We’re not going to sugar-coat it – being a parent can be tough. Whether you’ve just had your first child or are the loving parent of many kids, it’s not uncommon for your mental health to take a hit. Many mums and dads will tell you that feeling overwhelmed, stressed and sad is actually kind of normal! So, how do you know if you’re just having a few bad days or if it’s something more? And what do you do if you are suffering from mental health issues?
Here’s what you need to know about dealing with mental illness as a mum or dad…
Are they bad days or something more?
Everyone has bad days. Days when we’re feeling low, angry, anxious, stressed or sad. Sometimes these feelings are influenced by a certain event or experience, and sometimes they don’t have any obvious reason at all. Having a bad day every so often is normal. But if they are a regular occurrence and something you don’t feel you have control of, it might point to a more serious issue.
If you think you are suffering from a mental illness – or even if you’re unsure – it’s important to reach out for help. It’s very common for parents to grapple with whether or not they will benefit from professional help or not. If this is the situation you’re finding yourself in, it’s best to pay a visit to your GP. They will be able to do a quick and easy assessment of how you’re doing and let you know whether therapy is something that can help. More often than not, people who have a feeling they could benefit from professional help are correct!
While seeing your GP is the best and quickest way to address your mental health concerns, we understand that some people might be hesitant. If this is the case for you, it can be a good idea to keep a mood diary for a few weeks. This means writing down how you’re feeling each day. You can do this simply by writing down words to describe your emotions that day, such as anxious, sad or stressed.
At the end of one or two weeks, take a look back at the diary and ask yourself, “do I want my mood to look like this in the future, or do I want it to change?”. If you do want it to change – that is, if you want to feel happier – it’s a good idea to seek help from a good psychologist.
Finding effective treatment without breaking the bank
For many parents, adding another expense onto their list of things to pay for isn’t an option. But that’s okay, because seeing a psychologist doesn’t have to be expensive. With a Mental Health Treatment Plan, you can get a rebate on up to 10 therapy sessions. To do this, you just have to visit your GP and explain a bit about your mental health struggles. You can then tell them you would like to see a psychologist to work through these issues.
For most people, a Mental Health Treatment Plan makes the cost of therapy far more affordable. And here at Ok To Talk, we make sure to match you with a psychologist who suits your budget – whatever that might be. We can help find a psychologist who is willing to work for discounted rates or completely free, if this is what your financial situation requires.
Get started today by answering a few simple questions about who you are and what you’re looking for.
Dealing with the stigma
Unfortunately, parents often feel shame or guilt for their mental health problems. Maybe you feel like you are failing as a parent. Perhaps you feel pressure to act
like you have everything under control at all times. Or you might feel guilty for being sad when you have a beautiful new baby in your life.
Whatever it is, it’s important to understand that you are worthy of help. For those who need it, therapy can be an act of self-love. It’s saying to yourself, “I deserve to be happy, so I will prioritise this time to work on my happiness.” Just as you would encourage your partner, friends, family or even your children to seek mental health help if they needed it, you should seek help if you aren’t feeling as balanced as you want or deserve to be.
Speak to someone you trust, whether it’s a friend, colleague, partner or family member. Reaching out can do wonders to relieve all the emotions we have bottled up inside, so be sure to try it out!
How to care for your mental health… while caring for a child
If you have young children, you might not have much time to yourself. But it’s important to recognise which activities make you feel at ease and improve your mental state. This can differ from person to person. But for parents, it might be best to think of things to do that fit with your already established schedule. Some suggestions are:
- Reading a book before bed.
- Watching an episode of your favourite TV show while the kids are napping.
- Taking the stroller and going for a short walk around the block every day.
- Taking the time to cook yourself a nutritional breakfast you enjoy.
- Joining a parents group.
- Organising for someone to babysit for one afternoon every week so you can have some ‘me’ time.
All too often, parents are so focussed on their children that they forget to take car of themselves. Making it a habit to take some time to yourself can really do wonders for your mental health. Even just a few minutes every day can make all the difference!
Find a psychologist using our free service
Whether you’re a parent or not, mental illness is something no one deserves to live with. If you’re in need of professional help, use our free service to find a psychologist suited to your budget and location.