Ground work for chasing away the Blues
Wed July 19th 2023
Being a parent can be one of the most rewarding experiences in
life, full of joy, love and laughter. But the journey you experience
in raising children does not come without its challenges.
As a parent, it is common to experience a range of emotions, including frustration, sadness, and sheer exhaustion. This is especially true for parents caring for a child with ongoing health battles. Between the sleepless nights, endless appointments, and the constant worry for your child’s wellbeing, it is easy to become overwhelmed and feel blue. Feeling blue as a parent is normal, but it is important to address these feelings and not let them affect your parenting and personal wellbeing. Remember that you are not alone. There are strategies you can implement to help chase away the blues and improve your mental health. Using these strategies, and practical tips are beneficial to yourself, your family, and the day to day running of your household.
Identify the Cause
The first step in managing emotions and preventing them from turning into the blues is to identify the cause. It could be the lack of sleep due to a newborn, anxious feelings over health concerns, a difficult relationship with your partner, financial stress, or simply the overwhelming number of tasks on your to-do list. Whatever the cause, identifying it will give you clarity, and in turn you can address the root issue, then take steps to alleviate it. Not all causes are easily ‘fixed’ or solved, but the simple act of acknowledging the issue is the first step to coping. Communicate with your partner, close friend or family member you trust, let them share the burden that you feel. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Get enough sleep
Sleep is essential for our physical and mental health. As a parent, it can be challenging to get enough sleep, especially when you have young children or children who are unwell. You may begin to notice when your sleep is poor, small problems become big problems. When you’re tired, things that you would normally take in your stride become hurdles that are overwhelming and too difficult to get over. To keep your mind well with a positive outlook on life, it is crucial to prioritize your sleep as much as possible. Try to establish a consistent bedtime routine for both you and your children. Avoid caffeine and other stimulants before bedtime and limit screen time in the hours leading up to sleep. If a full night’s sleep isn’t possible, you can try to adjust your schedule to ensure you get enough rest. You can also ask for help from a family member or a friend to give you some time to nap during the day. This is not always possible when you have children in your care, so although your sleep may not be perfect, if you’re starting to feel tired and edgy - be aware of it and do your best to work toward getting a few more hours of sleep.
As a parent, it can be easy to neglect your own needs and focus solely on your children. It’s in our nature - to nurture, care for, and go above and beyond for our children. However, there comes a point where taking care of others takes a major toll on yourself. Taking good care of yourself is crucial for your overall well-being and can help you feel happier, more energized, and less likely to spiral downwards into unhappy feelings. Self-care can include activities such as going for a walk, spending time with friends, reading a book, taking a bath, getting a massage, or pursuing a hobby. Find what works for you and prioritize it in your daily or weekly routine. Schedule it just like you would for any other appointment or task, otherwise you’ll find it gets left in the ‘if I get time’ pile, and most likely never done. Making time for activities that bring you joy is not selfish; it is necessary for you to cope and get through the rigors of daily parenting life. Think of it as a recharge of the selfbattery!
It can be easy to get caught up in the challenges and stress of parenthood and forget about the joys and blessings that come with it. Expressing gratitude can help shift your perspective and remind you of the positive aspects of your life. No matter how small, there is always something to be grateful for. Gratitude is a very powerful tool for managing stress and chasing away those blue feelings. Taking the time to reflect on what you are grateful for can improve your mood and outlook, and it can be as simple as voicing a couple of things, mentally ticking them off in your head, or noting them down on paper or in a journal. Start with just three things you are grateful for each day. These things can be as simple as a warm cup of coffee or a hug from your child. After a few weeks, you’ll have many things to look back on, and they will serve as a reminder of the many blessings over the course of a week. Ground work for chasing away the Blues
Connect with other parents
Parenthood can be isolating, and it can be easy to feel like you are alone and the only one going through the challenges and troublesome feelings of raising children. This is especially true when dealing with a sick child in hospital or at home. Connecting with other parents can help you feel less lonely and provides you with a support system. This support can include your partner, family members, friends or other parents you have met online through parenting forums. Chatting about your daily tasks, mishaps, challenges and joys - you will find it helps to keep a wider perspective on life. Additionally, being a listening ear to other parents struggling through similar things alleviates doubts you may be experiencing. If you are feeling overwhelmed, reach out to someone in your support system and let them know. They can listen and may be able to offer practical advice or simple reassurance that you are not alone.
Prioritize Physical Health
Physical health and mental health are closely intertwined. Chasing away the blues can sometimes be a matter of eating a healthy diet, getting regular exercise, and getting enough sleep. Easier said than done when you’re in the throes of a challenging week though! Try to prioritise physical health as much as possible, and it will help your mood and reduce stress on the body - even when it feels like there are not enough hours in the day. Try to make time for exercise, a short walk around the block can do wonders. Eating a healthy diet can also be challenging as a busy parent, but meal planning and prepping can help ensure that you have healthy options available even when you are pushed for time.
Parenting can be overwhelming, and it’s a good idea to take a break every so often. If you have a partner, arrange for them to take over parenting duties for a few hours so that you can have some time to something for yourself or catch up on jobs that are easier to do alone. If you don’t have a partner, consider hiring a babysitter or asking a trusted friend or family member to help out. Think of it as a very mini ‘holiday’ - looking after children can require long stints of focus and attention, and it’s good to take a short break before you become exhausted and worn out.
Create a positive environment
Creating a positive environment in your home can help you feel happier and more relaxed. You can do this by incorporating things that bring you joy and make you feel good, such as plants, artwork, or scented candles. A short glance at your favourite plant, or a whiff of a delicious scent chases away those blue feelings. You can also declutter your space and organize your belongings, which has a huge effect on reducing stress and creating a sense of calm.
Set realistic expectations
In the image-focused, highlight reel of Facebook and Instagram that we are exposed to, you can begin to think that your life is far too ordinary, and everyone else is holidaying on a tropical island every month! If social media causes you to feel unhappy, unmotivated, and despondent - consider what place it has in your life and whether you need to have limits on it. As a parent, it is essential to set realistic expectations for yourself, your children, and your lifestyle. Setting your own goals and focusing on your journey keeps you grounded - instead of someone else’s curated life being the standard you set.
Seek professional help
If you are feeling consistently blue or experiencing symptoms of depression, it is essential to seek professional help. A mental health professional can help you navigate your feelings and provide you with strategies for coping with them. If you’ve tried some of the things mentioned above, and you still struggle with constantly feeling blue - please seek help, it is essential to prioritize your mental health and get professional help when you need it.