by Mary Frances Byrne, Let’s Get Talking therapist
Becoming a parent can be the best experience in the world.
The feelings of love, pride and joy can make you feel elated. But throw in those sleepless nights, the constant feeding, changing and entertaining for hours on end. You would do anything to just wash your hair in peace! You’ve forgotten who you are, what your hobbies are, what on earth you used to do with all that spare time! You wouldn’t change it for the world.
But there is no denying that parenthood can be relentlessly tough!
As I write this article my three year old is trying to shove a jigsaw piece into the wrong space, arguing that it is the right place, becoming totally frustrated! My daughter comes in and asks for a snack. Peace is a thing of the past. The interruptions are endless.
Living in a City but being from the Country means that both myself and a lot of this generation of parents have little or no family support. Throw in a pandemic, months and months home from pre/school, trying to juggle housework, homework, daily outdoor activities, shopping and preparation of food and the endless cleaning up! We all know what it’s like to feel stressed out. Stress affects us all in different ways. McLeod&McLeod define stress as, ‘the experience of being subjected to an accumulation of external demands, pressures and daily hassles.’ (2011, 262) With all the demands of modern parenthood, it is no wonder so many of us are feeling this way.
Most people can’t deny how challenging parenting has become. With little time and resources, what can we do for ourselves? How can we keep positive and energised so that we can fulfil the mental and physical load of parenting? All while trying our best to reduce our stress levels! One thing that we can do is practice, ‘Self-care.’
So we’ve all heard of it, but what does it really mean? More importantly how can we find the time to practice self-care and is it worth it? Borden states that, An ongoing focus on self-care is essential for the prevention of burnout and for maintaining one’s own psychological wellness.’ (Borden, N (2017)
In a nutshell, self-care is all about tending to your own needs. Because looking after everyone else’s needs is impossible to do when your running on empty. The old saying that best describes this is that you can’t pour from an empty cup.’ Below are a few suggestions,
According to the National Sleep Foundation, the average adult needs between seven and eight hours sleep. (2021). However, individuals vary due to their personal requirement. Our sleep is so precious as poor sleep has a very negative effect on our health and well-being. “Our impulse control, work performance, mood and judgement all deteriorate when we are sleep deprived. (Lucey, J, 2021,51) Personally, I know my patience levels with my kids are so much better after a good night’s sleep. So even though it is so tempting to stay up late and have some time to ourselves, often we can regret this when we are feeling exhausted the following day.
Things we can do to improve our sleep:
- Taking time to wind down at night.
- Try to put away our screens and have some quiet time before sleep.
- Going to bed at a regular time also helps our body learn when it’s time for us to wind down. Setting an alarm in the evening can help signal to us that it’s time to go to bed.
- Be mindful that alcohol negatively effects the quality of our sleep.
- Exercise earlier in the day can improve our sleep patterns.
Exercise is one of the best ways of naturally reducing stress, not to mention the benefits for our overall physical health. Regular exercise will help with your sleep, help you relax and feel better. It also boosts your energy levels. Personally, I find that exercise also helps me to eat healthier. I’m not sure if this is scientifically proven but for me, I just don’t feel like eating unhealthy foods straight after exercise.
Things we can do to improve our exercise:
- Choose an exercise you enjoy doing, that could be walking, running, yoga or going to the gym?
- Work out a way to fit this into your schedule, mornings, afternoons, evenings, what could work for you?
- Arrange to meet a friend for that walk, run or gym class. It’s more social, fun and also making a commitment means you’re less likely to cancel if you’re having a tired/lazy day!
- Get started! And then try to build up your routine daily to a level that is comfortable for you!
Relaxation and looking after your Well-being
Give yourself a break! ‘But how?,’ I hear you say. ‘When I am responsible for this whole family and there is not enough time in the day!’ We all know the saying that all work and no play makes us unhappy. You don’t just deserve to relax, you need to. Here’s a few tips on making some positive and fulfilling time for yourself.
- Connection is key. Stay connected with your friends and others in your community. Isolation makes everything harder and we have learned this lesson during the pandemic.
- Fit some relaxing time into your routine for both you and your children.
- Look for support from other people in the same situation. You could offer to babysit one night per week for each other free of charge. So that you and your friend both get a break from the children/household duties.
- Batch cook and freeze. This will save you having to cook on those days when you are feeling exhausted.
- Look after your Mental health. Remember, it’s okay to not feel okay. Talk to your family, friends or seek help from a Professional. If you are feeling consistently low, talk to your G.P. We know that it’s good to talk. Let’s get talking provide a non-set fee counselling service, making it accessible for all. We are here to help through compassionate listening. Through our high quality counselling service, we will come together to help you with your problems. Call and make an appointment. Our mission is to promote Mental health as an essential part of overall wellness. We are here for you!
Ways to promote greater well-being
Lastly, a few tips on self-care that you can practise at home, anytime!
- Write a gratitude list. List five things daily that you are grateful for. Try not to overthink this. It’s the simple things!
- Practice Mindfulness. This is about staying in the present moment. The Sutra of Mindfulness says, ‘When walking, the practitioner must be conscious that he is walking.’ (Nhat Hanh, T (2008, 7) Too often our minds are racing ahead, what we need to do next, or thinking about before. Instead, try to concentrate on the task at hand. When engaged in a task, be there. Focus on your breath, what you can see and hear around you. This will do wonders for relaxing your mind.
- Self-love. This encompasses accepting yourself, both your goodness and your flaws. We can’t be perfect all of the time Forgive yourself and others. Practice saying some positive affirmations to yourself every day. In the words of Louise Hay,
“In the infinity of life where I am, all is perfect whole and complete. The more love I use and give, the more I have to give. I love myself; therefore I provide myself with a comfortable home, one that fills all my needs and is a pleasure to be in.’(1984)