No matter how prepared you think you are, parenthood can put a strain on your psyche. Below are a few quick, actionable steps you can take to get a better handle on things. Be sure to get in touch with a qualified counselor or psychiatrist for complete diagnostics and for more specific ways to help improve your mental health.
1. Avoid or Quit Drugs and Alcohol
Americans are consuming more drugs than ever before. And while alcohol consumption is at a historic low, the rise of the wine mom stereotype shows that it is still a normalized part of everyday American life. While someone who’s mentally healthy should be able to indulge in some things occasionally, it’s still a very bad idea for anyone with current mental health issues and even worse to use substances as a coping mechanism. If you’re in the New England area, be sure to check out these resources on drug rehabs in Boston to learn more.
2. Remove Clutter from Your Living Space
Whether you realize it or not, the human brain craves order. Clutter, whether it’s visual in the form of a messy home, or abstract, as in an overly complicated personal or professional life, is associated with feelings of anxiety and depression.
Admittedly, messes have a way of accumulating when you have children. But when clutter exists, it will continuously sap at your mental resources. By taking steps to declutter the everyday physical and mental spaces you have control over, you’ll be giving your brain a breather, which will always be great for your mental health.
3. Prioritize Sleep
There’s no getting around it. A newborn will disrupt your sleep patterns, which can make you irritable, unable to concentrate, and depressed. For everyone’s sake, it’s important to make conscious decisions surrounding your sleep schedule and sleep quality. Avoid self-medicating, get better quality pillows and mattresses, and avoid having distractions like TVs or computers in the bedroom to get started, and consult a therapist to find areas for improvement.
4. Avoid Social Media
Social media presents unrealistic and highly-idealized versions of people, including other parents. The way social media distorts reality is now well understood to be bad for one’s mental health, at virtually all doses. Limiting your social media consumption to 30 minutes or less a day and keeping it highly specific for communicating with people you care about can do wonders for your mental health.
5. Try Not To Worry About Other Parents’ Opinions
Everyone has opinions. While we all have an imperfect grasp of ourselves and our children, at the end of the day no one understands your situation better than you do. Keep trying to improve and you’ll be way ahead of many parents, whichever approach you’re taking.
6. Give Yourself Time to Be You
Parents, stay-at-home parents especially, find that they are starting to miss their old interests and crave interactions with people their own age. If you don’t have a healthy way of acting on this, it may lead you resenting your partner or your child. Taking the time to occasionally work on a hobby or engage with other adults that share your interests can help you find your center and help you remain your own person.
7. Find the Time to Exercise
This is tough to do, but necessary. At even just twenty minutes a day, moderately challenging exercise can help release natural hormones that improve your mood, helping relieve anxiety and depression symptoms and increasing the onset and quality of sleep. It will also help offset the added pounds many new parents pile on, improving self-image and confidence.
8. Don’t Be Afraid to Admit You Need Help
The predominance of single-family and single-parent households is a relatively recent phenomenon. It’s only in recent generations that it became normal for parents to be the only ones involved in raising their own children.
Not too long ago, extended family households with multiple adults were the norm and still are in many places around the world. It also used to be normal for entire communities to be involved in the upbringing of every child. Our species likely evolved to raise children in communities and extended family groups, not in single-family households as is common today.
Times are different now, but it bears remembering that humans may not be wired to bring up children by themselves. Whether you need a babysitter or an extra pair of hands to do anything else, you should know that it’s perfectly OK to do so.
9. See a Qualified Therapist
Regardless of what you think your mental state is, you should see a therapist or counselor about as often as you see your dentist, if not more. When you’re busy putting out fires and getting a handle on the challenges of parenthood, gets difficult to get an accurate idea of just how well things are going for you. Seeing a qualified therapist or counselor can help you get a better understanding of your current state while also helping you find more specific solutions to any mental health issues.
Start Improving Your Mental Health
Taking care of one’s mental health is an ongoing process that requires adjustments depending on our current situation. Single actions or interventions are rarely enough to bring significant improvements for most people. However, a more holistic approach done consistently is likely to help you gain the best outcomes. Good luck!