Three ways mums can avoid feeling overwhelmed in uncertain times

Back in March when lockdown started, families had to adapt to new ways of living and working and they have since experienced an unprecedented 24-weeks of juggling childcare, home-schooling and work. The demand on parents and primary caregivers skyrocketed and feelings of stress and anxiety were compounded.

For many, managing the day-to-day needs of a family has required more energy and more patience, and that is on top of being naturally concerned about the health and wellbeing of loved ones. In fact, earlier this year over a third of parents admitted to feeling more anxious about their child(ren) returning to the classroom for the first time in six-months, than the child(ren) themselves.

Working from home

Navigating a new path can be tricky for anyone, but as we make our way through a new term and turn the corner into Autumn, mums and dads are now faced with the new challenge of managing a complex school routine. Research has shown that parents are needing to spend the equivalent of more than two-working days extra a month on the school routine as a direct result of the pandemic – staggering pick-up and drop-off times, washing school uniform daily and standing in for the lack of wrap-around care available. A number of parents have even expressed that they need to find over two hours extra every day to sort out back to school admin.

Let’s be clear about this, finding an additional two-working days a month to plug into childcare in an already time-draining world, is no mean feat.

It may come as no surprise then that half of parents have also admitted to feeling overwhelmed by this new demand of hours. Despite this additional pressure though, a quarter of parents say they have no coping strategies in place to support their own mental health.

And that’s not all. It appears that, compared to their male counterparts, mums are putting the management of their own mental health far down their list of priorities, at a time when, arguably, it is needed the most. 26% of mums say they have no coping strategies in place at all to look after their own mental health, just 19% say they block out time for themselves (compared to 28% of dads) and only 10% of mums say they seek therapy or speak to someone outside of the family (compared to 20% of men who say the same).

The mental and physical benefits of children being back at school cannot be understated and, as a parent, you will need to ensure this is at the forefront of your mind when dealing with feelings of stress and overwhelm. However, bypassing your own mental health and failing to dedicate time to needs of your own can increase the risk of burnout.

I have shared three pieces of simple advice that you can take away and action in your own life to help manage overwhelm:

Open honest communication with your employer

Work-life balance is a thing of the past. Now, the focus for you as a family is to create a work-home synergy that suits your individual needs. The key then is to negotiate this with your employer. The emphasis must be on both parties here to make this ‘new normal’ work. Taking the initiative to start an honest and open dialogue with your employer, one where you share your true reality, could help create a flexible working package for you that reduces daily stress and anxiety. Ultimately, this will make you more productive throughout your working day.

honest conversation with employer

Dedicate guilt-free time to yourself

Taking some time for yourself to deal with feelings of overwhelm in the right way is incredibly important. It can be counterproductive to push through without acknowledging the challenges you’re facing. Remember, dedicating time to yourself doesn’t mean you don’t want to spend time with your family, rather you are simply recognising the need to process thoughts and recharge so you can relish the time you do have with them more. It may sound simple, but start off by telling people – your partner, your family or your friends – what you need. This transparent conversation will open the opportunity to take that much needed time out.

Practice acceptance

Remember that as a parent, it’s important for you to be pragmatic about what you can control – especially as we now see coronavirus threaten school closures – and learn to accept you can only do your best with the information that’s provided to you. Try to recognise the additional input of hours needed from you as a parent as a new reality and turn your mind towards acceptance and compassion. This could greatly improve your ability to navigate this difficult situation.

Take a look at the NHS’s One You for advice on how to make small changes that fit your life, so you feel better and healthier every day. Get your mind plan by answering five simple questions in an interactive quiz.

Article by Jane Muston, Mental Health Clinician & Clinical Director at Vita Health Group.

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