When you are thrust into the world of parenthood, you gradually become known as “Jack’s dad” or “Chloe’s mummy” rather than Tom or Marie.
As if becoming responsible for a baby isn’t difficult enough, coming to terms with your new-found identity can be challenging. It is important to re-establish yourself as an individual who also happens to be a parent and a teacher as well as a daughter and partner, for example. Ensuring you have me-time is vital. I appreciate it can be difficult finding childcare, money and even time to allow yourself this, but it will really support your mental health and is a vital part of your wellbeing. So, as today marks World Mental Health Day 2019, I thought I would share some ways in which I make time for myself and perhaps they could inspire you to do similar.
I began Zumba in May 2011, just under seven months after being discharged from hospital following my molar pregnancy. I continued to around halfway through my pregnancy with my first daughter and then 37 weeks with my second. Zumba is more than a keep fit class. It allows me to socialise (I have built an incredible network of friends in the past eight years), have a laugh (I constantly make up my own moves… and if you can’t laugh at yourself…) and also create endorphins (every Zumba class leaves me smiling and feeling good!).
Cost: £5 per session
Taking a little time out of my busy routine to visit my trusted beautician, Nicola from Star-Therapease, is always something I look forward to. Whether I’m in need of a massage to work out all the knots and tension from a challenging week or my skin is suffering as a result of hormones or a change in the weather, I know I can rely on her to make sure I feel better about myself. In fact, I treated myself to a strawberries and cream facial today and it was bliss.
Cost: varies depending on treatment
I am not a natural runner. However, sometimes, pounding those pavements is exactly what my body and brain require. When I’m not feeling sociable, this is my go-to activity. It gives me time to think, if I want to, or clear my head, if that’s what I need. Moreover, the sense of achievement after a run is incredible. The endorphins feel superb too. If you need a bit of motivation, you could consider signing up for a race or taking part in a virtual challenge. Earning that medal will feel great.
Cost: a decent pair of trainers and a supportive sports bra, plus the usual exercise gear
Last summer, my partner and I felt as though we were having so many crappy things thrown at us. I had been suffering from debilitating anxiety and everything just felt too much. Once the kids left on a Sunday evening, we made it our mission to head off somewhere and go for a brisk walk. I suppose this ought to come under the category of ‘us-time’, but spending time with your partner as a couple rather than as parents is vital too.
Cost: free (unless you have to travel somewhere first)
Books really can open up new adventures and take you to different worlds. Why not head to your local library (if you still have one!) and take out a book or two? Every day, set aside a minimum of half an hour and read. Don’t feel bad if you get a few chapters in and realise it isn’t for you; different books appeal to different people. I have attempted to read “We need to talk about Kevin” on several occasions and just cannot force myself to like it.
Cost: free if you use the library and don’t accumulate a large fine!
Ok, so cooking usually involves struggling to find something that will appeal to all members of the family. How about, maybe one night a week or fortnight, cooking the kids one thing and spending time later in the kitchen cooking something just for you (and maybe your partner too!)? Not having to work to a deadline can make cooking a much more pleasurable experience. Dig out your recipe books and choose something you have fancied making for ages and go for it!
Cost: the price of your ingredients
These are just a few things that I like to do to keep my mental health in a positive place. My anxiety has been crippling in the past and, although I have my ups and downs, I am feeling so much better these days. I have two amazing daughters who I love to the moon and back, as well as the most incredible partner who has helped me enormously since we met.