5 things you can do right now to protect your family’s mental health￼
There is no doubt that it’s been a hard couple of years. We all have pandemic fatigue. The global impact of COVID-19 has been detrimental to so many people: Their livelihoods, their physical health, their access to care, their finances and their mental health. Inequality is skyrocketing. Meanwhile, the climate crisis is causing more and more scary extreme weather events, like wildfires and scorching heat.
These problems are systemic, and often the onus is put on individuals to solve problems that are so complicated even world leaders can’t seem to fix them.
But it is not your job to hold the world’s problems on your shoulders. And the truth is? You can’t solve climate change, pandemics and racism when you’re depressed, anxious or burnt out anyway.
So let’s talk about what you CAN do. You can protect you and your family’s mental health, in small ways and in big ones. Start with these simple reminders.
Remind yourself (and your family) that it is okay to be human
Humans are messy and imperfect. We cannot and will not ever get everything right all the time. But this doesn’t change the fact that we are worthy. We are worth all the good things life has to offer. We are worthy of respect, love, time, and forgiveness. We are human—and it is okay to be human.
Let go of guilt
It is okay to watch TV, eat convenience foods, gain weight and leave the dishes in the sink. If you are struggling with feeling guilt or shame over these things, remind yourself that there is no moral value attached to these things. They are just things that may or may not happen, they do not define your worth. Practice meeting yourself where you are at and being accepting of yourself. You don’t need to punish yourself for your perceived inadequacies.
Choose self compassion
You deserve to rest. We are parenting through a global pandemic, and it is not easy. In order to protect your own mental health, make some guilt-free space to do the things that make you feel calm. Does that mean letting your child watch TV so you can do yoga or read a book? Yes. It could also mean strapping your child in the stroller with a snack so you can do a nice long walk while listening to a podcast. It could mean offering convenience foods to your child when you want a meal that nourishes you (but they don’t prefer it). Whatever your self-care looks like, it matters. It contributes not only to your well-being, but it also trickles down to your whole family. If you take care of yourself, you will have more capacity to care for others, too.
Set boundaries with yourself, your partner and your kids (and anyone else in your life). That might look like giving yourself a bedtime because you know that you need a good sleep. No one else will force you to go to sleep, so you might have to set your own boundary there. With your kids, boundaries might look like having an expectation that they engage in screen-free quiet, independent play for an hour or two each day. With your partner, setting a boundary might look like saying, “In order to show up for our family, I need to show up for myself. I need an hour to exercise and shower before I can be the partner and parent that I want to be.” It is OKAY to state your boundaries and acknowledge your needs to yourself, and the other people in your life.
Take time to connect in a way that works for you
There is no one right way to bond with your family. Maybe you love reading together, or bonding over board games or movies. Maybe you like hiking or walking to the local bakery together. These small, joyful things may not seem important in moments of stress or with busy schedules, but they each add up to creating more joy and happiness in your lives. Don’t dismiss the value they have in protecting your family’s mental health. Connection is so important for making sure each person in the family feels seen, heard and valued.