Parental Time Out: Tips to Practice Self Care

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Parental Time Out: Tips to Practice Self Care

Nourish the spirit during Mental Health Awareness Month

By Priscilla Greear

Feeling tired, sleep deprived and uninspired when your child asks for help after dinner with that Shakespeare assignment? Parents hold the world’s most important job—no Great Resignation here—on top of any day jobs, digital patrol duty and myriad other responsibilities. On the heels of the pandemic, The Children’s Trust encourages parents to pay attention to their own mental health needs in order to raise healthy, well-developed children and enjoy life themselves through the rain showers and sunshine.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) states that about 20 percent of Americans face mental illness annually, including some 21 million experiencing major depression and 48 million more with anxiety disorders. Warning signs range from difficulty concentrating and exhaustion to drastic mood changes and excessive fear. While more serious cases may need therapy and medication, all parents can weave self-care into daily routines for healthier lives and families.

Eat Blueberries, Get Moving! NAMI states that “improving your physical wellbeing is one of the most comprehensive ways you can support your mental health. You’ll have an easier time maintaining good mental habits when your body is a strong, resilient foundation.”

Deep breathing, meditation and muscle relaxation relieve stress and help one feel more in control. Also, exercise daily and eat well. “Daily exercise naturally produces stress-relieving hormones in your body and improves your overall health,” it says. “Eating mainly unprocessed foods like whole grains, vegetables and fresh fruit is a key to a healthy body. Eating this way can help lower your risk for chronic diseases and help stabilize your energy levels and mood.”

Seek Positive:  Note beauty, from squawking parrots to radiant sunshine. NAMI suggests writing down one good thing each day to improve your outlook. “Even if the positive thing is tiny—'It was a sunny day’—it’s real, it counts and it can start to change your experience of life.”

Name it to Tame it: NAMI also advises identifying negative emotions without guilt. “When you allow yourself to notice your feelings without judging them as good or bad, you dial down the stress and feel more in control…you’re better able to thoughtfully choose how to act.”

Love Thyself:  “Parents with mental illness often carry a lot of shame and guilt, which doesn’t help them or their children,” says Dr. Patricia Ibeziako of Boston Children’s Hospital. “By being kind to themselves, parents may have more emotional resources for themselves and their child.”

Nourish the Spirit: Dr. Lisa Miller, author of “The Awakened Brain: The New Science of Spirituality and Our Quest for an Inspired Life,” discusses on barrons.com her research that spiritual people are often happier, healthier and higher functioning.  “ Once we start to perceive the love, oneness and guidance in life, people overcome feelings of isolation, depression and despair, as well as genuinely connect with others for closer team work and relationships…make more innovative and creative decisions,” she says.

Build Connections: “If you can meet up with a friend once a month, or go to a community event at your local library once every two months, it still helps keep you connected. It also gives you the chance to connect with people on multiple levels,” advises NAMI.

Hit the Books: WebMD lists easy habits to improve mental health. “Find your flow” through a fulfilling or challenging activity, whether painting or housecleaning. Banish home clutter and read a good book: “studies have linked reading to improvement in depression symptoms as well as mental flexibility and brain function.”

Community Care: In a story on CNN, psychology professor Jamil Zaki offers relief for parental exhaustion. “One of the most optimistic, uplifting and reliable findings from social psychology in the last 10 or 15 years is that helping others provides a fast track to improving our own wellbeing…Supporting someone through their stress reduces your own. Spending time helping other people makes you feel you have more time for yourself.”