Joanna Griffin, a parent carer and Counselling Psychologist, writes about her new book on parent carer emotional wellbeing.
Given the additional pressures parents of disabled children experience it is not surprising that there can be a greater risk to our mental health.
This includes increased levels of depression and anxiety.
The Covid-19 pandemic has made it even more apparent that parent carers’ wellbeing is vitally important.
We need to take active steps to maintain our emotional wellbeing on a daily basis.
When we think about ‘looking after ourselves’ it can conjure up an image of going for a massage or having a soak in the bath.
While these can be helpful it can also involve planning for longer term benefits, such as taking a course to learn a new skill, eating healthily or going to the doctor about a recurrent back pain.
It can be investing time in applying for Short Breaks or other support services.
We may need different things at different times. And we may have to remind ourselves to make time to do these activities.
I describe many of the strategies parent carers find helpful in my new book: Day by Day: Emotional wellbeing in parents of disabled children.
Get out in nature
One recommendation is to regularly get out into nature.
It is commonly shown that being in a green space (i.e. park or woods) is beneficial for wellbeing. We can call it a ‘Natural Health Service’.
Recent research suggests that even a small space, such as a tiny front garden or potted plants can have the same effect.
The study found that over a period of one year there was a 6% drop in peoples’ stress levels.
Which they state is the equivalent to the long-term impact of eight weekly mindfulness sessions. Further details can be viewed here: https://theconversation.com/green-front-gardens-reduce-physiological-and-psychological-stress-149793
The mental health charity, Mind, recommend collecting natural materials, such as leaves, flowers, feathers, tree bark or seeds and using them to decorate your living space or in art projects.
Being out as a family also has benefits for our children so whether you choose to seek out nature on your own or with your children it can be a great stress-buster.
We can also feel part of something bigger than ourselves. Seeing the seasons change reflects the cycle of life and can help us re-set.
How can you connect with nature today?