- What is Parent Mental Health Day?
- Physical ways to protect parent mental health
- Practical ways to protect parent mental health
- Emotional ways to protect parent mental health
Parenting can be exhilarating and exhausting all at once. With constant pressure from ourselves and elsewhere to create happy, fulfilled families – it’s easy to let things get on top of you. Protecting parent mental health often sinks to the bottom of the ‘to do’ list with parents and carers prioritising the needs of their family before their own. 📋
In recognition of all the amazing work that parents and carers do, we’ve put together some helpful ideas to help prioritise parent mental health and celebrate Parent Mental Health Day.
What is Parent Mental Health Day?
Parent Mental Health Day, which falls on 27th January, is an opportunity to check in on mums, dads and carers. According to a recent study, 1 out of 14 young people have a parent or caregiver with poor mental health.
The theme of this year’s Parent Mental Health Day is #BuildFamilyResilience. It encourages families to focus on how parents and carers can find ways to manage their own anxiety and stress, even when working through difficult times. It’s a time to recognise that being a parent doesn’t mean forgetting to tend to your own needs.
Parent mental health issues often have an impact on child mental health – so let’s look at ways to put parents and carers front and centre for a change.
Physical ways to protect parent mental health
Make your health a priority
Prioritising your own physical health is key to good parent mental health.
Let’s start with food. You’re probably always thinking about what your kids are eating but may not have the time and energy to think about your own diet. Do you hit the sugary snacks when you need a boost or do you have healthier options on hand? Try to factor healthy snacks into your meal planning or weekly shops so that you’re prepared when hunger strikes. 🥗
Next up, sleep. You’re probably well-versed in kid’s sleep hygiene with a solid bedtime routine in place - but how good are you at getting yourself to bed on time? Sleep gives your body a chance to restore itself, ready for whatever life throws at you next. Lack of sleep can have negative effects on mood, concentration and overall health.
Finally, booze. Alcohol can make us feel less anxious in the short-term, but regular or heavy drinking can have a negative effect on parent mental health. Try to stay within the NHS guidelines and, if you feel you need to cut down, factor in a few drink-free nights every week.
- Get moving and boost your mood
We know sports are good for children, but parents need to keep moving too. Globally, only 1 in 4 adults do enough exercise. Physical activity not only helps prevent diseases such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes, but it also improves symptoms of anxiety and depression. As an added bonus, keeping fit can boost thinking and learning skills – giving your brain a workout for free!🧠
If you can, get out of the house and choose a form of exercise that you enjoy. If getting out and about is tricky, try out one of the many fitness classes online. By taking time to zone out and hone in on your own body, you can make parent mental health a priority.
- Explore the great outdoors
You’re probably always telling your kids to get off their screens and go outside, but do you follow your own advice?
Research shows that getting outdoors and spending time in nature can help ease depression, anxiety and seasonal affective disorder (SAD). At a time when we’re counting the cost of anything and everything, taking a walk in a local park or woodland doesn’t cost a penny. Whether you manage a five-minute stroll or a two-hour hike – get out, explore and breathe! There’s no such thing as too much fresh air!🌬️
Spending time in nature doesn’t always mean stomping around in the mud. You can start simply, using your senses to reconnect with the natural world. Listen to the birds and explore the textures around you with your fingertips - there are many ways to experience the healing power of nature.
Practical ways to protect parent mental health
Find a space to be calm
Whether it’s in the bath with your favourite podcast or in the leg-aching frenzy of a spin class, find your quiet place. This doesn’t have to be a place that’s quiet, but a place where your mind can relax and find a moment of stillness.
That said, it is good to find quiet spaces to unwind in. Taking a walk by yourself or finding time to do breathing exercises can help protect parent mental health. The mind likes to wander – reliving the past or projecting into the future. Relaxation exercises and resources for mindfulness are easy to access and great for helping you to focus on the present.🧘
- Do what you love
Remember hobbies? Ahhh, hobbies – you’ll probably remember them from life before kids. Parent-life might mean you have half an hour rather than half a day to devote to your favourite pastime, but schedule it in. Rekindle your love of reading or listen to an album that contains zero nursery rhymes. 🎧
Make a point of putting aside time to do the things you love. Put a boundary around it and try to protect it. Hobbies enable you to reconnect with yourself while de-stressing and shouldn’t be underestimated.
- Switch off from the world
If you find yourself wasting chunks of your evening scrolling through your phone, put it down. Walk away and allow yourself to disconnect from the world. The news doesn’t need to be read. That link doesn’t need to be followed. Step away from social media and all the drama and hyper-connection it brings. 🤳
Challenge yourself to a whole evening away from your phone and see how it makes you feel. It could free up time for something that fills you with joy or simply lead to a better night’s sleep. Parents are often aware that screen-time has an impact on child sleep, but fail to correct their own bad habits.
Emotional ways to protect parent mental health
- Use your support network
They often say ‘it takes a village to raise a child’, but it’s easy to forget that your village is there for you just as much as it is for your kids. Keep parent mental health in mind and ask friends and family for help with practical things. Take up offers of childcare so you can have time to yourself. Say yes to lift sharing and playdates to give yourself a break.🐼
Connecting with the people who care about you is also great for parent mental health. Make time to hang out with people who know you as you, rather than ‘so-and-so’s mum or dad’. The simple benefits of friendship are often forgotten. These relationships give us a sense of belonging and reduce stress, so it’s important to maintain them.
- Talk about the big and little things
Identify who you find it easiest to share your troubles and anxieties with. Talk to them when you’re feeling overwhelmed. By starting honest conversations about the everyday stresses and worries that often lead to parent mental health issues, you can support each other. 🧱
Having a good chat with a friend is one of the best ways to reconnect and lift your spirits. Whether it’s after bedtime or in your lunch break, find a quiet spot at home or in a park. Call the person who you know will simply listen and support you as you tell them about lunchbox dramas and DIY disasters.
If you can’t talk about it, write about it. Writing about how you feel, either by keeping a diary or by writing free flow stream-of-consciousness is a great way to offload. You don’t even have to read it back, just dump it onto the page and let it sit there rather than in your own head.
- Be kind to yourself
Finally, remember this. Parenting is hard. No one gets it all right all of the time, and we’re not supposed to. Kids need to see that adults are human, fallible and still learning.
If you’re having negative thoughts then try to approach them with kindness rather than criticism. Think about all the things you have achieved at the end of a day rather than what’s been missed. Getting the kids to school on time is an achievement, as is doing your job and keeping everyone alive and fed. If there’s an animal in there too you’re on fire!🔥
Whatever you’re up to this Parent Mental Health Day, take a moment to check in with yourself and those around you. Choose one or two things that you can do to protect parent mental health and incorporate them into your routine.