Why Putting Yourself First is Important as a Parent
Hello, fellow parents! How’s everyone doing at taking care of themselves? Have you been balancing your responsibilities by relaxing and taking care of your own emotional needs? This is something I think we all can relate to on several levels.
If you’re like me, when life gets too busy with work and family I tend to become run down – not just physically, but also emotionally. I will have trouble focusing, become irritable, have difficulty sleeping and overeat (especially carbs). Then I start down the path of making poor choices (not showing up professionally at work, being unsupportive with my family and friends, and putting myself at risk of becomingly physically sick). I’ve learned that this is when I need to take a “mental health day” to listen to my body and get back to the basics of taking care of myself by getting rest when I’m tired, drinking plenty of water, eating healthy foods, exercising and organizing (and prioritizing) my responsibilities.
When we neglect taking care of ourselves as parents emotionally and mentally (i.e. by not taking a mental health day, or something comparable, like in the above example) this can result in personal conflicts among family, friends, and coworkers. By not taking care of one’s self and letting personal relationships suffer, this might leave a person feeling worried, distraught and/or upset. And, ultimately, when these feelings intensify and worsen over time this may cause difficulties with sleep, appetite, and emotion – and could mean a treatable medical diagnosis called anxiety.
As adults, we might not recognize our own symptoms and push through life with the attitude that adults are “always supposed to be strong and responsible.” Take a step back and ask yourself, “Am I okay feeling the way I do? Do I enjoy who I am like this?” Chances are the answer is “no.” Parenting is no easy feat – and it’s okay (and absolutely recommended) to every once in awhile put yourself first by taking some time to “regroup” and relax, so you can get back to feeling positive for the sake of your own mental well-being, and by nature of this, helping your children’s well-being, too. When we are at our best, this allows us to make strong parenting decisions.
Depending on how serious the symptoms are (in addition to identifying if these symptoms are situational or ongoing), you may decide to do some basic self-care strategies as I discussed earlier. If the symptoms are more serious or you’re not sure what to do, you can always start by a contacting your Primary Care Physician to schedule an appointment or contact your insurance to locate an in-network licensed mental health professional.
Now, let’s say we have a child who is struggling with symptoms of anxiety, and as their parent we want them to get some help to feel better, would you find a way to help them? Of course, you would. So remember this the next time you’re feeling overwhelmed and are experiencing intense feelings of anxiety, stress, etc. – when your child has similar feelings you’d offer them help. Why are you any different? Remember to take care of you. Sometimes the hardest thing to do is be a role model to our children and families when we struggle with our own mental health.
Overall, be open with your child and family to let them know what you are experiencing and how you plan to get better. This is an excellent opportunity to teach our family members the best way to take care of our own physical and emotional needs. Most importantly, identify a plan to feel better that works best for you!
These blogs were written by members of the CHI Health Behavioral Care team.