Lockdown: The struggles of mental health and parenting
Doing, being, becoming and belonging – these are things that resonate with me as an Occupational Therapist, and they are everything that has been taken away from us (humans) in such a short space of time.
Doing, relates to our activities of daily living, this helps us to create our own identity and shape our society. Being, refers to being ourselves, thinking and reflecting daily on who we are – our internal roles such as wife, mother, sister and for me it would be my role in my work life as an Occupational Therapist. Becoming, refers to how people define their values, it is essentially what makes who you are and what drives you in life. All of these equal to belonging, which is integral to health and well-being. Being able to do and be is vital in keeping our mental health healthy, and understandably many people are struggling with the current coronavirus isolation restrictions.
I want to tell you that it is OK not to feel yourself and it is definitely OK to feel frustrated at the current situation, please do not feel bad because you have lost your sense of identify and purpose, of course you might feel down and that is perfectly normal.
As a 29-week pregnant Occupational Therapist, unable to work due to coronavirus I feel at a loss, I have lost my professional role and sense of identity. I have all of a sudden become full time mummy, and of course that’s an amazing role to have, but like many of you I want to be able to help in this unusual time. I thought being able to share my professional advice to others may be useful (or it may not be) but I would like to hope I am helping someone somewhere.
In order to support my mental health with a toddler, I have decided to loosely structure my day as Mummy, this helps me to have a sense of purpose and meaning which is essential to my health and well being. Routine is everything, especially at a time when we cannot go out, cannot socialise, cannot see family and our little ones cannot play with their friends. I am sure all of you parents will agree that the one thing that used to keep you sane was being able to take your little ones to groups, chat to other mums drink tonnes of coffee and eat biscuits is the one thing that kept you sane.
Here is my new routine that is helping to keep me sane: in the evening I put some washing ready to be hung out in the morning (definitely enjoying this glorious weather while it lasts). I get up around 7am, sort Willow’s breakfast out and then we get ready for the day. I aim to be ready around 10am so that I can get the washing out on the line by 10:30. Having a time to be ready for in the morning gives me a sense of purpose, I feel like I have something to do no matter how small it seems. Once the washing is on the line, I put Willow in her pram and take her and the dog out for a walk to a field local to my house (which is a blessing to have so nearby).
I am fully taking advantage of going outside for daily exercise, getting out into green spaces has so many benefits for your mind. Willow gets to have her nap in her pram (instead of us staying indoors) and the dog gets walked too (bonus). Once home, Willow naps in the pram for a while (not always), which means I can relax and once she has woken up its lunchtime. Making this my new normal has given me a focus, I won’t lie and say my day is a breeze because I do have a 14-month-old sassy pants. But I am making the best of what I can in this situation (still drinking tonnes of coffee and eating biscuits I can assure you).
Remember it is important to keep your mind focused, try and keep that sense of identity and role. Social isolation IS such an alien thing for us, there are ways we can create purpose and meaning while we are being mummy and support our mental health while we are doing it. I hope some of you found this helpful and that you are keeping safe and well as best you can. Please don’t be afraid to speak out if you are feeling low, my inbox is always open.
Nicola is an Occupational Health therapist in Bristol, Mum to cloth bum baby Willow, with another cloth bum due in June. Follow Nicola on Instagram, @adventures_ofbabywillow for all things parenting, cloth nappies and sustainability.