By Clay Morrison
It’s no secret that lockdown has been a particularly challenging time for parents. On top of the anxiety of living through a pandemic, many have had to supervise their children’s home learning at the same time as juggling a full-time job.
With so many responsibilities to juggle, it’s no surprise that mental health can suffer as a result. Stress from multiple directions can take its toll, particularly if there’s little time for a break. Research shows how widespread these problems can be; with most parents saying that they have less than an hour to themselves each day, and one in seven even saying that they have no time at all. Of the parents surveyed, 27% even said they felt guilty that they’re not spending enough time with their children during lockdown.
Even though it may seem that there’s not enough time to give your mental health as much attention as it deserves, ignoring it is not sustainable in the long-term. Your health is the most important thing – both for you, and your family too.
The effect of stress on mental health
Science shows that chronic stress can have a serious impact on our mental health as well as our physical health, leading to feelings of irritability, anxiety, and even depression. The cocktail of physical symptoms (including headaches, digestive issues, and more) can make these mental symptoms even worse, working together in a vicious cycle.
It’s clear that stress is a serious danger to our mental health if it’s left unchecked. So how can we tackle it?
With this in mind, it’s important to incorporate stress-busting strategies into your daily routine. But don’t put too much pressure on yourself if you don’t manage to take as much time to do this as you would like. Even something as simple as a short breathing exercise can have a big impact. It may sound obvious, but being conscious of your breathing is a great way to slow your heart rate and stress levels. Inhale and exhale deeply and slowly. Most importantly, of course, the basic strategies need to be covered too: exercise, sleep, and a good diet are the simple building blocks that are crucial for your general wellbeing.
Taking time for yourself
Understandably, it’s very difficult for busy parents to carve out some guaranteed time for themselves. But if it is at all possible to claim even a few minutes to yourself here and there, this will undoubtedly have a positive impact on stress levels. Give yourself permission to switch off from work, household tasks, and family commitments. It’s important to give your brain the space to decompress.
Whether it’s reading a book, filling in an adult colouring book, or sitting down to watch your favourite TV show, these moments are necessary for good mental health.
Mindfulness is a concept that seems to be everywhere at the moment, but it’s with good reason. As the name implies, the practice of mindfulness encourages you to stop and be mindful of the present moment. Rather than being hopelessly caught up in the maelstrom of stressful thoughts that can fill our heads, by practising mindfulness you are truly able to appreciate what your five senses have to offer.
This can be helpful in reducing feelings of anxiety, grounding your awareness in your present scenario, ordering your thoughts and concerns, and allowing your mind to release those concerns which it cannot control.
Mental health is always crucial, and the challenges brought about by COVID-19 have thrown its importance into even sharper relief. If you are struggling, it’s important to know that you’re not alone. You can talk to your GP, or a dedicated mental health helpline.
It can be scary to talk to others about these issues, and appear vulnerable in front of them, but it really does help. By paying attention to your own mental health, you’ll be in a stronger position to support your family during this time, too.