Parents are busy people. Most of our running around has very little to do with adult priorities, and almost 99% of our time spent out of our homes has to do with our children’s schedules. That’s okay. That’s what we signed up for when we decided to do this whole parenting thing. But more and more of our fellow parents are drowning in responsibilities and expectations, and it’s proof that they feel lost in the war against the chaos. We’ve got to find a way to take care of ourselves and each other. Our stress battles come in many forms. Parents can isolate themselves, fall into a depression, or self-medicate in unhealthy ways. None of these options help our children. The storm of activities and responsibilities can seem endless, so we’ve got to find our center. Here are some ways to do that for our children.
Find a Health Program
In order to be available to my children, I need to pay attention to my most basic self-care. I’ve got to eat well, exercise, and hydrate. Through a friend at work, I found a program called The Whole Life Challenge. It’s an eight-week cycle of excellent strategies to maintain a healthy life. What I like about this program, is that it asks each participant to stretch, drink water, exercise, lessen sugar intake, and breathe. It is a challenge, but all of us who participate mention that our bodies thank us for the attention. I know I have other friends who have taken control of their well being by joining Weight Watchers, a wellness program at work, or a group of friends with similar goals. The most successful wellness environments include a group of people, and the best ones call our attention to more than just diet. We can’t be our best for our children unless we are feeling good.
The parental blues are no joke. That’s why we find so many of our friends and family members in the grips of some serious anxiety and depression. Many psychiatrists prescribe a healthy dose of Mother Nature. In a 2015 Stanford mental health study, researchers found, “More than half of the world’s population lives in urban settings, and that is [predicted] to rise to 70 percent within a few decades. Just as urbanization and disconnection from nature have grown dramatically, so have mental disorders such as depression.” A simple walk through a neighborhood, a drive on a country road, or vacation off the grid can help ease the pain of depression. The same article refers to a previous study, “time in nature was found to have a positive effect on mood and aspects of cognitive function, including working memory, as well as a dampening the effect on anxiety.” While our kids are taking part in a sporting event or a music lesson, parents can benefit from a quick walk around the neighborhood or a jog through a nearby park. Stealing these small moments in nature can do wonders for our mental health, again, benefiting our children.
Our kids need us to model how to balance our mental and physical health with all of the responsibilities of life. Letting go with our children is so important. Put work away and enjoy a nature walk with the kids. Don’t clean on a Saturday, and go for a picnic. Have laundry become an entire household event where everyone comes up with his or her own way to fold a shirt. Be silly in the kitchen and make a meal based entirely on the ingredients the children create. We take ourselves too seriously. Life is too short to frown, rush, and stress all day. Silly times are kids’ favorite times. Making memories by doing nothing that can be written on a calendar is good for all of us. Let go of expectations and outcomes, and find the fun again. Children are great guides to fun. Let’s tap into their expertise.
This last tip may seem a little hippie dippy for many tastes, but trust me. Try meditating just once and reap the benefits of deep breathing and quiet. This is another tactic that will require a parent to steal some time. Meditate for the first ten minutes of any day, for ten minutes during nap time, or for ten minutes after bedtime. There are fantastic YouTube meditations that last for about ten minutes and do the trick. Personally, when I carve out time to meditate, my mood is instantly better and my sleep is deeper, making me the best form of myself the next day. I really do have to force myself to take ten minutes of silence, though. Our house is super loud and incredibly busy, so I’ll grab my headphones and hide in my room for ten minutes while my oldest entertains. Otherwise, when my husband is home, he creates the fun while I breathe for ten minutes, because he is very aware of how much nicer I can be after some deep breathing. If you can’t find time alone, invite your babies to help. It has been proven that deep breathing also helps children with behaviors and good decision making. I’ve used Deepak Chopra in five different high school classrooms. If thirty teens can be silent for ten minutes, so can we. Here is my favorite meditation leader on YouTube: Deepak Chopra.
If the waves of sadness are too much. If unhealthy self-medication seems to be the only solution, remember that there are ways to take care of our mental and physical health that take absolutely no money. Kids can join in a wellness journey, a nature walk, or a meditation session. The reality that our children need us to be mentally healthy can be heavy. The guilt, stress, and exhaustion that come with parenting is daunting. However, with some healthy self-care, we can be the best forms of ourselves for our children. What do you do to find sanity? What works to get you “back to good” when the blues show? We’d love to know! Thank you for reading, friends.