9 Ways Parents Can Engage in Self-Care
According to the CDC, pandemics can spread more than just disease: stress, anxiety, loneliness, and isolation can develop as we take sustained public health measures. People with mental or chronic health conditions can find their symptoms intensifying. Even those with no previous mental health concerns may find their sleep or eating patterns interrupted.
Parents especially are under pressure as the 2020 school year approaches. They have to tend to the needs of their children, keeping the family connected to the outside world and mapping the safest course of action day-to-day. But before parents can take care of others, they have to take care of themselves. Here are some tips on how to maintain your mental health in the weeks and months ahead.
- Create a regular routine.
Even though many of us are working from home, try to wake up and get ready as if you were preparing for a non-COVID day at work. Get dressed, make some breakfast, and get started on your tasks at around the same time daily. Your days will seem more full and time will go by faster, creating less room for mental noise.
- Spend time in nature.
Get outside! Go for a walk, a hike, or a bikeride. Try exploring a state park you’ve never been to before. Make regular time to breathe in fresh air and get moving. Studies show that spending time in nature boosts levels of “happy” hormones.
- Limit exposure to news or social media.
Although it may seem counter-intuitive, try to limit your news intake to once or twice a day (unless an emergency is imminent). In today’s media world, constant input and output can make it seem as if we live in a state of continuous crisis. Unplugging from social media and the news can help you re-center around what really matters: the people and things you love in your life.
- Model peaceful behavior for those around you.
As a parent, your stress levels directly impact those of everyone else in the household. Even performing calm can trick your brain into re-focusing and re-centering. To a T, how would a calm person look in this situation? What would your ideal self do? Assess how you would act according to your values, and try to step outside of your anxiety.
- Maintain a healthy diet and exercise.
We’ve all heard it before: diet and exercise are the key to a healthy lifestyle. Your physical health directly affects your mental health. Make sure you are consuming recommended amounts of nutritious-rich food groups. Balance a healthy diet with regular exercise.
- Stay connected to family and friends.
Schedule video calls with loved ones frequently: even daily, if your schedule allows it. Social interaction is still possible, and you may even see your relationships flourish under quarantine conditions. Take this as an opportunity to hone your interpersonal skills.
- Connect to resources online.
There are many parent support groups available to join online for free, as well as mental health hotlines and literature. Create an online space for you to both take in mental health advice and vent your own experiences.
- Make time to unwind.
Practice meditation or yoga. Make art. Try a new recipe. Watch a favorite show. Dedicate certain hours of your day to doing whatever your heart prefers.
- Stay informed about COVID-19.
Know what precautions to take during the pandemic. By taking preventative action, you can move forward with confidence. Wear a mask in public spaces, social distance wherever possible, and wash your hands frequently.