Try drinking chamomile tea or doing a short meditation before bed. This can help to relax the body and induce deep sleep.
- Take emotional health breaks
Parents should get into the habit of frequently disconnecting from their screens and choosing to do other activities instead. It’s easy to fall into the trap of needing to “check out” as you mindlessly scroll on Instagram, but this does not give you the relaxation your nervous system is craving. Instead, use this time to talk to a friend, go for a quick walk, write about your feelings in a journal, watch a funny movie, give yourself a quick hand massage, do a short breathwork, or work on a creative DIY project.
- Engage in small daily activities
These can include but are not limited to things we often take for granted, such as:
- Get some fresh air daily
- If it’s cold out, spend some time sitting in your car to take a break from being at home
- Take a hot shower or bath
- Talk about your feelings with your partner
- Listen to motivational podcasts or soothing music
The activities above may seem small, but they can improve your emotional health and headspace.
- Pursue activities that make you feel alive
Think back to a time you felt alive, whole and motivated and identify what you were doing in that moment. Is it possible to do the same type of activities when you’re alone or even as a family? Perhaps it’s baking, or singing karaoke. Maybe it’s running, or being out in nature. A lot of these activities we thrive on can also be done together with our kids.
- Keep in touch with other parents
As a parent, it’s often challenging to remain connected with other adults and parents because of busy schedules and different priorities. This however doesn’t mean that it’s impossible to do. We can use the various social media platforms that include video, audio and photos to stay connected with each other. Connectedness provides us with a sense of community, a space to share our experiences and struggles, and the ability to understand that although we are all doing this separately, we are all in this together.
- Be patient with yourself
Show yourself some kindness. On those days when you might be struggling, lower your expectations for the day. Ditch your chores and eat some comfort food instead. Let yourself feel what you feel and then release your emotions when you need to. It’s ok to not be your best on days you feel overwhelmed. In fact, it is recommended!
Being a parent definitely is not easy and maintaining your emotional health while parenting can be a major challenge. But doing so not only benefits you, but it will certainly also spill into your adult relationships, as well as the relationship you have with your children.