Mental Health Awareness Week 2023
Mental Health Awareness Week 2023 UK
This content mentions anxiety and mental health which some people may find triggering.
Mental Health Awareness Week 2023 is an annual event that brings people together to highlight the importance of positive mental health that runs from the 15th to 21st May.
With the increased stress around the current cost of living crisis, this year’s theme looks at anxiety. So, with that in mind, we wanted to explore what anxiety is, and bring together voices from the parenting world to provide tips and strategies to help parents experiencing anxiety.
What is anxiety?
Anxiety is often described as a feeling of unease, fear or an intense worry about something that we think may happen, or something that may negatively affect us in the future. It is important to remember that it is completely normal to feel anxious or worried in situations we don’t feel comfortable with. We usually judge anxiety to be a negative feeling. This is due to the way it makes us feel. Anxiety though, when experienced in response to an appropriate circumstance, like a job interview for example, helps us to remain vigilant, aware and helps us to solve the problem ahead of us.
However, prolonged exposure to anxiety can start to take its toll on our physical and emotional wellbeing. Anxiety is our ‘fight’ or ‘flight’ response that is triggered when we potentially feel there is a danger on the horizon, and with many families struggling to make ends meet, it is not surprising that many are experiencing anxiety.
Often, these feelings, although unpleasant, usually pass once the situation you are in is resolved. It is only when we begin to feel anxious regularly and in response to situations that do not require us to be alert and vigilant that this can become a problem.
Spurgeons – Mental Health Awareness Week 2023
As part of Mental Health Awareness Week 2023, we have created a Box breathing resource that is suitable for use with all the family to help you contain those anxious moments, and de-escalate those uncomfortable symptoms of anxiety.
Here at Spurgeons Children’s Charity, we understand that parenting with anxiety can be challenging. That is why we have put together this interactive and visual resource that is suitable to use independently, or with your children and family.
Take a moment to watch along with the animation and repeat as many times as necessary to bring a sense of calm. The box breathing technique is a great way of regulating your breathing, and gently reducing any anxious sensations felt within the body, and for slowing down the breath.
Parenting with Anxiety – Mental Health Awareness Week 2023
Parental anxiety relates to the intense worry and fears we have around being a parent or a caregiver. There are often a variety of triggers, some of which could include worries about a child’s development, or their health and wellbeing but this list is not exhaustive. There are a huge range of things that could be anxiety inducing or stressful for a parent.
It’s important to remember that you are not alone. Many parents experience anxiety, whether that be specifically relating to their child or children, or other areas of their life. Parenting with anxiety, whatever the cause, can be time-consuming. It can also be challenging at the best of times, but when struggling to control anxiety, it can become overwhelming, and difficult to cope with.
So, how can you cope with your anxiety symptoms when your child requires your undivided attention and care?
Mental Health for Parents – Caring for your own Wellbeing
Being a parent often means busy days, and it can be difficult to find little moments for yourself that offer a chance to decompress. Let’s take a look at some of the things you can do to maintain wellbeing, and positive parental mental health.
1) A great way to start the day, before getting the kids up and ready for school, is to engage in some relaxation techniques like meditation and breathing exercises. You could even incorporate some exercise into your morning routine if time allows. Why not go for a jog around the park, get out in nature or try a yoga session in the evening after putting the kids to bed.
2) Sleep is important when it comes to protecting our wellbeing and parental mental health. It can at times be tempting to stay up a little later to finish an episode of your favourite TV show, but to combat anxiety symptoms, the body needs lots of rest.
You could always substitute a late night watching TV on the sofa for an early night and a good bedtime read. Being on our phones right before bed, drinking alcohol or consuming sugary treats could all contribute to a poor night’s sleep, so try to get into good habits in the evening if you can.
3) Make sure you are eating well. This can be difficult when money is tight, but nutrition is another key factor in maintaining our physical and mental health. When you’re feeling tired and overwhelmed, it can be easier to resort to comfort foods, but giving your body the nutrients it needs as part of a healthy balanced diet can also help to keep anxiety at bay. Also, when reaching for unhealthy snacks, ask yourself if you are really hungry, or are you bored, sad, or something else? We often use food to suppress our feelings rather than acknowledging them.
