mental health parenting

Mental Health and Parenting

Whilst incredibly rewarding, parenting is undeniably the toughest gig you’ll ever have.

Becoming a parent takes its toll both physically, emotionally, and mentally. It’s a very steep learning curve, which changes daily, and does not come with an instruction manual.

Naturally, parenting can significantly impact your mental health.

‘Mental health’ is an overarching term used to define emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It can affect our ability to handle stress, form relationships with others, and make choices. As a parent, these are challenges that continuously materialise.

The challenges of being a new parent

Parenthood involves navigating the demands that it brings.

It’s fair to say that every parent struggles with this responsibility in ways others may not.

New mums have to learn to care for a child whilst still recovering. The baby has an ever-changing schedule and list of tasks that come with varying success. There are feelings of loneliness, isolation, sleep deprivation, and brain fog.

Therefore, welcoming a new arrival can quickly create an unrecognisable way of life for both biological parents, their partners, and adoptive parents or carers.

It can feel unmanageable for those with existing mental health needs or who develop difficulties during this already exhausting time.

Guide for parents and carers

Between 10-and 20% of women experience maternal mental illness during pregnancy or the first year after childbirth.

Antenatal depression starts in pregnancy and can cause extreme feelings of mum guilt, despite the baby being very much loved and wanted.

Once the baby arrives, the complete upheaval it brings can increase the chances of experiencing a mental health condition or triggering a past one.

Postnatal depression (PND) can manifest through low mood or anxiety to depression and some mums may experience more severe symptoms, such as psychosis.

Depression is not exclusive to biological mothers, of course, and PND in men can affect as many as one in 10 fathers. Adoptive parents, guardians, and carers may also develop depression and anxiety during the turbulence of parenting, particularly in the early days, weeks, and months.

Depression support groups

It can be a worrying and upsetting time for the family or friends of parents or carers who begin to show signs of depression.

The good news is that mental health is a conversation that has grown in recent years. In particular, our understanding of depression in pregnancy or parenting has gained momentum.

Parents struggling with their mental health can seek support from medical professionals and dedicated support services to still care for and positively support their children.

With the proper advice and assistance, mothers, fathers, and partners can feel supported and grow their confidence to prepare for changes or stressful situations.

The NHS website can aid in finding an urgent mental health service, and charities such as Mind have tools to get help for mental health concerns.

Maternal Mental Health Week also provides vital resources and safe support to families.

Relaxation for parents

Sadly, there is no quick fix for mental health.

Besides seeking professional support, practising ‘relaxation’ can aid recovery or become a critical coping tool.

Relaxation can be paramount to managing stress and worry. It won’t make the cause of the stress go away but can provide a mental break from the triggers to reset your feelings.

Relaxation techniques can increase the blood flow to help with energy levels. In doing so, a calmer and clearer mind can lead to positivity, better concentration and memory, and decision making.

Our top 5 relaxation tips are:

  1. Ask for help and take a much-needed break from the parenting duties stressing you out. As long as your child or children are cared for, you can focus on refocusing your mind.
  2. Breathe. Take deep breaths through the nose, hold it for a few seconds, and out through the mouth. Try to drop your shoulders and concentrate on the moment until the anxiety has passed.
  3. Search for a guided meditation video or playlist to introduce the idea of mindfulness and a new way of thinking about your wellbeing.
  4. Listen to music or a podcast that can disconnect you from the feelings of stress. Focus on instruments or the spoken words.
  5. Start a new creative project. Perhaps pick up a craft set that will immerse your concentration so that the anxious feelings can no longer take focus.

Always seek medical help for any mental health problems. Talking it through with a professional is never a waste of anyone’s time. There are people who can help.


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