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Parent mental health: Self-care tips and strategies to support parent mental health.

Starting from the early stages of pregnancy, parenthood introduces numerous joys but also comes with its share of challenges for many individuals. Today, I'd like to offer some tips on self-care that can contribute to building resilience within your family.

Image of a calm mother with busy tasks around her

Resilience refers to the ability to bounce back, adapt, and cope with challenges, or significant life changes. It involves the capacity to withstand and recover from difficult situations, maintain mental well-being, and adapt positively in the face of stressors. Resilience doesn't mean avoiding stress but rather developing effective coping mechanisms to navigate and overcome them.

I am a mum of two boys with lots of support around me, yet I still struggled to be the parent I wanted to be when we had our second son. My sense of overwhelm meant that I was unable to cope when unexpected life stressors came along. When my children were starting primary school I was working part time but still finding it really difficult to be the parent I thought I ‘should’ be. I did not know at that time that I was experiencing symptoms of hypothyroidism and this contributed to my feelings of overwhelm. I was telling myself that I ‘should’ be able to manage the school run, preparing and making dinners, doing my work, walk the dog, do the washing and housework, be energetic and entertaining for the kids, be a good mother and wife, and so on. I questioned what was wrong with me, why couldn’t I do what lots of other parents manage? My inner critic was in full force, and it added to that sense of overwhelm and failure.

From my work over the years with parents, including my studies and own experience, I wanted to share some key tips that brought balance to my days and could help you bounce back.


An essential first step that I missed. I didn’t realise that if I had put my health and well-being first, I would have been better able to tend to others needs. Self-care is different for everyone depending on their income and time available but it can be done and here’s how……..

Physical self-care: This includes exercise, nutrition, and sleep. Five to ten minutes exercise can be mood-boosting. Doing any activity to get your heart pumping that bit quicker releases happy hormones. Don’t wait for your mood to improve, do an activity and your mood will follow. If you can find the time, 10 minutes once a week, plan meals and healthy snacks for the week ahead so you don’t rely on a quick fix. Feed yourself a proper meal too instead of snacking off left overs from the kids meals. Have a good sleep hygiene routine which signals to your body that it’s time to rest. And with little ones, listen to what your body needs, rest when you can (I know, easier said that done!)

Emotional self-care: Creating time for you might be taking 5 minutes to sit and eat that sandwich or finish a cup of tea (Those million and one tasks your thoughts are reminding you about can wait 5 minutes). It’s about connecting with the compassionate side of you, being a friend to yourself. What does self-care mean to you? Could you have a longer soothing shower or bath with candles, get your hair or nails done? It could also include mindfulness for your emotional well-being. Mindfulness is about being present in the moment, being curious about you and your surroundings in a non-judgemental way rather than getting swept up in the emotions. One way to do this is to think ‘S.T.O.P’, suggested by Biel and Faith (2021)

·       Stop what you’re doing for a moment instead of carrying on with daily busyness. Life is hectic (especially with kids!) so why carry on as if everything is fine for you when it’s not.

·       Take a breath – literally take a breath! When we are anxious or stressed our breath can become shallow or we might even hold our breath for short periods of time. If you notice this happening, or any tension in your chest then have a go at taking a longer deeper breath. This can help you refocus and calm feelings of overwhelm.

·       Observe - Take this moment, in a curious and non-judgemental way, to check in with yourself. How are you? Can you feel any tension or ache in your body? Where is this overwhelm, or anxiety coming from?

·       Proceed – Now you are grounded in the present moment you can move forward with calm clarity. What options have you got to help you manage – do you need to take 5 minutes and another breath? Can you list all possible solutions (even the silly ones), note the pros and cons to those and then select the most realistic and achievable solution to have a go.

Unhelpful Thinking self-care: Explore ways to address common feelings of guilt and perfectionism that many parents experience. By reframing unhelpful thoughts and that inner critic it can help to recognise that no one is perfect. By using the STOP method above you can take a step back and reframe your thoughts and the situation. What is the bigger picture. What is the worst that can happen. What else might happen? Watch out for that inner critic reminding you what you ‘should’ be doing, creating feelings of guilt when you do take a break. What would you say to a friend in a similar situation?

Social self-care: Before I become a mum I thought that I would be completely isolated in this new role with a tiny baby. I did not realise how much a social network can help, nor did I know of the many opportunities available to meet other parents in the same situation. When attending groups you might notice a worry that you may be judged but actually, talking to other mums can help to share common worries or problems that we all face. If groups are not your thing, then you can contact your local Home Start to explore other options of support, or speak with your health visitor.

Practical self-care: This includes stress management, identifying triggers and early signs of burn out such as exhaustion, and decreased satisfaction in your parenting role. Can you organise and simplify daily tasks? Can you introduce new habits of self-care such as mindfulness practices, deep breathing exercises, or meditations?


Talking with friends and family, a health visitor, or a therapist can help you set boundaries and find time for yourself to create a sustainable self-care plan for difficult days.

 “Never say that you can't do something, or that something seems impossible, or that something can't be done, no matter how discouraging or harrowing it may be; human beings are limited only by what we allow ourselves to be limited by: our own minds. We are each the masters of our own reality; when we become self-aware to this: absolutely anything in the world is possible.” Mike Norton author

If you would like any more information on the self-care steps mentioned today, or would like to talk more about how Cognitive Behaviour Therapy can help you and your well-being, then please get in touch either be email, or on the contact form on my home page. Check out my resources page too for recommended reading!


Biel and Faith (2021) The autism relationships workbook

Image credit to NilouferWadia


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