Be kind to your mind Mama
Unprecedented times mean unprecedented challenges. And being a parent can add to the complexity. Here are four tips to help you manage your mental wellbeing:
Take a cup of uncertainty, add a dash of instability and a sprinkle of worry and you end up with the new reality that is playing havoc with our lives like never before. As a mum who likes to plan ahead and kids who need a bit of certainty, a new approach and some new tools to help cope mentally are required. With cancelled events becoming the ‘new normal’ - “sorry buddy, the preschool disco isn’t on anymore” - and plenty of people struggling with fear of what the future might hold, here’s few simple ideas for managing your mind in an age of uncertainty.
Give yourself permission to feel…
It sounds counterintuitive, but often the more we try to suppress our feelings, the more problematic they become. Telling ourselves we “shouldn’t” feel frustrated, angry, disappointed or anxious only adds guilt into the mix – it won’t shift the emotions. It’s ok to feel these things. And having a new baby can increase these feelings, so be kind to yourself, you’re not the only one going through this, and don’t feel like you have to squash these emotions. Generally, feelings are processed more quickly when you accept them as valid – if unpleasant – experiences. This is also important to remember where our kids are concerned. Allow them to express their feelings and be there by providing comfort, encouragement and empathy to help them move through a difficult time and learn skills for next time.
… But recognise if these feelings become overwhelming
Try doing something to help lift you up – like booking in a coffee with a friend, listening to an uplifting podcast, getting some fresh air or even getting some professional help. Sometimes, emotions can dip sharply or spiral downwards into a deeply painful (and very unhelpful) place. Some therapists and counsellors call this “the point beyond which nothing good happens”, where thoughts are overwhelmingly negative, pessimistic, and toxic. If you find yourself there, it’s time to actively intervene to distract your mind – play some of your favourite music and dance around with the kids, do some exercise, take a shower, or do some gardening and shift your focus. Do something that will prompt your brain to detach from your thoughts and begin to focus on your senses (sight, hearing, touch, smell, taste). More exercises, tips and instructions for managing your mood can be found on the Mental Health Foundation website.
Practice living mindfully and live in the present
Meditation can help with this, although it may be easier said than done with a newborn baby or young kids around. But they can also be something positive to focus your mind back onto. Our minds rarely stay still – they’re forever flicking between past, present, and future. In these uncertain times, it’s likely you’ll find yourself pondering things that have already happened and/or anxiously thinking about things that could happen. As a result, you’re not present in what’s going on around you and you may get stuck in your thoughts as you try to solve the unchangeable past and the unknowable future. It’s difficult to stop your mind running away like this but try to gently but firmly redirect it back towards what you’re doing at the time. Keeping your focus on being fully present in the moment with all your senses, helps you to focus on things you do have some control of. Don’t be worried if your mind runs off again, simply keep bringing it back, over and over.
Do what you can to help yourself with good nutrition, sleep, and exercise
Sleeping enough, eating well, and moving the body won’t solve mental health problems in isolation – but they certainly make a huge difference to your overall wellbeing. By getting the basics right, you put yourself and your family in the best position possible to cope with whatever this strange new world throws at you.
- If you find yourself really struggling with your mental health, it’s vital that you talk to someone about it. Sharing your feelings with a trusted friend or family member who can support you through the process of getting help if needed will be invaluable to yourself and your family.
- You can browse available therapists and counsellors at talkingworks.co.nz – and remember, it’s completely normal and completely understandable to need a compassionate, experienced listening ear any time, but particularly in these times.
- Of course, we all want optimal mental wellbeing and healthy lifestyles. But, as the unexpected can happen, many new parents take out life insurance, so they can help their loved ones at a difficult time. With AA Life, it only takes a few minutes to apply and there are no medical questions on application. Take these steps, and you’ll be able to rest easy knowing you’re covered by NZ’s most trusted life insurance brand*. See AA Life for more information.
*AA Life has been voted as Most Trusted in the Life Insurance category of the Reader’s Digest Trusted Brand survey in 2020.