4) Make time for yourself. Although being a parent often means there is lots to do each day, it’s important that you carve out some time for you. Would it really be the end of the world if that ironing didn’t get done? Perhaps try something new like an enjoyable hobby, socialise and meet up with friends, or try a new recipe in the kitchen.
Activities like this, can provide a much-needed boost to our mood, and help to off-set stressful periods where everything seems difficult. Try not to feel guilty about me-time. You deserve to be happy, and you are role modelling good self-care to your children too, which is important for their wellbeing.
5) Writing down your thoughts can help you recognise what’s upsetting you. Sometimes just getting it out on paper can help you un-muddle the mind and get in touch with your emotions and feelings by journaling. Writing out what you’re anxious or stressed about every day can help clear the mind, enabling you to feel calmer.
6) Spend time in nature. In Japan, ‘forest bathing’ is a practice that helps remove stress and depression. All you need to do is go for a walk somewhere beautiful, perhaps in local woodland, and take in the sounds and sights around you- the birds in the trees, the ferns on the forest floor, and the peace and quiet. This is a great way to practice mindfulness and carve out some more calm in your life.
Anxiety in Parents – Mental Health Awareness Week
Here at Spurgeons, we understand that parenting with anxiety can be challenging. That is why we wanted to bring the voices of parenting bloggers from around the UK together to share their tips and tricks for Mental Health Awareness Week.
Here you will find advice and guidance on how to manage parenting with anxiety and maintain positive parental mental health and wellbeing.
Debbie is an experienced counsellor and advocate for children and adult’s mental health
Advice for new parents
“Take one day at a time. Sleep when the baby sleeps and take walks with the pram. Fresh air will be good for you and the baby and is a great way to de-stress. Accept help when it is offered from friends and family members.”
Other tips and strategies from Debbie
“Listen to music, do a relaxing meditation, have a massage, read a book or magazine, have a bath, watch a film, meet with friends or family or pursue an interest or hobby. By taking this time out for a few minutes gives you some space and time away from your normal routines and helps you relax. Try to eat well-balanced meals, try not to skip meals and always keep some healthy snacks with you.”
Nicola – Parenting Lead for Spurgeons
Be kind to yourself
“Think about what you need for you and take time out to do something that relaxes you. Practice some coping strategies such as breathing techniques, meditation, exercise etc and find out what works for you. Speak to your doctor to see what services they offer to help in your area.”
Try not to do too much
Work on problem solving
- you ask your children to text you to say they are ok when they have arrived somewhere, to tell you when they are on their way home, to tell you if they go somewhere different than planned.
- you look up ways to keep them safe online.
- they wear bright coloured clothes that you can easily spot when you are out and that you choose a spot to meet if you are split up.
- you have a code word that means – come and get me if they feel unsafe
- you do a parenting course so that you feel confident in your parenting techniques so that you don’t feel judged by others
- you avoid situations that trigger you and ask other people to help
Find your Passions and What Makes you Happy
“Mental health is easier to navigate when you have things to look forward to. I meet a lot of people who have not yet found their passion and therefore, it can be extra challenging when they are not feeling themselves, as they have fewer options to help themselves feel better.
I would encourage everyone to find a hobby if they don’t have one or to rekindle their hobby if it has lapsed. We all have extremely busy lives and time to become absorbed in something we love is a great de-stressor. So whether it’s crochet, hillwalking or gardening, carve some time out of your days and weeks to dedicate to activities which will make you happier. ”
“Acknowledging our struggles and recognizing that there will always be things that exist outside our control is a courageous step on the path towards regaining balance and mental health. Mental health challenges can appear in various forms, but understanding why they exist can help us make positive progress on our path toward healthier living.”
What if I can’t cope?
There is never a need to face anxiety alone. If you feel as though you are struggling to cope, contact your GP in the first instance. Be transparent and honest about how you feel so that they can decide a suitable course of action for you. They may offer a prescription for an anti-depressant or other drug that can help and may put you in touch with a local counselling service who can provide further support.
Here at Spurgeons, we deliver a range of services for children, young people and families around the UK.
Our team at Fegans strives to provide support for as many families and parents as possible, and offers flexible, needs-led, solution-focused programmes that are designed to support and mentor parents in managing family life and relationships.
All our parent support workers and volunteers are trained and able to work one-to-one with families or as a larger group.