Managing parents’ mental health during COVID-19

Summary

Parenting can be tough at the best of times. But parenting 24/7 through a global pandemic? With a side order of working from home and managing remote learning? You’re allowed to feel a wee bit stressed and frazzled. Managing your mental health as a parent during this time is important for everyone. And it’s definitely not selfish to prioritise some self-care. By taking care of yourself, you’ll be better placed to take care of your children, ageing parents, neighbours and the wider community.

Routine

We know, when every day feels like Groundhog Day, promoting a routine can seem like it’s just adding to the monotony. But things like a consistent bedtime and waking time can really help your wellbeing, as can providing a structure to your week. For example, having a nice takeaway dinner on Friday night to mark the start of the weekend and a family board game session on Sunday afternoons can help to distinguish them from workdays.

If you’re working from home, routine is also important to create defined work hours. There’s the risk of both working longer hours and not switching off, or getting distracted by other things and not being productive. A clear structure to your days and knowing when you are working and not working can help. It also helps your kids to know when you are and are not available for them.

Movement, good food and fresh air

Mental health and physical wellbeing are undeniably linked. Looking after your body is good for your brain.

Parents often put their own physical wellbeing last, but setting aside time to do some exercise is important, as is making sure you’re nourishing your body with healthy food and plenty of water. If you’re finding it hard to fit in, try exercising with your kids – you can go for a family walk after dinner, kick a ball around the garden, or have a loungeroom dance party.

Getting outside your home once a day is a good idea too. If you’re unable to leave the home due to stricter isolation or quarantine protocols, even opening the windows wide for a blast of fresh air can help to lift your mood.

After a full day of refereeing arguments between kids, you might find yourself reaching for a some kind of treat. Whether your go-to is mashed potato, a bar of chocolate it’s a good idea to keep an eye on your consumption of comfort foods and drinks as stress management tools. If you’re finding yourself reaching for these things more frequently, you might like to look into alternative tools like meditation and mindfulness instead.

Maintaining connection

Even the most introverted of humans are still social creatures. Human connection is important and we need relationships with others. Social distancing doesn’t mean we should cut ourselves off from connecting with others, and in fact, it means that making the time to nurture our relationships with friends and family is more important than ever.

We might not be able to pop over for a cup of tea in person, but there’s still plenty of ways to maintain our connections with others. Online video chat tools, emails, phone calls and even old-fashioned letter writing are all still available and great ways to continue communicating with our communities. Taking time to connect with your loved ones gives you the chance to share your feelings, vent if required, and replenish your tank as an individual, not just mum or dad.

Anxiety is normal, but you can control it

Living through a global pandemic is understandably stressful. But it’s important to manage your stress and worries before they escalate. The Australian Psychological Society has put together a fact sheet on coping with coronavirus (COVID-19) anxiety, with tips including:

  • Limit your media exposure and stick to credible information sources like the Australian Government or the World Health Organization.
  • Keep things in perspective and remember that Australia’s cases of COVID-19 is low and most people recover.
  • Take advantage of things like parenting forums, for example if your child’s school has a Facebook group, to share your concerns about things like distance learning and ask for help

Carve out some alone time

While connection is important, for some of us so is solitude. Suddenly having all the family at home, 24/7, can be overwhelming for everyone. Having some space in the day for everyone to have some time to themselves can help to manage moods and prevent friction. Some ideas that might help include:

  • Taking time for a bath
  • A dedicated time for all the family to read quietly
  • Creating a blanket fort for kids to have quiet time (and for you to drink a cup of tea in peace)
  • And if all else fails, sitting in the car by yourself for 15 minutes!

Focus on the positives

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, remember that it’s only temporary. While this is undeniably hard, there are lots of silver linings too, if you take the time to look for them. Enjoy having no commute and the chance to have more family dinners. Get a deeper insight into what your child is learning at school and explore topics that they are excited by in more detail. And your kids can get a better idea of what you do for a living.

Ultimately, this is a time to remember that we’re all in this together. There’s support

available, and if you aren’t in need of support yourself, you can provide help to your family and friends who do.

Mental Health Navigator by Best Doctors

MLC Life Insurance customers and their family members* can access Best Doctors, including its award-winning Mental Health Navigator service.

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