Looking After Yourself

Looking After Yourself

As a parent, the best thing you can do for your children is to look after yourself.  Parenting is affected by a range of factors that impact on parent’s self-esteem and sense of well-being.  Parenting can get really hard if you’re tired, stressed and unhappy.

Things to try

  • Think about how you react to certain situations. Are there some things that wind you up more than others? Sometimes letting go and accepting “I just can’t do anything about it,” is a relief.
  • Take deep, slow breaths when the pressure builds.
  • Be realistic. If you’ve got small children keeping the house really tidy is impossible. Set aside time at the end of the day when you have a tidy up together if it is important to you.
  • Exercise. Set yourself a goal. Go for a walk three times a week, spend 15 minutes in the garden, do 20 star jumps every morning.
  • Set aside time for yourself. Sit down and read a book for 10 minutes, or watch TV. Try not to spend all the time your children are asleep rushing around trying to do things.
  • Make friends.  Join a playgroup, Mini muscles, Mainly music, Swimming group, Playcentre.  Talk with the parents of the children your child plays with. This can lead to friendships and support.

Try to avoid

  • being critical of yourself. There is no such thing as a perfect parent
  • being aggressive. Take a big breath and walk away
  • skipping meals, eating all the time, drinking too much coffee or alcohol
  • yelling – you’ll all end up upset and worried
  • being so tired it all becomes too hard. Try to lie down when your children are asleep, go to bed early
  • driving too fast
  • not seeing people.
  • trying to be supermum
  • Keeping up with the ‘Jones’ ’

Set goals

Some things are more important than others. Try to sort out what you really need to do and leave other jobs until you’ve got more time.  Set small goals so you feel like you’re achieved something every day.

Look After Your Mental Health 

Everyone can make simple changes that have a huge impact on their mental health and wellbeing. The Mental Health Foundation has come up with ten practical ways to take care of yourself and get the most from life www.mentalhealthfoundation.org.nz

Mental health is about the way you think and feel and your ability to deal with ups and downs. Making simple changes to how you live doesn’t need to cost a fortune or take up loads of time.

Talk about your feelings

Talking about your feelings can help you stay in good mental health and deal with times when you feel troubled.  It’s part of taking charge of your wellbeing and doing what you can to stay healthy.

Eat Well

There are strong links between what we eat and how we feel – for example, caffeine and sugar can have an immediate effect. But poor food can also have a long-lasting effect on your mental health.

Keep in Touch

Friends and family can make you feel included and cared for. They can offer different views from whatever’s going on inside your own head. They can help keep you active, keep you grounded and help you solve practical problems.

Take a Break

A change of scene or a change of pace is good for your mental health. It could be a five-minute pause from cleaning your kitchen, a half-hour lunch break at work or a weekend exploring somewhere new. A few minutes can be enough to de-stress you.

Accept Who You Are

Some of us make people laugh, some are creative, others cook fantastic meals. Some of us share our lifestyle with the people who live close to us, others live very differently.  We’re all different.  Stop comparing yourself to others or your child to other children.

Keep Active

Experts believe exercise releases chemicals in your brain that make you feel good. Regular exercise can boost your self-esteem and help you concentrate, sleep, look and feel better. Exercise also keeps the brain and your other vital organs healthy.

Drink Sensibly

Some people drink alcohol to change their mood. Some people drink to deal with fear or loneliness, but the effect is only temporary. Alcohol is a depressant. It is important to keep your drinking minimal.

Ask For Help

None of us are superhuman. We all sometimes get tired or overwhelmed by how we feel or when things go wrong. If things are getting too much for you and you feel you can’t cope, ask for help.

Do Something You Enjoy

What do you love doing? What activities can you lose yourself in? What did you love doing before children? Enjoying yourself helps beat stress. Doing an activity you enjoy probably means you’re good at it and achieving something boosts your self-esteem.

Care for Others

Caring for others is often an important part of keeping up relationships with people close to you. It can even bring you closer together.

Look after yourself by staying calm

It’s hard to stay calm if your mind is on other stressful things. When we feel stressed we can over-react. We could see our child’s behaviour as naughty when they’ve just made a mistake.

Try to think about what is happening for your child. It’s normal for children to have sleeping issues, not feel like eating, act out or be very quiet and hide their feelings when they are feeling stressed.

  • Think about your own response, body language, breathing.  Are you holding your breath or gasping? Is your heart speeding up? Are there other signs you are getting angry?
  • Walk away from your child, not towards them. Give yourself a moment to get your thoughts together and their behaviour in perspective.
  • Count, sing loudly or jump to let your angry energy out.
  • Deep breaths take oxygen to your brain to help clarify and calm your thinking.
  • Go back to your child and deal with their behaviour calmly. Have consequences, but let them know you still love them even when you don’t like their behaviour.
  • Be sure to have clear boundaries in place for next time.
  • If you are concerned about what happened, talk it through with someone you can trust. You could come up with another way of coping next time.

It helps to ask yourself “Is it really worth getting angry about?”  “Is this about what my child has done or about me feeling stressed?”

It’s important to stay calm because:

  • children don’t learn when they are frightened.
  • it keeps your child calm and able to understand what they did and the consequences of their behavior.
  • it keeps your relationship with your child safe and warm.
  • it models positive behaviour.

Look after your Relationships

When a relationship is working well, the whole family benefits. Your children learn how to have relationships from you. If you have lots of conflict, that’s what they will learn.

These strategies will help make your relationship work:

  • Say more positive things than negative things.
  • Give each other encouragement. Don’t undermine each other with constant criticism.
  • Tell each other when things are going well.
  • Make room for each other’s views, even when you disagree. If something matters to one of you, it matters to everyone in the family.
  • Express tenderness and affection. Show this in lots of ways – a loving touch, a hug, spending time together.
  • Look at your own part in a problem rather than blaming other people.
  • Say sorry when you say something that hurts other people.
  • Take time to listen to each other.
  • Keep connected. Know about each other’s lives and hopes. Tell each other what you really feel, even when it’s hard.
  • Celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, special family days, festivals, holidays and achievements.
  • Make space for each person to be themselves. Have friends, go out, do the things you both enjoy.

Check out www.skip.org.nz for further tips on looking after yourself.

Reference: Ministry of Social Development.