How to fit mental wellness into that busy parent life

Most parents would sacrifice just about anything to keep their kids happy and healthy. In the process, however, their own health and happiness may suffer. And sacrificing things like leisure time, sleep, and self-care may not actually serve children in the long run. After all, an exhausted and stressed out parent is not going to be the ideal caregiver.

Sometimes, the best way to take care of your child is to take care of yourself.

Your sleep and stress levels matter

In addition to profound joy and unconditional love, parenting brings with it a whole lot of stress. Constant concern about the child’s wellbeing and an increased financial burden, for instance, can weigh heavily on parents’ minds. 

At the same time that they’re adding stress to your life, kids take precious time out of your day–and nights. One survey found that half of parents with newborns get only 1-3 hours of uninterrupted sleep per night; and though the situation drastically improves as kids grow, studies show that some level of sleep deprivation persists for as long as six years after birth.1,2

While parental stress and sleeplessness are common, that doesn’t mean that they’re harmless. If left unmanaged, these issues can lead to serious problems that threaten your wellbeing and that of your child.

Studies suggest that stressed parents are less affectionate and understanding with their children and use harsher punishment styles.3 Likewise, poor sleep can leave you unfocused, depressed, forgetful, short-tempered, and prone to accidents.4 This research supports what we intuitively know: it’s easier to parent when you’re well-slept and relatively unstressed.

 

Baby steps to mental wellness

While achieving a zen state amidst the demands of real life may seem impossible, even small changes can have a big impact on how you feel and how you parent.5 Practical habits that may improve your mental wellness include:

  • Find some me time: Give yourself a bit of time alone, when no one is demanding your attention or care. Even if it’s just 10 minutes of deep breathing, this break can be critical in restoring your mood.
  • Practice self empathy: Don’t hold yourself to unrealistic standards. Remember that parenting is hard and no one does it perfectly.  
  • Take care of your needs: Self care doesn’t have to mean a weekend at the spa. It can be as simple as taking a long shower, making sure you eat enough, or grabbing a quick nap.
  • Connect with grownups: Set aside kid-free time with your partner or friends so you can let loose, chat about your feelings, and nurture social connections.  
  • Try Cove: By strengthening key brain connections, Cove helps you sleep better, stress less, and boost your mental performance. Plus, you can wear Cove as you go about your normal routine, making it perfect for busy parents.
  • Create a bedtime routine: Establish some relaxing rituals that help you wind down at night. This may involve lighting a candle, sipping nighttime tea, or reading a book–whatever gets you in a calm, sleepy mood. 

 

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References

[1] Hanawalt, ZH. “New Moms Are More Sleep Deprived Than We Thought.” Parents. Available at:
https://www.parents.com/baby/new-parent/sleep-deprivation/new-parents-more-sleep-deprived-than-we-thought/.

[2] Davis, N. “New parents face up to six years of sleep deprivation, study says.” The Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2019/feb/26/parenthood-sleep-deprivation-after-birth-mothers-hit-hardest-research.

[3] Rich, JD. “Stressed out parents.” Psychology Today. Available at:
https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/parenting-purpose/201710/stressed-out-parents.

[4] Cleveland Clinic. “Here’s What Happens When You Don’t Get Enough Sleep (And How Much You Really Need a Night).” Health Essentials. Available at:
https://health.clevelandclinic.org/happens-body-dont-get-enough-sleep/.

[5] Tartakovsky, M. “The Best Strategies for Parents to Boost Their Mental Health.” Healthline. Available at:
https://www.healthline.com/health/parenting/ways-parents-can-care-for-their-mental-health.